4 Fantasy Books That Needed To Be Movies Yesterday
Nat explores some of the best fantasy books that haven't yet made the leap to the big screen.
I am one of the first people to be sceptical about books being made into films (see my other general rantings) but I also am usually willing to give things a chance, especially when I really love the book and also if I like the look of the world building. Fantasy books are, of course, the best sources of this kind of thing and here’s a few of my favourites that haven’t made the leap to the big screen yet.
Jasper Fforde’s ‘Thursday Next’ series
I’ve probably talked about this series before on Cultured Vultures but that’s only because it is awesome. Set in an odd parallel universe where the Crimean War never ended, cheese is a black market staple and people can interact with literature and characters from it, you already know that you will love the world Fforde has created. It’s funny and knowing in a way that a lot of fantasy series are not, and would make a refreshing change from the dystopian fantasies that still seem to be in vogue at the moment.
Granted, a lot of the fun of these stories comes from being books about books, and using all possible variations of that joke for effect, but they are also very visual. People who like books also like films, and who wouldn’t want to see literary faves like Miss Havisham and the Cheshire Cat fighting swarms of punctuation creatures and bickering in their council headquarters? The first book of the series, ‘The Eyre Affair’, features Thursday Next, the main character, chasing a master criminal through the pages of ‘Jane Eyre’, and attempting to change the ending that has, in the past, caused gang wars between groups of readers.
If this is all sounding a little bit insane, then you should read the books and then wait for what I think would be a great film.
Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell’s ‘The Edge Chronicles’
‘The Edge Chronicles’ are the first fantasy books I ever remember reading for myself, and I have them still lined up on my shelves almost twenty years later. I actually had to look them up because I couldn’t believe that they hadn’t been made into films already but, alas, Hollywood has missed this opportunity for sure.
In the first book, ‘Beyond The Deepwoods’, Twig, a young boy raised by woodtrolls, learns that he is adopted and sets out to find his true people. It’s a fairly standard fantasy story, granted, but what I remember most about the books were the monsters, brought so vividly to life by Riddell’s illustrations. There’s the Gloamglozer, a shapeshifting predator, and the Skullpelt, a creature that looks literally like a skull wrapped in fur. It wouldn’t take a lot to create the world of The Edge, with all of the groundwork already laid out. If I had total control over these stories, I would offer them first to Studio Ghibli. They could do wonders with them.
Oh, and later on in the series we spend a lot of time with Sky Pirates which, to be entirely honest, is reason enough to make this movie.
T.H. White’s ‘The Once and Future King’
Okay, so one volume of ‘The Once and Future King’ has already been made into a successful movie, Disney’s ‘The Sword in the Stone’, but White’s book offers so much more in terms of movie making potential. There are a lot of King Arthur movies and after you’ve seen a few, they all seem to blur into one another, but I think what makes White’s story different is that he didn’t set out to write about fighting and wars.
This is a King Arthur story that does what others don’t – it focuses on them in the between times, the courtly drama and the intrigues that lead, tragically, to the fall of Camelot and the knights turning on one another in civil war. It is written as a tragedy as well, and any actor worth his salt would want to try his hand at a gentle, philosophical Arthur. It’s not just Arthur though – so many characters would transfer well to the screen, from an intensely loyal Lancelot to a fiery Gawaine to a Guinevere who does love her husband, no matter what the other movies might have you think.
‘The Once and Future King’ was written for children, a knowing and gently put together education in relationships, love, history and the weight of knowledge. I’d make a few more cartoons for them, emphasising the magic and the love, and then I’d crack out the most different and thought provoking ‘King Arthur for Grown Ups’ movie since ‘The Mists of Avalon’.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
They’ve tried. I know they’ve tried. I’ve seen them all and I was so disappointed. The best of the lot was ‘Going Postal’, but even that movie had flaws. I’ve often told anyone that will listen to me ranting for more than five seconds that the problem with Discworld on screen is that the books are crafted so often around inner monologue, word play and irreverent world building that it would be hard to translate them visually. This would still be a problem, of course, whoever tried to make them but I would be willing to watch someone else have another crack at them.
I think the key would come in picking a character with a big arc in a small story, which is why ‘Going Postal’ almost worked and ‘The Colour of Magic’ did not. The two strongest characters in Discworld are Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax, so choose one and run with it. Sam’s storyline is all about redemption and Granny’s is about fighting deep down in your soul. Both of them have amusing sidekicks and supporting characters. Both of them live in parts of the Disc ripe for some really good world building scenes and visual jokes. If they are successful, both of them have potential to go forwards into much bigger and far-reaching stories and imagine the crossovers. The MCU would have nothing on it. Just saying.