10 Great Fantasy Book Series That Deserve Big Screen Treatment

With The Hobbit films guaranteed to make a fortune at the box office and Game of Thrones busy putting the...

Dave Rudden

Contributor

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With The Hobbit films guaranteed to make a fortune at the box office and Game of Thrones busy putting the ‘fun’ back in ‘horrifyingly dysfunctional,’ we’re guaranteed to see some more of our favourite fantasy novels converted to the big screen in the forthcoming years. Now these things can go horribly wrong (remember Eragon?, Of course you don’t) but there are plenty of great series’ that deserve the Hollywood treatment.

Note: This article will focus on the series or standalone books that have a chance of being a good film. As much as I’d like to see Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time books (battle-nuns throwing fireballs at eyeless shadowmen) and R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing series (sociopath messiah co-opts Holy War to commit patricide) made into films, you’d need a serious character-ectomy and a glossary in your popcorn.

Note II: I will try and avoid major spoilers, but a certain amount of description is inevitable. You have been warned.

10. The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

the first law trilogy

Summary

The words ‘gritty’ and ‘realistic’ are a bit over-used, but Abercrombie’s heroes are an empty-headed swordsman who’s only concern is getting upside-down drunk, an inquisitor with a bitter interest in amateur dentistry and a barbarian who’s quite nice… until the red mist descends and the nose-biting begins. It’s not exactly My Little Pony. The rest is political intrigue, bloody warfare and a lot of cursing.

Why It Would Work

Joe Abercrombie’s been described as ‘Lord of the Rings meets Guy Ritchie’ (although apparently he prefers Tarantino) There’s no ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ here; it reads like a dockworker’s handbook. More importantly, though each character is genuinely quite a horrible person you still end up rooting for them. Whether it’s the tar-black humour in every scene or how each fantasy stock character is twisted (the female protagonist is a loveless psychopath, the love interest is a drunk and the stereotypical ‘wise mage’ likes to splatter people across the walls to win arguments) Abercrombie’s trilogy would go a long way to dispel the notion that fantasy is all waistcoats, pipeweed and glowing swords.

Also, superpowered cannibals. Just saying.

Casting Choice

Benedict Cumberbatch as Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta; a man who opens interrogation by asking ‘why do men have nipples?’ and holding up a pair of pliers.

9. Discworld by Terry Pratchett

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Summary

A world where dragons are fuelled by magic, where gods play games with the fate of men (if they can find the pieces) and the anthromorphic personification of death just wants people to be nicer to kittens. It’s also flat. And balanced on the back of four elephants. Which are standing on the back of a giant turtle. Hey, everything has to exist somewhere.

Why It Would Work

Before the comments section gets all tumescent at me, I am aware of the TV movies that have been made from three of Terry Pratchett’s novels. However, I am also aware they’re not very good. Bad casting and a vaguely cheesy air have left them well short of their full potential. In his career Pratchett’s produced 39 bestselling novels, covering a wide range of themes and characters. When you’ve got genre-savvy vampires who test each other with flashcards of holy words, alchemists stumbling across the hungry spirit of cinema and sadistic elves versus filthy-minded witches, you just need to find a director that can bring out the prose’s wry style.

I nominate Edgar Wright. And now need to go have a cold shower.

Casting Choice

Alan Rickman as Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and most definitely not a despot. Just ask him.