Big Screen Fantasy

    Science Fiction movies have provided Hollywood with many blockbusters in the past. Stargate and The Day the Earth Stood Still remain two of my favourite films. Unfortunately for my inner Fantasy lover, the Fantasy genre has rarely been translated well to film.

    With The Two Towers out on DVD, and The Return of the King shortly to hit cinemas, this seems like a curious statement to make. I am looking forward to my third dose of Tolkien excellence, but it is a bittersweet feeling that I have. I am eager to see the film, but I know this will be the last good fantasy film I see for a long time.

    Peter Jackson has done a fantastic job in bringing Tolkien?s world to life, ably assisted by the landscape of New Zealand. I found myself less impressed with the second movie than with the first, but realised that was because my expectations were so much higher second time around. With the first film, I went in hoping it would be good, and was blown away. Going to see The Two Towers, I knew I would like it a lot. I was not let down, but didn?t come out with the same buzz as with the Fellowship of the Ring. In contrast, a couple of friends I went with who had not seen the first film (yes, such people exist) were amazed, and wanted to go straight back in with the next session.

    Apart from Harry Potter, the boy wizard at boarding school, I don?t see much for us fantasy fans on the cinematic horizon. A fair bit of the blame for this lies with Tolkien himself. Writers wanting to follow in the genre seem to regard 1200 pages as the minimum entry requirement, and many modern writers far exceed this. For every writer who does this length well (I?m talking about you, George RR Martin) there are plenty who give us a 300 page novel in 800 pages. I won?t name names here, but I?m sure you can think of a few yourself.

    It is the length of fantasy that gives prospective filmmakers so much trouble. It?s no easy thing to reduce a huge novel to a two-hour film, and still have a film that people want to see. In this, the genre itself is its own worst enemy. The entire fantasy genre seems to have been created to frustrate would-be filmmakers.

    Even with the success of Peter Jackson?s films, I can?t see another studio stepping up to throw millions of dollars at another fantasy project. There is nothing to compare with Tolkien. No other fantasy author has achieved anything approaching Tolkien?s recognition, even before the latest films were made.

    What kind of studio would commit huge resources to not one, but three films? New Line Cinema did it once, but I don?t see them rushing to go back to that particular well. Any other fantasy films that were made would have to be the single-film type, which rules out most of the current market.

    So what other Fantasy is there? C.S Lewis? Narnia series made good television. I like to think that Terry Pratchett?s Discworld would make good live action, rather than animation. With over 20 books (or is it 30?) in the series, there is plenty to choose from. Terry?s books are also of a good length for adaptation, but I don?t see a series of hit movies emerging from the Discworld series.

    David Eddings? Belgariad series could be good fodder for a film studio. It?s not my favourite fantasy series, but I enjoyed it when I was twelve. It has the small-town-boy-makes-good theme that is the basis for so many films, just set in a Fantasy land. Of course, a two-hour film would have to devote the first hour to getting the Orb of Aldur back, and the second hour to killing what?s-his-name, the mad god. I?m thinking Tarjan, but that?s the villain from the Bard?s Tale. Torak, that?s it. If you stretched the length to three hours, you might get something not too bad, I guess. Anyone who really loved the series is vigorously disagreeing with me as they read this, though.

    As I sit here writing this, nothing else springs straight to mind. There are plenty of fantasy books I would like to see made into film, but from a practicable point of view, most are too long.

    Could fantasy computer games fill the gap between books and movies? Could a Diablo 2, Pool of Radiance, or Baldur?s Gate film work? Computer games have been made into films before, and the less said about those the better. No one has tried making a fantasy computer game into a film. Could it work? I have no idea, but the more I think about it, the more a Diablo or Baldur?s Gate film sounds like an idea worth trying. Maybe I?ve had too much coffee. I not writing this column at home like I usually do. I?m at my parents? house, and my father is on the computer next to me, running a program that plays bagpipe tunes. I kid you not.

    To save me from having to sit here any longer, I?m going to turn this one over to you. Could fantasy computer games provide the basis for films, instead of long-winded fantasy novels? Are there fantasy novels out there that would make great cinema? Tell me what you think, and I?ll go into the other room, where I can?t hear the digitised bagpipes.

    Disclaimer: The Ninth Circle was written by Lorelorn (David Kay) and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

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