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What will the Magic the Gathering movie be about?
So the Hollywood Reporter has broken the news that 20th Century Fox has acquired the movie rights to Magic the Gathering, as well as naming Simon Kinberg as the writer tasked with creating not just a screenplay for a movie, but to launch a franchise.
As any comic book fan, or video gamer will tell you, the transition to the big screen is not always a pleasant experience for us geeks. The fact that MtG parent company Hasbro handled this deal also doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Sure, they've had big hits (Transformers) but they also thought Battleship was a good idea. And even though those big hits might have blown up well (Chandra would definitely approve of Michael Bay), but they weren't exactly beloved by critics, or for that matter the hardcore fans.
But I digress.
Since any potential movie's quality is quite a ways away, let us instead turn our thoughts to what (if any) of MtG's 20 years of stories might be used as the basis for the movie's plot.
Counting e-books, there's been more than 60 MtG novels over the years. I got my hands on the very first one as soon as I could in 1994, "Arena." I've got to say, the promo card that came with it (precursor for the Fight keyword mechanic!) was a lot better than the actual story. In fact all those early novels were a bit of a mess. The authors seemed to have been told to try to make certain cards from the early Magic sets into plot devices. The characters were all largely forgettable. The stories had no depth since the card game did not yet have it's own cohesive storyline and block format. And the rich mechanics and mythology of different Planeswalkers that MtG now enjoys had yet to develop.
For all those reasons I think it's safe to say that the first 11 MtG novels will not be used as a starting point for any screenplay.
I also think Ice Age/Coldsnap is out. There's a strong story there, climate change, clash of civilizations ... everyone would bash the frosty undead for being White Walkers, but we would all know better. As cool as it could be to see a group of heroes take on Lim-Dul, I think the very-snowy and overly-used Scandinavian/European setting would doom this option.
For being too ethnic specific I also think Kamigawa, Arabian Nights, Visions and Portal Three Kingdoms are out.
Other easy cuts:
Theros - Grecian myth is perhaps also too played out,
Scars of Mirrodin Block - Way too bleak, and would require far too much backstory to be meaningful.
Onslaught Block - Things get weird quick with all the creature mutations, plus too much Odyssey backstory needed.
Mercadian Block - While I'll discuss Weatherlight below, I think it's safe to say we can all agree that this was the least exciting chapter in that story.
Legends - While a movie focused on one of the legends from this set might work, there's not much overarching story plot to tie all those old gold-bordered folks together.
Innistrad- Somehow I don't think a storyline where church and religion are a lie perpetuated by a vampire who just wants to maintain the continued survival of his human food supply is going to go over well with critics at Fox News.
Time Spiral Block - The storyline is so esoteric that even most MtG players can't explain it. It'd be like if DC decided the first superhero movie they wanted to make was Crisis on Infinite Earths ... sure it'd be great fan service, but the general public would be soooo damn lost as to what the hell was going on.
Lorwyn - Oh man, the CGI that they could do with this! I can picture Ashling looking pretty badass. But c'mon, selling the general public on non-human protagonists will be a tall order. Plus, the goblins, treefolk, and kithkin would draw too close a comparison to those damned hobbits and THAT fantasy series. Plus, I shudder to think of how much Sygg could end up looking like Jar-Jar Binks.
Jodah - Rhymes with Yoda. The only part of his story that could work for a movie franchise would be his whole Harry Potter phase ... and that's been done.
Homelands - Bleh.
The Brothers' War could work. For many of us, this was the first cohesive backstory that enriched the Magic experience. It's been crafted into novel and comic form already, so there'd be a lot of raw materials to work with.
Urza and Mishra could discover the wonders of magic together, and eventually find other, like-minded magic users. But slowly over time, rifts between the two would grow into full-blown conflict. It'd be like X-men: First Class, but with Thran tech instead of Cerebro.
Odyssey Block - At first Kamahl and the Mirari would seem a poor choice for a movie, but with a little tweaking I think it could work. The pit fights could be used to demonstrate how mages duel, and the Mirari makes a nice macguffin. If the movie expands into a trilogy, the third movie could feature Karona.
Weatherlight/Invasion - The entire Weatherlight story arc represented a shift for MtG, where story, not card design would actually rule the direction of things, at least for the next few blocks. It makes sense then, that here we might find a suitable story for the big screen
Gerard is your stereotypical hero, dashing, daring, and surrounded by a colorful cast of characters. The ship, the crew (Squee!), and their many adventures together seem ready-made for the big-media treatment. Urza, as sort of a Gandalf-figure could eventually be revealed as could his master plan to fight Phyrexia in the climactic third film.
Of course, much of the Weatherlight saga would have to be streamlined to make for a cohesive movie experience, but as I said, no one would mourn a much-shortened stay in Mercadia.
Mirrodin - Putting aside the setting's strong artifact component, think about how each color of mana is so strongly represented in this block, with each color getting it's own sun. Glissa's search for the missing green sun could be a wonderful way to introduce folks to the colors of Magic. A strong female protagonist with a quest that will lead her across the world, meeting and forming alliances with people of all color persuasions, in a fight against a power-mad manipulator ... this is strong popcorn fodder.
“What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open. Life swarms with innocent monsters.”
― Charles Baudelaire
Ah, the City of Guilds. Here is a setting that would both surprise and delight the movie-going public, whose eyes would glaze over faster than a Channel-Fireball kill if they were presented with one more story set in a generic fantasy setting.
Ravnica is an urban setting, allowing for urban tales to be told. A Noir-esque murder mystery, Romeo and Juliet-style romance between guilds, or something more creative like a multi-narrative tale could easily be done in this setting. I'll admit, the official storyline for both the Ravnica blocks is pretty wacky for the general moviegoer, but the possibilities in the Multiverse's biggest city are pretty endless.
The guilds would allow for a graphic introduction to the attitudes of different color combinations, and the pantheon of legendary characters from the city could help populate any story.
Modern Planeswalkers - Entering the modern era, where MtG has put a lot of time and energy into promoting the images, and backstories to Planeswalkers, The Core Sets in particular have prominently featured Planeswalkers in their many incarnations. The standard set-up - which is used in the Duel of the Planeswalkers console video game series - is that many of the more heroic Planeswalkers such as Ajani must band together to defeat the godlike Nicol Bolas.
Many Planeswalkers have ready-made backstories, and have a history interwoven into many of the locations/events mentioned above, making for an easy transition into a screenplay.
Something New - Of course there's nothing stopping Kinberg from making up a whole new realm/character/story out of whole cloth. For longtime MtG fans, that'd be a disappointment, since there's literally decades of characters and stories already crafted for the game, but it could certainly happen.
Perhaps a new Planeswalker could discover their spark, and learn the ways of magic from one of the existing walkers. Or maybe a fresh plane, where 23 years of continuity isn't in the way, is what the studio execs will go for.
What do you think, am I missing an obvious movie setting or plot? What characters or events do you really want to see on the big screen? What are some of your celebrity casting pics for MtG characters? How badly will you want Hasbro to die if they let Uwe Boll direct?