This Week in Popculture’s Cube: Wild Speculation – How Magic Will Look on the Big Screen
By Peter Kuebeck
Back in June the announcement was made that, yes indeedy, they are working on a big-screen incarnation of Magic: The Gathering (and, no less, a writer from Game of Thrones is attached to the project).
Shortly thereafter, the fellas on my local Planeswalker Facebook group starting flinging ideas around about just what the film could look like. What storyline might the film follow? Who would the villains be? Main characters? And on and on.
I hate to say it, but I don’t hold out a full steaming load of hope for the kind of quality that we might see from this movie. I’ll be honest – Hasbro (the parent company of Wizards of the Coast) hasn’t had a super track record when it comes to movies based on their licenses products. They’re the ones who brought you all four Transformers films, both G.I. Joe movies, and *gasp* the horror that was the Battleship movie. (Aliens? Really?)
But let’s not dwell on the past – the idea of a Magic movie is full of possibilities; think of the merchandising potential alone! (Maybe a special set or even a block based on the movie?)
Here are a few things that have been going through my mind about the film itself:
• Protagonists – Obviously, the movie would feature our friends, the Planeswalkers. In true Hollywood fashion, I’ll bet that they’re portray them in two teams, like in a superhero movie: the good Planeswalkers and the evil ones. I’m sure we’ll see Ajani, Chandra, Elspeth, and others on the side of good, while Nicol Bolas, Liliana and probably Sorin will likely should up.
• Hero – For non-Magic players, the idea of Planeswalkers jumping from one plane to the next might be a little impenetrable. So you need a point-of-view character – a “newbie” who experiences this world at the same time as the audience. A lot of superhero, fantasy and sci-fi movies use this trope – look at the film versions of Hellboy, Thor, Lord of the Rings, and so forth. For this role, I nominate Jace Beleren. I could see Hollywood interpreting everyone’s favorite Architect of Thought/Mind Sculptor/Living Guildpact as someone who’s JUST discovered his Planeswalker spark, and is discovering not only his new abilities, but also how to travel the planes. Jace fits into the coveter 18-35-year-old demographic that marketers really look for, so the idea seems to be a slam dunk.
• Villains – In discussions with folks online, the idea came up that the movie could be based on the Brothers’ War storyline, which also involved the Phyrexians. The Phyrexians are the biggest evil in all of the multiverse (and they’re also one of my favorites) so they’d work great as the antagonists here. We could see them trying to take over Dominaria. Additionally, the evil Planeswalkers may be trying to assist the Phyrexians somehow, so that might work in an interesting way.
• Planes – I think the film should work on the old Star Wars principle related to settings: always include at least three different environments per film (i.e. Hoth, Dagobah and Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back). So, I’d love to see Hollywood try to depict Ravnica (gigantic city with massive areas of ruins, sewers and soaring architecture? Yes, please); Zendikar (I’d love to see the Tangle up close); and maybe Innistrad (even if it’s just a quick glimpse, a world of shocking Gothic horror would be awesome).
Okay, there are some of the things I’d like to see – but there are other unanswered questions about how things might work. Such as:
• Creatures – One of the major mechanics in Magic is creatures that are summoned to attack and block. I have absolutely no idea how they are going to be able to depict this on screen without it looking incredibly hokey, or being absolutely confusing for the uninitiated audience members.
• Races – Elves, Goblins, Humans, Dragons and other fantastical races all coexist in the planes. But they’re also in a bunch of other fantasy films as well (the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films especially). The big question here is how is the Magic film going to establish and differentiate itself enough so that it doesn’t seem imitative.
• Casting – This is the big issue. How the characters are cast will basically show how seriously the producers are taking the film. If it’s just a bunch of newbie nobodies, then it’s clear the film is just a naked money grab and probably won’t go the distance in the eyes of fans. If the producers are willing to shell out some dough for some good actors, then this could potentially draw a lot of people outside the Magic community and really make this a franchise. I’d love, for instance, to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Garruk, Gemma Arterton as Chandra, and the voice of Morgan Freeman giving life to a CGI Ajani. Oh, and Jeremy Irons could be the voice of everyone’s favorite dragon Planeswalker.