The reviews are in for Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, and while it’s piling up gold in China like it’s using the greedisgood code, things do not look good domestically and elsewhere. Pajiba is on board, but in game terms, Rotten Tomatoes is in this movie’s base and killing all of its peasants. And who is gonna chop wood in the forest if there are no peasants? No wood means no archers or scout towers! And when the dragons come? What then, movie?! Are you going to hope a few gyro copters can chase them off?! BECAUSE THEY CAN’T.
While I have a certain amount of love for ‘meh’ sword and sorcery- show me a Clive Owen King Arthur on the USA Network on a Saturday morning and I’ll show you a guy who’s gonna watch the whole thing- we are in desperate need for a fantasy franchise to be a critically and financial hit. At this point, superhero movies can afford a dozen more misses before anyone thinks twice, but fantasy doesn’t have that sort of good will: Peter Jackson crapped out three below average Hobbit movies, leaving Game of Thrones as the only real standard bearer of the genre.
So, what is the future of fantasy on the big screen? The world of Harry Potter is returning with Fantastic Beasts, but as much as I love the Rowling world, it doesn’t give me the ‘knights and dragons and mages and shit’ fix that a basement-dwelling indoor kid like me needs to really get his D20’s rolling.Warner Bros also has Dungeons & Dragons and Knights of the Round Table in the pipeline, but can we get real honest? The Hobbit. Pan. Batman vs Superman. In The Heart Of The Sea. Black Mass. Does anyone have any real faith that they can deliver?
So, if the next big fantasy film isn’t just an original piece (and it won’t be, because Hollywood), what is the next big franchise?
The concepts and tropes of Final Fantasy could make for a bizarre, wonderful, feminine, powerful and sexy, summoning magic obsessed epic…The Wachowskis could deliver a Nobuo Uematsu scored film the likes of which we’ve never seen. But the ‘based on a game’ stigma of Warcraft (and to say nothing of the disastrous Spirits Within) likely means I’ll never get to see Kuja nuking a whole planet in a theatre.
Dragon Age would likely meet the same video game adaptation fate. There are some great stories to be told in the world of DA, but I’m not sure that they could hold the fanbase’s interest without the ability to spend hours trying to bang Morrigan.
Though more alt history than outright fantasy, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series is begging for a big screen adaptation. Who doesn’t want to see the Napoleonic Wars in a reality where dragons exist? And are equipped and crewed like giant warships? These eight books do an incredible job exploring how Europe’s relationship with the East and the colonialism of Africa and the New Order would be influenced by the existence of massive and countless breeds of intelligent dragons, and it’s begging for 3D spectacle and IMAX Screens.
We’ve got a lot of options- even a bizarre nightmare book like Gene Wolf’s Shadow & Claw would give us a unique world to lose ourselves in. Whatever the direction, the next big fantasy franchise can’t just feel big- it has to feel fresh, and it has to feel important. I want to see swords and dragons, not the clear hands of studio micromanaging what should be an easy home run.
And while I’m hoping I’ll love Warcraft, in the meantime I’ll be on the couch.
Watching Slightly Below Acceptable King Arthur.