Stoked or Skeptical? Upcoming Fantasy Film Remakes With Huge Shoes to Fill
With the monumental success of films like Lord of the Rings and TV shows like Game of Thrones, it’s no wonder streaming service giants are racing to transform fantasy films into series remakes. Why create a story from scratch when you can use material that’s already there?
To quote filmmaker Kirby Ferguson, “Everything is a remix.” In this case, everything is a remake, reboot, prequel, or sequel. Some remakes work out (see: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events), some crash and burn (see: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters). There’s really no middle ground when you deal with the heavy stories of the fantasy genre, considering its extensive worldbuilding and complicated plotlines. That said, filmmakers who take on these projects are either incredibly prepared or incredibly idealistic.
The last few months have seen a revival of beloved stories, but will they live up to the original, and more importantly, is another remake even necessary? Let’s find out.
1| The Chronicles of Narnia (Netflix)
The difference: Everyone’s favorite childhood stories are set to be retold by none other than Netflix. The video-on-demand company is the first to ever acquire the rights to all seven books of the series. And they’re not just making films either—they’re also going to make a series out of the beloved stories. With both films and a show planned, it’s safe to assume Netflix will adapt all the stories, from the Pevensies up to the last king of Narnia. The entire series has over 3,000 characters, spans over 2,000 years, and explores the lands even beyond Narnia, so there’s certainly no lack of source material. Co-writer of Coco Matthew Aldrich has been tapped to be the creative architect of the entire project.
Are we excited? Honestly, yes. While the books have already been adapted into three television shows and one film series, there's definitely enough source material for Netflix to play with. And the previous film series was handled so terribly that The Chronicles of Narnia deserves a revival. While the first film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was arguably a brilliant adaptation of the book, the following films didn’t live up to the standard it set. The much-anticipated production of The Silver Chair has been up in the air for almost 10 years, so for the C.S. Lewis Company to finally settle on Netflix to revive the series is good news indeed. Let’s hope it doesn't ruin any childhoods while it is at it.
2| Lord of the Rings (Amazon)
The difference: Amazon's version of LOTR is following the franchise’s direction of going back in time. Following The Hobbit prequel trilogy released after the original LOTR series, the remake will take viewers to the Second Age, which is 3,000 years before the events of both trilogies. For non-LOTR geeks, the Second Age is notable for the rise of Sauron and the Last Great Alliance of Elves and Men—all of this led to the big final battle that sparked the events in the Fellowship of the Ring. LOTR characters who were alive during this time are Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond.
Are we excited? Not as much as Amazon expected us to be. Amazon Prime bought the rights to LOTR for $250 million, knocking Netflix and HBO out of the park. The series is reported to have a billion-dollar budget—the biggest in television history. There are even talks to get Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss on board as Peter Jackson will not be part of the production at all. But all the money in the world can’t buy a good show, especially when it’s only been a few years since LOTR and The Hobbit were released. Even Legolas star Orlando Bloom shared how he never thought they would remake such an epic series. John Rhys Davies, who played Gimli, noted how he wasn’t all that surprised: “If they think they can make more money, then they will.” And he was right: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, is banking on Amazon’s remake to be the “next Game of Thrones.”
The entire catalog of LOTR is brilliant enough to pull off being the “next GOT,” but without Jackson and an obviously profit-focused goal, fans aren’t that pumped for this fantasy film remake that’s really just milking off Tolkien’s genius.
3| Vampire Chronicles (Hulu)
The difference: Hulu is remaking the Oscar-nominated 1994 adaptation, Interview with the Vampire, into an entire series that will cover all 11 novels in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. Unlike the film, Rice will have a direct hand in making the big decisions in this adaptation of her dark fantasy novels. While the film focused on only one novel, which was set largely in the 18th century, the series will also delve into Rice’s other books, which follow Lestat into modern times.
Are we excited? We’re on the fence. The film’s appeal was not just in its casting—the fact it was made in the '90s adds to its current cult classic status. The gothic atmosphere and dark sensuality of the film can’t be replicated, and any attempt will probably fall flat. While the film faced backlash from Rice and the public for casting Tom Cruise as Lestat de Lioncourt, the critics were quick to take back their comments after witnessing Cruise’s performance in the role. Rice even apologized and admitted she was wrong. Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst—these are big shoes to fill, especially when these actors have been so closely associated with their respective characters for 25 years and counting. But the remake does have one supportive backer: Rice herself.
4| Dracula (Netflix)
The difference: Unlike other adaptations that romanticized the famed villain (we're looking at you, Dracula Untold), Netflix and BBC’s version of Dracula has no such plans of doing the same. The remake intends to be a “reintroduction” (and an education) to the Transylvanian count, as per Bram Stoker’s original vision. The three-part series will be set in the late 19th century and will take a "Sherlock-y" approach to the novel.
Are we excited? Hard yes. Dracula is one of those stories that never gets old. Like legends and fairytales, Bram Stoker’s gothic horror novel was made to be retold through the perspectives of different storytellers—this time, it will be through the lens of Sherlock showrunners Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. This is almost a guarantee that they’ll add a touch of cleverness to the mix, plus the quiet lethality that Danish actor Claes Bang brings to the table as the titular character. Suffice to say, we're stoked (see what we did there?).
5| Conan the Barbarian (Amazon)
The difference: The 1982 version injected the character with a heavy dose of Schwarzenegger testosterone, while the 2011 remake attempted to give the character a darker, rock star edge. The remake plans to return the character to his literary origins, which largely portray him as a heroic but flawed leader.
Are we excited? Hopeful, if a little skeptical. Amazon’s remake is a chance to execute the story with more finesse than its predecessors, and to address some admittedly problematic elements of the story, i.e. the abundance of damsels in distress and the weird attitude toward race. The legend of Conan has huge potential, but it’s also a big risk—it’s either hit (ex. 1984 version) or miss (ex. 2011 version) with this one. Amazon knows this, which is why it's been quiet about the project for a while as it focuses its energy on the upcoming LOTR series. Until the show gets the full attention it needs, this fantasy film remake has been shelved (but not dropped).