Just recently, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Fox will be looking to make a movie series on Magic: The Gathering. The official news can be found here. Given the recent success of crossover movies and the rising popularity of Magic, It was only a matter of time. While everything is in its very early stages, people have already speculated what they think the story will be about. Ideas have ranged from the Brothers War, to the Weatherlight Saga, up to a planeswalker focus. There are many factors to consider in making a movie and none should be taken lightly, especially with a topic that has such a devoted fan base.
The primary factor for Fox Studios is profitability. Hollywood is a business and no one likes to lose money on their multi-million dollar investment. This means that their story, whatever they end up going with, has to be able to recoup their costs. Sounds simple enough, but it is far from that. Disney Studios had two major losses recently with John Carter in 2012 and The Lone Ranger in 2013. Fortunately Disney also had the Avengers and Iron Man 3 come out to make them more than enough money. This is not always the case though and a bad movie can hurt a studio for years. Almost all decisions Fox makes will be toward helping the movie become profitable.
Our next factor is the story, which will be the focus of today’s article. This part has people most excited and will be a big key to the success of the film series. The story can be the most tricky part, since Fox will want to choose a story line that will not only please the fans, but entertain the wider audience. The wider audience is the most important part as it will draw in the ticket sales that will recoup the cost of the movie. So what makes a good story for this situation? Let’s take a looks at two examples to help figure this out. Since the Magic movie will most likely be in the fantasy/supernatural action genre, the first X-Men movie and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy is what we will use.
The first X-Men movie had a story that involved the fans favorite mutant team while making it understandable to the wider audience. Even if you weren’t a comic book fan and cared for the super powers of the characters, you could understand the plot of good versus evil and how two people, who are both outsiders (mutants), have different philosophies on how to be treated by the rest of the world. The film was a massive success, helped revive the super hero genre, made a star out of Hugh Jackman, and spawned several sequels. This may not have been possible if they started the movie series with the Phoenix Saga or Age or Days of the Future Past. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is a bit more complicated, as the story is already set, and the fantasy world is massive. Peter Jackson had a big project ahead of him with this film series, but he was able to work with the screenwriters and tweak the films in such a way that you can learn about the characters and situations as you go along. With such a large cast and several stories, they kept focus on two main plots: Frodo and his journey to destroy the Ring and Aragorn and his return to the crown as the king of Gondor. Even when we get extra story lines added to these plots, we still know the end goal and can follow their paths.
Of course these are basic generalizations but it proves the point that a good mix of things for the fans, as well as a plot that is easy for mass audiences, will make a successful and profitable picture. These movies can be referenced back to as guidelines. So we know what kind of story Fox should shoot for in order to make this series popular and enjoyable, now we will look at some of the story lines that can be used currently:
The Brothers’ War – The oldest magic story, the Brothers’ War focuses on Urza and Mishra, two brothers who create artifacts and go to war causing mass destruction. This war leads to events that happen in the first few Magic expansions and further story lines.
Pros: This story would be an ideal start, and Urza is one of the most popular characters of the game. Ideal starting point for a series as we can lead into Urza’s Saga.
Cons: Story would alienate newer players who don’t know who Urza is and may not care since they don’t have their favorite planeswalkers. A sibling war story may not be ideal for a first movie in a series, especially one trying to catch a wide audience.
The Weatherlight Saga – Captain Gerrard and the crew of the sky ship Weatherlight go on a mission to save the previous captain of the ship, who was taken hostage on a different world. This begins a chain of events that lead to a whole new set of stories.
Pros: Possibly the most popular story among fans. Great cast of characters. Great lead into more films as the Weatherlight crew visits different planes.
Cons: No major planeswalkers for the most part, which has been the focus of Wizards in the past few years. Story may be too complicated with too many characters involved. Also, another story that newer players don’t know about. Movies with sky ships haven’t done well at the box office in the past (Treasure Planet, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow).
Going back to the planeswalker comment above, it would be safe to say that, with such a focus on planeswalkers, any previous stroryline that doesn’t feature them heavily will not be considered for a film. With that being the case, let’s look at possible planeswalker stories.
Zendikar – This features popular planeswalkers, Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar as they search for the mystery of the Eldrazi.
Pros: We get an adventure story, with a B plot of a Jace and Chandra romance. Zendikar would be a fun setting and visually appealing.Plot wouldn’t be too complicated.
Cons: Eldrazi don’t make exciting villains. Story could segway into the other planeswalkers but they may be introduced in the first film.
Innistrad – Set in a Gothic plane, the humans of Innistrad are losing a fight against vampires, werewolves, and zombies until a visit from Sorin Markov and Liliana Vess (not together) change things and the angel Avacyn is saved.
Pros: People love zombies and vampires, and the Innistrad setting has been one of the most popular among fans. We get a decent story and a good cast of characters.
Cons: Might be vampire and zombie overload by the time it is released. Complicated story for new market , Liliana can be seen as the villain and then Griselbrand but she ends up saving Innistrad with her actions. This story is caught in the middle of Liliana and Garruk’s storyline, may be confusing to explain back story.
The planeswalkers are all doing their thing during these stories so starting a new series during one of these would not be the most ideal situation. While I would personally be a fan of any of these story lines, the reality will be a brand new story with the planeswalkers. This is a fine proposition and would be able to introduce the game to a wide audience, as the planeswalkers are superheroes in the world of Magic.
With that being stated, here is what my ideal planeswalker movie be about (and yes, it includes Jace, he’s not going anywhere).
Magic: Battle for Middle Earth (working title)
“Upon returning to his home, a young planeswalker returns to his home to find an ancient evil has returned to destroy his world.”
Jace Beleren has returned to his plane after years of traveling to others and notices something different about his homeland. Upon finding a mysterious black liquid, he sets out on a mission, confronting allies and enemies alike, and discovers an ancient evil surfacing on his world. The evil is the Phyrexia, and after learning about their history and what they have done on other worlds, Jace teams up with other planeswalkers to fight the new Phyrexian evil.
This is the rough draft of what my story would be like. Things would be changed of course during the process. Next, the characters.
Jace Beleren – Our protagonist in the story. He would be the focus of our story. Has been traveling the multiverse for a long time and has finally returned from his adventures.
Liliana Vess – Former romantic interest of Jace. She is currently working on her own mission (the demon stories), but will show up in this film to be of some assistance to Jace while he looks for answers to the black liquid.
Ajani Goldmane – Depending on the route Fox wants to go with this, it could end up being Gideon as a more human character. I still like Ajani as the original for this plot. Ajani is an old friend of Jace’s and will assist him through the some of the search and the final battle.
Chandra Nalaar – Hot headed like her in-game character, she will be the main romantic interest for Jace and the film (gotta have the B plot). While she will seem unwilling to help and be at odds with Jace, as the story goes on, she will eventually help in the final battle. Lot’s of room for development with her and Jace.
Garruk Wildspeaker – A true man of nature, Garruk does not care for Jace and Liliana. While there probably won’t be and interaction with him and Liliana, there will be plenty of screen time with him and Jace. Ajani acts at the mediator between them and Garruk would help in the final battle.
Phyrexian Villian – This would be a new character to the multiverse and the final evil that must be eliminated to end the Phyrexian invasion of the homeworld.
Koth and Elspeth – These characters can be introduced either through flashbacks or during the research on the black oil. If we put this on the timeline of after the events on Mirrodin, Koth can serve as the one who reveals the events on that plane.
Phyrexians – You need mass enemies that are there for the fights and the action scenes.
With this composition, we should be able to keep the story in its 3 act structure (discovery of the liquid, the search for answers, the final battle) while leaving enough hints for future films.This would also avoid the boring origin story that most films do with superhero films. We can start in the middle of the lives of plnaeswalkers, which gives us the freedom to work on prequels and parallel storylines.
So with the story out of the way, we can start looking into screenwriting, casting, and directing of this Magic film series. In my next segment, I’ll take a look at current choices for each as well as expand on our story a bit more. In the meantime, let me know what you think.