TheTransformers series is the high-water mark for films based on toys. But considering this particular sea is filled with the likes of GI Joe, Battleship, Bratz, Ugly Dolls and Masters of the Universe, the high-water mark is still relatively putrid.
Still, if anyone can gussy up the dismal world of toy-to-screen adaptations, it's the woman who's done it all… and the star who seems capable of doing the same.
First, Oscar-nominated Wolf of Wall Street, I, Tonya and Birds of Prey superstar Robbie joined on as producer and star. That was enough to raise well-manicured eyebrows. But shortly after, rumors began swirling that Lady Bird and Little Women director Greta Gerwig would be sitting behind the camera.
"(Barbie) comes with a lot of baggage, and a lot of nostalgic connections." Robbie told British Vogue last month. "But with that come a lot of exciting ways to attack it. People generally hear ‘Barbie’ and think, ‘I know what that movie is going to be,’ and then they hear that Greta Gerwig is writing and directing it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I don’t…"
Now, after Robbie jumped the gun with the announcement, Gerwig is officially on board to direct… and she’s bringing along writing/life partner Noah Baumbach to help pen the script. Baumbach is the auteur behind divorce dramas Marriage Story and The Squid and the Whale whose closest thing to a mainstream film was the Ben Stiller/Gerwig-starring existential drama Greenberg.
Whether Barbie becomes a chamber drama in which Barbie and Ken’s relationship dissolves during a weekend at the Malibu Beach house as a sad version of "Barbie Girl" plays is anyone’s guess. But it’s unlikely that Barbie will spend the entire film zipping around in a convertible with Skipper getting various spa treatments.
Mattel's Barbie feature — the first live action adaptation following dozens of direct-to-video animated adventures — has faced a long development road, with Amy Schumer and Anne Hathaway once attached to star and Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins being courted to direct before Robbie took the reins.
There is plenty of material for Gerwig, Robbie and Baumbach to work with: Since debuting in 1959, Barbie has held down careers as a teacher, doctor, yoga teacher, veterinarian, paratrooper, firefighter, police officer, astronaut, engineer, dolphin trainer, NASCAR driver, flight attendant, ballerina, journalist, chef, chicken farmer, barista, multi-sport Olympics champion and beekeeper.
Her career peaked in 2000 when she was elected president, beating out Al Gore and George W. Bush. She also ran for president in 1992, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016, though was likely disqualified from holding office due to her service in the Canadian Mounties.
Robbie, meanwhile, has played a flight attendant, grifter, subprime-mortgage expert, Duchess of Bay Ridge, gun moll, bank robber, journalist, Olympic figure skater, actress and animated rabbit. Her casting as Barbie is spot on.
Barbie is expected to begin production in 2022, following Gerwig and Baumbach’s work on White Noise. It is expected to debut in 2023.