Eleven Movies That Need to Be Made

In 2015, I wrote a pair of posts on my personal blog, NerdlyManor.com, running down lists of movies (and a couple of television shows) that I thought should be made.  Surprisingly, while some have been put into action (see, for example, the Dirk Gently television series), many have not.  Below is an update of the genre items from the lists that still have yet to gain traction.  If interested, you can find the original postings (including some adaptations not listed below) here and here.

1. The Black Company

Note: News came out in April, 2017 that IM Global Television, in conjunction with Eliza Dushku and David Goyer, was planning to produce a television series based on The Black Company, presumably with Dushku in the pivotal role of Lady.  However, since that initial news flurry, there's been nary a word on it from anyone, and it's disappeared from IMDB, with Dushku busy promoting the upcoming Mapplethorpe film.  Until I see news otherwise, I will consider the previously announced series dead and consider this still a viable candidate on this list.

What's it about?  The Black Company is a band of mercenaries in the employ of the evil empire of The Lady, commissioned to wipe out a rebellion led by the last remaining good wizards in the land.  As captured by their physician/historian Croaker, the Black Company win many battles against poor odds until they, too, begin questioning their mission.  What will happen when they finally decide to break away and earn The Lady's fury?

Why it could work!  In an era where Game of Thrones has shown that mystical politics and war can succeed as popular entertainment, The Black Company series by Glen Cook is ripe for adaptation as either a movie franchise or as a replacement miniseries once Thrones ultimately concludes in a couple years.  It is a large scale epic featuring character turns, unexpected deaths, and grand crescendo battles, which today's audiences pretty much expect from such tales.

2. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy

What's it about?  Starting July 4, 1908, the Chicago Cubs played an epic 40 day long game with All Stars from the semi-pro minor league Iowa Baseball Confederacy at Big Inning, Iowa that eventually led to the collapse of the Cubs as a championship club and the destruction of the town of Big Inning.  Or maybe this didn't happen.  The only person who remembers this game is Matthew Clarke, who had been struck by lightning and may be making up all of this.  However, when Matthew dies in a bizarre foul ball incident at a game in Wisconsin, his son Gideon suddenly acquires this knowledge of the game.  But he does his father one better, actually managing to travel back in time to witness the game and its manipulations by the native magics wielded by the local Black Hawk Nation tribe in an attempt to recover their lost lands.  Along the way, President Theodore Roosevelt stops by to pinch hit (he strikes out with a big stick) and Leonardo da Vinci shows up to claim he was the one who invented the game of baseball.  Eventually the game ends after 2,614 innings (though saying how would be spoiling it).  Needless to say, the second game of the planned double header was canceled.

Why it could work!  Maybe you missed the parts above about the Chicago Cubs, Black Hawk tribal magic, Teddy Roosevelt, time travel, and da Vinci.  This was W.P. Kinsella's followup novel to Shoeless Joe, which was adapted into Field of Dreams, a movie you may have heard about.  A skilled screenwriter will need to tame the more fantastical elements of Kinsella's lyrical writing, but just as with Field of Dreams, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy offers an exploration of multi-generational family dynamics set against a backdrop of baseball and mysticism that can be utterly rapturous if done correctly.

3. Cryptonomicon

What's it about?  In a two-generational story, mathematicians at Bletchley Park and a unit from the US Marines go about finding creative ways to cover up the fact that the Allies have broken Axis codes while in modern times, their descendants work to lay communications lines in the Philippines and search for buried gold.  These two seemingly distinct stories end up intertwining in surprising ways.

Why it could work!  As dense as the book is, it's simultaneously taut and sweeping.  The characters are engaging, and both the intellect-oriented Waterhouses and the action-oriented Shaftoes are well-drawn characters.  The settings and contexts of both generations will be familiar to most movie-goers (though the modern storyline will need updating, as technology has passed it by somewhat).  Overall, it's the work by Neal Stephenson that best lends itself to screen adaptation, which is why I'm surprised that Seveneves is the novel that Ron Howard has decided to adapt.

4. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

What's it about?  Two thieves, one a giant barbarian, the other a small former mage's apprentice, stumble into each other while pulling the same robbery.  They hit it off and decide to partner up.  After an initial tragedy puts them on the run, they share many an adventure, always getting themselves into scrapes that their wits and their swords must get them out of.

Why it could work!  Warner Brothers has already optioned The Lies of Locke Lamora, a modern day series that hearkens back to Fritz Lieber's twosome, so why shouldn't someone make movies out of the originals?  There's enough material for an entire movie franchise, but without the serial nature that would require a studio to commit to a specific number of movies.  And given the books were a true buddy adventure, the franchise could be attached to almost any pairing of youngish actors with good rapport.  Chris Helmsworth and Tom Hiddleston would be amazing together in it.

5. Niebla

What's it about?  Boy meets girl.   Boy asks girl to marry him.  Girl leaves boy at altar.  Boy decides to kill himself.  Before committing suicide, boy seeks out advice from the writer of an article on suicide.  Turns out the writer is the author of the story that the boy is a character in, and he says the boy is not allowed to kill himself.  Boy says, "You're not the boss of me!"  Then things get weird.

Why it could work!  This would never be a Hollywood blockbuster, but based on the novel by Miguel de Unamuno, Niebla would have the chance to earn the right director (both Spike Jonze and Terrence Malick come to mind) the obligatory Best Picture nomination.  Especially if they leave the eulogy given by the dog at the end of the book.

6. One Hundred Years of Solitude

What's it about?  Seven generations of the Buendía family pass since their patriarch founded Macondo, the utopic city of mirrors, on a riverbank in Colombia.  Every member of the family appears destined to find grave misfortune at some point.  An encrypted text may hold the secret to the family's travails, but can the family break the code before it's too late?

Why it could work!  Gabriel García Márquez's novel is stunning, combining magical realism with a sweeping generational saga.  The only reason it's not already been made into a film is that the author never gave anyone the rights to adapt the book.  In fact, Harvey Weinstein claimed that García Márquez once offered to let him adapt it, but only if it was made as an annual series of two minute chapters to be released over a century.  It would take a deft hand to guide the adaptation of the book, but in the right hands, this could be a Best Picture winner.  Think Life of Pi except as a soap opera set in the jungle.

7. Hawkman

What's it about?  Hawkman is a comic book character, so his history has changed through the years, because comic book publishers like to do that.  The version that I would suggest features the story of Khufu, a prince of ancient Egypt, who is betrayed and killed along with his consort Chay-Ara by his longtime rival, the priest Hath-Set.  Hath-Set sacrifices the pair in a ritual using a mystical dagger made of a mysterious substance called Nth Metal, which has many properties the ancient pharaohs found useful.  Khufu and Chay-Ara are reincarnated throughout the ages, but always meet an untimely demise at the hands of a reincarnated Hath-Set.

Eventually, though, an American archaeologist named Carter Hall, who's curating an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts, touches the Nth Metal dagger and is enlightened with the knowledge that he's the latest incarnation of Khufu and that his girlfriend Shiera Saunders was once Chay-Ara.  Carter uses his recovered knowledge of Nth Metal to craft a belt that will let him fly, crafting a set of wings to allow him to control his flight.  Carter finds himself in adventures that get him dubbed the Hawkman by the media.  Eventually, Shiera gets her own belt and wings to become Hawkwoman.  They find they have to arm themselves quickly with weapons on hand at the museum to stop the evil machinations of scientist Anton Hastor, who they find out is the reincarnated Hath-Set.

Why it could work!  Hawkman can have some stunning flight visuals, is a fairly gritty character that lends himself well to the kind of dark storytelling that in particular Warner Brothers likes to tell, and has a relatively tidy self-contained mythos.  Plus, setting aside just how huge super-hero movies are these days, one has to consider that the reincarnation angle and the timeless love of Khufu/Carter and Chay-Ara/Shiera has a romantic drama element that few comic book properties can claim.  Imagine a final scene where Carter and Shiera, having just defeated Hastor and his plot, find themselves both mortally wounded and struggling to drag themselves to each other in the hopes of dying in each other's arms.  The film closes with them lying lifeless on a cold floor, their hands outstretched toward each other but not quite close enough to touch.  Played correctly, there's not a dry eye in the house.

But wait, what's this after the credits?  The camera zooms into space where we find the planet Thanagar, its denizens using winged suits and vehicles to navigate in floating cities high in the clouds.  There a woman is giving birth.  "I think we'll name him Katar," she tells her husband afterward.  The camera zooms into the baby's eye, and we're sure we're looking at the latest version of Khufu.  Sequel established!

Given that the modern characterization of Hawkman was largely established by Geoff Johns (following on the heels of Tim Truman's stellar Hawkworld, which took Katar Hol into a gritty realism), I'm a little surprised that Johns in his role as President and CCO hasn't at least nudged the character along in development.  With DC's recent large spectacle films largely being panned while the more heavily character-driven Wonder Woman nearly universally praised, the time is ripe for another film where story and characterization trump action.

8. Camelot 3000

Note: Since I wrote this, Legends of Tomorrow did an episode called "Camelot/3000".  However, this was far from an adaptation of the Mike W. Barr/Brian Bolland series.  Simply borrowing the title doesn't count.

What's it about?  Ancient prophecy states that King Arthur will return when England needs him the most.  In the year 3000 CE, England has need of him, as a race of aliens has invaded.  Arthur will need to retrieve Excalibur, regather the Knights of the Round Table (all reincarnated into the world of 3000 CE), and seek out Merlin if he's going to save England (and the rest of the world) from these aliens, who have a very familiar backer.

Why it could work!  It's King Arthur!  With a sword in one hand and a blaster in the other!  Fighting aliens!

Okay, a little more depth.  Camelot 3000 was surprisingly rich in story layers.  You have the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle, made that much more complicated by the fact that everyone remembers the original betrayal and consequences.  You have Sir Percival reincarnated as a lab-grown genetically manipulated giant worker drone.  You have famed lover Sir Tristan reincarnated as a woman and all the gender issues that allows one to explore.  You have Sir Gawain as the only family man among the group, always just wanting to get the job done so he can get back to the wife and kids.  And you have Sir Galahad reincarnated as a completely bad ass samurai of the future.  The story from the comic book maxi-series had Arthur and his Knights revisit practically every major story in the legend, from the Lady in the Lake to the Holy Grail, as part of the plot.  And all of this while fighting aliens.

9. Justice, Inc. (aka The Avenger)

What's it about?  Richard Henry Benson is essentially The Most Interesting Man in the World, trotting the globe from adventure to adventure.  His wife and child are killed during one of his trips, and the shock renders his face paralyzed and highly malleable, his skin and hair turned completely white.  Benson vows to avenge the loss of his family, taking advantage of his fortune, his legion of skills, and his new ability as a master of disguise to right wrongs along the way.  To aid him, he gathers a team of assistants, and together they are Justice, Inc.

Why it could work!  Surprisingly, despite spawning off 42 original stories and novels, several follow-up books, multiple comic book series, and a radio show, The Avenger and Justice, Inc. has never been the subject of a film adaptation.  This strikes me odd, as the concept could be set in almost any time period post-1920.  And the cast is ready-made for a modern film, with a diversity unheard of among Justice, Inc.'s pulp brethren.  Among the team are Nellie Gray, who was Emma Peel 20 years before Emma Peel was invented.  Also on the team are Josh and Rosabel Newton, an African-American couple who would often go undercover to gather more information for The Avenger.  Add to them Mac the chemist, Smitty the electronics expert, and Cole the junior adventurer, and you have a well-rounded cast that can surround a strong leading character.  Imagine a movie that's part Mission: Impossible, part Fast and the Furious, and part Nolan's The Dark Knight, and you basically have Justice, Inc.

10. A Real Dungeons and Dragons Movie

Note: There are actually multiple movies being planned related to Dungeons and Dragons, one by Paramount, one by Warner Bros, and one scripted by actor and real-life gamer Joe Manganiello.  As far as I can tell, all of these are straightforward fantasy films, so my suggestion still stands.

What's it about?  Imagine Lord of the Rings except with periodic cutaways to a framing narrative a la The Princess Bride or Forget Paris.  In the game world, our adventurers are busy navigating mysterious dungeons and dangerous terrain, fighting monsters, evildoers, undead, and maybe even a dragon.  In the real world, the players who control those adventurers in their exploits squabble over rules with the dungeon master, work through personal issues, and have knock down, drag-out fights over what toppings to order on the pizza.

Why it could work!  There have been several Dungeons and Dragons movies, all of varying levels of embarrassing quality, over the years.  But none of them truly capture the magic (pardon the pun) of playing a role-playing game, including the all-important story outside the story that the players go through.  Some web comics have done a spectacular job of capturing this dynamic, but aside from some horrendously awful videos on YouTube (I'll spare you the link), no one seems to have attempted this on film.  In the hands of the right scriptwriter, such a movie could be a lot of fun to watch, both by gamers and nongamers alike.  There's even a plethora of perfectly good movie titles out there to use, from Roll Initiative! to d20.

11. Maus

What's it about?  A Pulitzer-winning graphic novel, Maus tells the story of Art Spiegelman's interviews with his father Vladek, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.  Vladek describes his stint as a draftee into the Polish army prior to the German invasion, his subsequent stint as a prisoner of war, and his release.  Vladek then tells his son of the actions the Nazi occupiers took against the Jews in Poland, starting with forced moves into ghettos and then round ups to take them to concentration camps.  Both Vladek and members of his extended family went to great lengths to hide from and/or escape the Gestapo, but ultimately Vladek is captured and sent to Auschwitz, where the prisoners suffer greatly, many of them dead from the conditions or executed, then on to Dachau, where he fortunately survived to see the war's end and his rescue.  Throughout, Spiegelman symbolizes the players in the story in animal form, the Jews taking the form of mice, the Nazis cats, and the gentile Poles pigs.  The story frequently cuts to Art and Vladek and their interactions throughout the interviews.

Why it could work!  There's a reason why this became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer.  It is powerful, not only for the tragic firsthand account of the horrors experienced by millions during the Holocaust, but also for the interactions between father Vladek and son Art, who has trouble at times relating with his Old World father and realizing how much both of them hurt from the suicide years prior by Art's mother.  Art, as he portrays himself, is highly neurotic, an angry man who has difficulty relating to his father even as his father tells him his story of suffering at the hands of the Nazis.  Vladek has been deeply scarred by his experiences, as one would imagine, and is unsure if dredging up such painful memories and publishing them is the right thing to do.  It's a complex dynamic that those of us who have had strained, distant relationships with parents will find all too familiar.

When I told some friends about my thoughts on how Maus should become a movie, they cautioned that it can't just be made by anyone.  They're right.  In fact, Art Spiegelman has gone on record saying he doesn't want to see an adaptation made, expressing the same misgivings that his father had about publishing the story at all.  Fortunately, I think Vladek Spiegelman's misgivings proved unfounded, and I hope that the younger Spiegelman's misgivings will be similarly overcome.  It's far too important a story not to put into motion.

Should he ever change his mind, Maus will require a scriptwriter and director for whom this will be a labor of love, where devotion to the source material trumps any ego or desires to attempt to "fix" anything.  I personally think that the style of art in the book would translate spectacularly to animation on the screen if there is a conscious decision to style the movie visually after the book's art style (like how Warner Bros. Animation styled the Justice League: The New Frontier animation after the art of Darwyn Cooke, below).  It's just waiting for someone with the right amount of passion to bring it to life (as opposed to adapting it).

JL Franke is a fan of both hard science fiction and hard fantasy.  He has been collecting comics for over 40 years and has been an on-and-off active member of online fandom for 25.  Those interested can find other writings at his personal blog, NerdlyManor.com.  When not geeking out, you may find him at a baseball park or cheering on his favorite college and pro football teams.  In his spare time, he is chief scientist for a research and development laboratory somewhere in the Washington, DC greater metropolitan area.

Eleven Movies That Need to Be Made Eleven Movies That Need to Be Made Reviewed by JL Franke on Monday, February 12, 2018 Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.