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Top 10 Fantasy Film Franchises Waiting To Happen

Much to our excitement and overwhelming joy the new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is here. We can’t wait until December for the start of the new trilogy to fill The Lord of the Rings -shaped hole that was left in our cinemas after The Return Of The King .

Seriously, why aren’t there more epic fantasy movies? HBO’s Game of Thrones’ is hugely popular now, and that popularity is acting like a gateway drug to more serious fantasy loving, drawing in viewers who, before, would have turned their noses up. You can’t help but think that movie companies should be snapping up rights to fantasy epics more often than they are (whatever happened to them being money hungry? Don’t they realise what they’re missing out on?). Our top ten list is a veritable dragon’s treasure horde of series’ we think should be made into movies. (Are you reading New Line Cinema? Because now is when you should start paying attention!).

Words: Bridie Roman

10 The Deed Of Paksenarrion

By Elizabeth Moon

THE STORY Paksenarrion is a farmer’s daughter and she’s not about to become a farmer’s wife. Instead of going ahead with her arranged marriage she decides to run off and become a mercenary soldier. Amidst digging trenches and unloading animals Paks learns how to fight. She loves fighting (that husband-to-be probably got off lightly) but what she loves more is fighting for a just cause.

Wish List Cast:

• (A slightly older) Chloe Moretz as Paksenarrion, the open and honest heroine.
• Jeremy Irons as Duke Phelan, the man who first employs Paks.
• Ralph Fiennes as Dorthan, the sheep farmer father of Paks.

FILMABILITY Cinema goers everywhere are falling in love with badass heroines and Paks is definitely worthy of that title so there’d be plenty of support for a movie series like The Deed Of Paksenarrion . The only problem is that whilst Paks certainly knows how to wield a sword and kick some ass, she is also a little self-righteous and that can come off as two dimensional. It makes sense in the novels but on screen it might be too preachy. That said, it just adds to the good role model image that Paks would have going for her.

9 The Crucible

By Sara Douglass

THE STORY Set in 14th Europe, when the plague is sweeping across England and no one is safe from its evil touch. Many see this as God’s punishment for our wickedness but Brother Thomas Neville thinks he knows better. He is a man beset by demons, or perhaps angels, and when visited by the Archangel Michael he is given a mission. A mission that will see him pitted against Satan’s own forces in an attempt to stop them seizing our world. Trouble is, the church in the 14th century was pretty corrupt and it’s hard to know who is telling the truth.

Wish List Cast:

• James Purefoy as Thomas Neville, the soldier turned monk upon whose shoulders the scales of good and evil will be balanced.
• Sean Harris as Henry Bolingbroke, Neville’s childhood friend and part of the royal line.
• Christina Hendricks as Margaret, the enigmatic wife of Thomas Neville, whom he suspects is part of the plot to destroy mankind.

FILMABILITY The Crucible series is like Shakespeare’s histories with added spice, so there’d definitely be a market for the movie if it were shot in the style of BBC2’s awesome The Hollow Crown . In fact, the convoluted plot lines and politicking might be better served by a TV series, or mini series, but a big budget movie would be needed to fund the various extravagant locations across the continent.

8 The Chronicles Of Amber

By Roger Zelazny

THE STORY There are nine princes in Amber, the only real world in the multiverse. Everything else, including our world, is only a shadow of Amber. The princes can manipulate shadow and use this power to stay in their own separate worlds (talk about sibling rivalry). The contention escalates when the patriarch of the family, Oberon, goes missing and several princes lay claim to the throne of Amber. Corwin doesn’t have a clue what’s going on though, since amnesia has robbed him of all his memories. Rather conveniently for his siblings, considering he’s rightful heir.

Wish List Cast:

• Henry Cavill as Corwin, the most honest prince of Amber.
• James Marsden as Random, the troublemaking brother of Corwin.
• Gerard Butler as Eric, the closest to gaining the crown, and of course the one guy you don’t want to see wearing it.

FILMABILITY Creating the multitude of worlds this saga requires could be a bit of budget-buster, but aside from that minor budgetary concern the fact that the series follows Corwin’s adventures in first person means that the story never gets too convoluted. Corwin having amnesia is also a bonus; it gives us all a chance to discover with him what on Earth is going on. It’d be the best excuse for exposition and would avoid everything become a little too crazy for the audience.

7 The Chronicles Of The Black Company

By Glen Cook

THE STORY The Black Company is an elite mercenary company that works for the highest bidder regardless of who that might be. Its latest contract is to a powerful and reputedly cruel empress, The Lady. Although it’s known for being evil, the company has been hired to protect The Lady’s empire. But a prophecy has arisen; the one thing that can stop the Lady has been reborn and the Company must begin thinking with their morals, not their purses.

Wish List Cast:

• Sean Bean as The Captain, the leader of The Black Company.
• Michael Fassbender as Croaker, the company’s doctor and chronicler, who narrates the tale.
• Uma Thurman as The Lady, the evil sorceress ruler of the empire.

FILMABILITY Glen Cook once wanted to make a film of the series himself, but lacked the volunteer manpower. If you condensed the story lines slightly this could be easily filmable. Think Saving Private Ryan but with magic explosions instead of actual explosions. Steven Erikson (a man whose own eleven book series is notoriously unfilmable because of its sprawling nature) described the books as “Vietnam fiction on peyote” which we think would work fantastically on screen.

6 Memory, Sorrow And Thorn

By Tad Williams

THE STORY Simon is called Mooncalf by the castle’s kitchen staff. (No, he’s not grossly malformed, that’s the wrong definition. They’re pretty much calling him a dim-witted day dreamer.) Simon might spend his days shirking his duties with his head in the clouds, but when the kingdom starts going to Hell he soon reveals his true mettle. Facing countless horrors and perilous journeys Simon is an unlikely hero, but someone’s got to save the day.

Wish List Cast:

• Joseph Mazzello as Simon, the young and unlikely hero.
• Saoirse Ronan as Miriamele, the headstrong and fearless princess.
• James Franco as Prince Joshua, the righteous prince who was tortured by his brother, the new king.

FILMABILITY As epic in scope as The Lord Of The Rings, and just as breathtakingly cinematic, Memory, Sorrow And Thorn would be a challenge but the results would be so rewarding. Potential problems come up when you think about the design of the Sithi and their attire. Brightly-coloured elf armour sounds fascinating on the page but doesn’t quite inspire the awe and fear it ought to when you imagine it on screen. They’re going for beautifully deadly not silly Nancy boy elves, and it’d take a genius costume department to nail that aspect of the film.

5 The Farseer Trilogy

By Robin Hobb

THE STORY Fitz is a royal bastard (in the most literal sense) and so he is both unwanted royal property and a useful tool to the crown. To keep him from becoming someone else’s tool against the royal line he is trained as the king’s new assassin. Against a backdrop of war Fitz must fight for the family he loves, even if they don’t all appreciate his efforts (you could say ungrateful bastards, but the whole point is that they’re true born heirs).

Wish List Cast:

• Richard Madden as Fitz, the royal bastard.
• Nicholas Hoult as The Fool, the cryptic court jester, one of Fitz’s few allies.
• Bill Nighy as Chade, the current royal assassin and Fitz’s mentor.

FILMABILITY First of all, ignore the fact that this trilogy is part of a nine-book “trilogy of trilogies”. As mind blowing as it would be to see it done, the years of hard work and money that would have to go into that project make it unlikely to be taken up. Fitz’s youthful beginnings on the other hand would be very easy to film. The action gets more intense as the books go on, so the studio wouldn’t be taking as much of a financial risk on the first film; they could produce part 1 relatively cost-effectively and, if it hits box office gold, they could then commit to the pricier sequels.

4 Temeraire

By Naomi Novik

THE STORY Set during the Napoleonic wars in an alternate history, Temeraire tells the tale of a young naval officer who finds a dragon egg. Whilst dragon eggs might be common in this version of history the one William Laurence finds is unlike any he’s seen before. When an extremely valuable Chinese dragon hatches Laurence finds himself unexpectedly bonded to it. This causes a bit of a stir since the Chinese had intended the egg for Napoleon himself. Well okay, a bit of a stir is an understatement. Laurence soon finds himself not only defending his country from the French but also his dragon from the Chinese.

Wish List Cast:

• Elijah Wood as William Laurence, the honourable and promising naval captain.
• Charlize Theron Jane Roland, the lover of Laurence and a dragon captain.
• Ray Stevenson as John Granby, the rough around the edges lieutenant who is initially resentful of Laurence.

FILMABILITY Good news Temeraire fans, Peter Jackson, (yes, yes the Peter Jackson) has picked up the film rights already. Whilst he might be wrapped up in Middle-earth right now he has to come back to the real world at someone point, and when he does Temeraire will be waiting (okay he’ll be coming back to a very skewed version of the real world). It’s safe to say the series is in good hands because it’s Peter Bloody Jackson!

3 The King Killer Chronicles

By Patrick Rothfuss

THE STORY Kvothe has become a legend in his own time, so to avoid his infamy he has escaped to the gentle life of a pub landlord. It’s all relatively boring until Chronicler shows up (ah, the paparazzi, you can’t escape them forever) and demands Kvothe set the record straight on his story. Burning down towns, saving women and pissing off the nobility – Harry Potter would feel like such a wimp if he saw this.

Wish List Cast:

• Kevin McKidd as Older Kvothe, the innkeeper who recounts his misspent youth.
• Marion Cottilard as Denna, the elusive love interest.
• Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Chronicler, the famed writer and story gatherer.

FILMABILITY Pat Rothfuss has speculated many times over the likelihood of his series being brought to the big screen. He seems sceptical, despite the fact that he’s often suggested casting ideas. The biggest difficulty would be getting actors that could play both the younger versions of themselves and the older version, particularly in Kvothe’s case. It’d be great to see Kevin McKidd as Kvothe, the only problem is that he’ll never get away with being a teenager.

2 Mistborn Trilogy

By Brandon Sanderson

THE STORY The Mistborn Trilogy is set in a world where the Dark Lord won. His reign is cruel and his peasants are about to revolt. Brought into the revolution is Vin, an orphan who discovers she is a mistborn, able to manipulate metals for various uses. You’ve got to be pretty clever to steal a throne from a god king; luckily stealing is just what Kelsier, the genius mind behind the revolution’s plan, has made a career out of.

Wish List Cast:

• Maisie Williams as Vin, the orphaned heroine and powerful metallurgist.
• Liam Neeson as Kelsier, the clever mind behind the revolution and Vin’s mentor.
• Joe Dempsie as Elend Venture, the young idealistic noble man.

FILMABILITY The film rights have been sold and Brandon Sanderson reports that he’s read the latest script draft and given it two thumbs up, so we could actually expect to see this adaptation on screen soon. Take a look at this mood trailer that is being used to sell the script to a production company.

(The mood they were going for? Mildly awesome, with a touch of suspense.)

1 The First Law Trilogy

By Joe Abercrombie

THE STORY Ostensibly, The First Law Trilogy is pretty much your average, by-the-numbers, save-the-kingdom fantasy. Well, except for the fact that the fellowship is comprised of a morally ambiguous group of murderers and madmen and torturers. It’s a strange alliance, but no less lethal for that. It’s like the bastard child of The Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones where the protagonists murder, lie and cheat their way to victory over the bad guys. And it’s great.

Wish List Cast:

• Ryan Gosling as Jezal dan Luthar, the self-centred, sword wielding, noble-man.
• Edward Morgan Blake as Logen “The Bloody Nine” Ninefingers, the infamous barbarian and unlikely hero.
• Zoe Saldana as Ferro Maljinn , the revenge hungry ex-slave.

FILMABILITY Don’t be fooled by news that The Blade Itself is going to be a movie. It’s a book by a guy called Marcus Sakey, not the first volume of Abercrombie’s trilogy. The film rights haven’t been bought as of yet. But with low magic use and a fairly linear story arc it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility. Not to mention the fact that Abercrombie is making it into perfect franchise material by releasing books in the same world as The First Law . Don’t worry Abercrombie and fans: someone will realise what a cash cow this would be soon!