There is absolutely no doubting that Game of Thrones has had a massive impact on television since its debut in 2011. The show’s actors have gone from C-list to A-list, it shows that big budget television can make a huge profit and it has transcended high fantasy from the realm of the nerd to the mass market. Since Game of Thrones there has been endless chatter about several other fantasy book series being adapted (Game of Thrones is based on The Song of Ice and Fire books by everybody’s favourite gnome-looking writer George RR Martin). I think that this is truly the way forward for fantasy adaptations; greedy corporations always want to make franchises out of adaptations of books and TV would be a much more versatile medium than film.
Science fiction and fantasy are often seen grouped together on the shelves of the ever decreasing libraries and bookshops and it’s true, the genres do appeal to the same sort of reader (me) but when it comes to adapting them from the screen they couldn’t be more different. Science fiction is a genre that is perfect for film because it’s all about an idea. Whether it be about aliens, androids or inter-dimensional travel, a two hour movie is enough time to explore a science-fiction idea. Fantasy on the other hand is about so much more than an idea; it’s about a world. Game of Thrones wouldn’t have worked as a film because the world is so rich and complex to be explored in a mere couple of hours. There are of course examples of some great sci-fi shows (Star Trek) and fantasy films (The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit) but Star Trek on television was run into the ground after a lack of ideas and the Middle Earth films barely scratched the surface of the reams of lore produced by Tolkien.
So let’s delve into the multitude of reasons why fantasy is suited for television. As I’ve previously discussed TV, whether it be the Game of Thrones thing of 10 episodes, the more usual 13 episode season or a huge 24 episodes, allows for more time for world building as well as introducing a wide array of characters (imagine how many characters would have to be cut from Game of Thrones if it was a movie). The time spent in the world allows for deeper characterisation and the metaphors and allegories that are rife in fantasy fiction can be explored in a suitable way, not rushed by running time concerns. It’s not just the world that is expansive in fantasy but the story too. Most fantasy books are behemoths of fiction and a show is needed to actually tell the story from the page with the correct pacing.
Almost all of the recently released fantasy films aim for a PG-13/12A certificate so that they are available for a wide audience but are any of them successful? Other than the Hobbit movies the answer is no. Many recent fantasy films, such as Seventh Son, have been commercial and critical failures due to movie studios attempting to appeal to everyone and nobody enjoying the results. TV networks spend less on a show than a film so they don’t have to make their products attractive to everyone at the risk of tone and story. Once again Game of Thrones is a great example of this; it’s become one of the most popular shows on the planet by picking a dark tone with high levels of adult content and sticking with it.
For my money some of the best actors today are working in television, not film. The decline of the 30 million dollar movie and indie scene and the rise of big budget relatively dumb blockbuster has led to a mass exodus of actors from film to television. I’m talking about actors and actresses like Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Elizabeth Moss and Vera Farmiga. Those are the types of people who would be great for fantasy adaptations, not huge movie stars looking only for their next ridiculously massive pay check.
The Dark Tower is Stephen King’s foray into fantasy with the book series taking on a western Lord of the Rings kind of vibe. I’ve recently read the first book, The Gunslinger, and really enjoyed it and was happy to find out a film is in development. The first book is relatively small and its story could fit into the confounds of a 2 and a bit hour movie. JJ Abrams was once connected to direct but with him now out of the picture with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Nikolaj Arcel (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is the planned director. The problem is that the books keep getting bigger as the series progresses. Back when JJ was attached to the project, The Dark Tower was going to be a film trilogy but with two seasons of an HBO produced TV show to fill in the gaps. This is a smart way of doing things by pleasing book fans with the material not in the films being in the show but also streamlining the story so people who only see the films don’t feel they’ve missed out on anything. There should be more symbiotic film/TV relationships because it really could work for the storytelling. Sadly HBO pulled out to pursue, yep I’m mentioning it once more, Game of Thrones and the current plan is to adapt all the books as films.
Which fantasy book series would you like to see grace the small screen? The Wheel of Time? Mistborn? Or something else entirely? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter @kylebrrtt. Please give this blog a like and subscribe. Remember Out of Lives is on both Facebook and Twitter for all the latest entertainment news. Until next week: goodbye.