Sacha Baron Cohen to Star in MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN

Sacha Baron Cohen will play the titular role in Mandrake the Magician for Warner Bros. Director Etan Cohen (Get Hard) will direct the live-action film, which is based on the classic comic strip created by Lee Falk in 1934.

The story revolves around the adventures of Mandrake, the illusionist and escape artist with the power to hypnotize his foes. Along with his companion Lothar, he travels the globe solving mysteries and fighting evildoers, including his twin brother Derek who uses his powers for evil instead than good.

The Tracking Board reports that the plan is to update the character for the 21st century, with Mandrake being recruited by the United States government for a secret mission.

The recent drafts of the script were written by David Peoples, Janet Peoples, and Tom Wheeler. Charles Roven and Andy Horowtiz will produce through Atlas Entertainment. Alan Glazer and Rocky Shepard will executive produce, Cate Adams and Jesse Ehrman will oversee for Warner Bros.

Mandrake predates Superman by four years and is sometimes referred to as the first superhero due to his various powers and abilities. He is a magician whose power is based on an unusually fast hypnotic technique, through which his subjects see illusions when he gestures hypnotically. He uses the technique to defeat villains, including gangsters, mad scientists, extraterrestrials, and characters from other dimensions.

Mandrake was adapted into a 12-part serial by Columbia Pictures in 1939, and was made into a TV movie in the 70s.

Baldwin Entertainment and Hyde Park have been trying to the get movie made during the late 2000s. Directors Chuck Russell and Mimi Leder were attached at some point along with actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Hayden Christensen.

WB acquired the rights in 2012 and it's been in development ever since. Now with Sacha Baron Cohen and director Etan Cohen joining in, looks the movie is moving forward.

Here is a tweet from Etan Cohen.

To say I am disappointed with this casting news would be an understatement. 

Spider-Man is my all time favorite superhero and I was introduced to the character as a little kid in the 80s through the 60s cartoon, while I got introduced to Superman through the Christopher Reeve movies. I eventually would get hooked to those characters through Marvel and DC comics during my teen years.

But as a kid my introduction to superhero comics started with Mandrake and The Phantom by Lee Falk. My whole childhood obsession with magic also stemmed from the character of Mandrake. The Mandrake comic stories dabbled with various genres ranging from science fiction, fantasy, action-adventure to the bizarre. Lee Falk kept up with the times, as his later stories were vastly superior and more exciting.

By the time Mandrake gets released in few years, some comparison would also be made with Marvel's Doctor Strange as that movie gets released later this year. Of course Doctor Strange would be dealing with more mystical elements than Mandrake. And despite all of Mandrake's powers his world is little more grounded, but still has lot of magic and wonder.

I remember reading details of the movie's story based on the earlier scripts and frankly it was more so an action heist film, which still could be good. But Sacha Baron Cohen doesn't seem to embody the class and gravitas that I expect from a character like Mandrake. I do hope to be proven wrong.

Etan Cohen wrote and directed Get Hard, the buddy comedy film was his directorial debut. He was also the co-writer for Idiocracy, Tropic Thunder, and Men in Black 3. Those first two movies are comedy gold. Mandrake's adventures and his encounters with the bad guys definitely leads to some funny moments, including some hilarious visual imagery. But as a whole I don't really view Mandrake stories as comedic in nature.

The pairing of Etan and Sacha Baron leads me to believe this is going to be an action comedy film, than a great visual action thriller. There are situations in Mandrake stories that can lead to visuals resembling The Matrix and Inception if they choose to go bold with their storylines.

Not many moviegoers of the current generation are even aware of the Mandrake character, nor there have been many books that reprinted those classic Mandrake comic stories in a chronological order for people to discover. 

Thankfully Titan Comics is rectifying that by reprinting the Dailies and Sundays. Check out the links below.

I would love if they do a TV series instead exploring the various themes from Mandrake comics. With Warner Bros. trying to keep up with their line of DC films, I wonder if a comic book movie based on a different publication will actually make it into WB's production schedule. Guess we will know in few years.

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