10 Great Fantasy Book Series That Deserve Big Screen Treatment
8. The Deepgate Codex by Alan Campbell
The city of Deepgate hangs suspended by a thousand chains over the gaping mouth of hell, guarded only by a young and untrained angel and his Church-trained assassin handler. Every month the city bars its doors on Scar Night to avoid the predations of the blood-drinking, garden-fork wielding murderer known only as Carnival.
Why It Would Work
Fantasy is escapism, right? And part of the reason we enjoy the genre is because of just how bonkers the character/creature design can get. Campbell’s trilogy treats us to soul-bulked henchman pulling along giant ships, fifty-story-tall clockwork battle angels, and a version of Hell that looks like Dante’s Inferno as illustrated by M. C. Escher. It’s completely and apologetically insane, which is no bad thing.
Now this mightn’t work completely as a live-action trilogy, but it’s been remarked before just how good the Deepgate Codex would be as an anime or as a very dark cartoon. Alan Campbell’s background is in video games, and it’s hard not see the influence, with distinctive characters and crazy visuals that would transfer over well into cinema. It’s also paced quite well; things don’t go completely bananas until the second book, allowing people to get used to some of the concepts (carnivorous gods, church-sponsored poisoners, a father-daughter relationship that makes the Saw films look like Jumanji) before hitting them with extra characters and development.
Carey Mulligan as Carnival, an angel driven to hunt someone down and drink their blood every month on Scar Night. If it helps, she feels really bad about it.
7. The Chronicles of Druss the Legend by David Gemmell
A young man’s wife is kidnapped by slavers, prompting him to cross half the world searching for her and gaining the title ‘Druss the Legend,’ or more commonly, ‘Please, we’re really sorry Druss, we didn’t mean to- ack!’
Why It Would Work
A lot of fantasy series are unsuitable for translation to the big screen because the cast and mythology are simply too large, and you end up having to perform awkward surgery on the bits you think people won’t miss (spoiler; someone somewhere will miss everything) or worse, dumbing down the entire plot. The Druss the Legend series, however, are very straightforward; the first book, Legend, runs like a more cerebral version of ‘300’ (although I’ve scraped things off my boot that were more cerebral than ‘300’) and it would be an interesting idea to see the films play out as the books did, with Druss’s final adventure played out first, and then flashbacks to his earlier battles. Sort of like a reverse Die-Hard, where we aren’t forced into believing Bruce Willis is simply getting tougher with age like some sort of expensive wood, or Keith Richards. Many of the books share characters, or have one character being the ancestor of another, so a series of movies that don’t necessarily have to be watched in order but share the same background could work really well.
The stand-out character in this is Druss, who Gemmell based on his stepfather Bill Woodford. When Gemmell was a kid he complained to his stepfather that he was having nightmares about vampires. Instead of trying to rationalise it, his stepfather disappeared off into Gemmell’s room only to return a few minutes later with a grim expression on his face. The young Gemmell asked ‘Was… was there a vampire?’ to which his stepfather replied, ‘Yes, broke its bloody neck, I won’t have no vampires in my house.’
The success of the first adaption (and the idea of a Legend film has been bandied around Hollywood before) will depend on the depiction of Druss. You could either go for an unknown (and gamble on finding a seven-foot-tall sixty year old with a bodybuilder physique) or use cinematic tricks as they do in the Hobbit and cast someone known and well-respected.
My call would be David Morse of Band of Brothers and Green Mile fame; he’s a solid actor, the right age and six foot four.