Friday, February 11, 2011

Urban Fantasy at the Movies

I was flipping through my urban fantasy collection the other day, trying to see how Published People Did Things, and I realized something I kind of already knew.

There are some awesome urban fantasy stories. And they have awesome protagonists. In fact, they are so awesome I want to see them on screen.

I'm not just talking about the chicks-with-weapons urban fantasy, though admittedly those were the ones I was looking through. The slow, quasi-epic quests of self that crop up in Gaiman and de Lint's work (among others) would make great movies, and I'm betting that paranormal romance (which I, er, don't read) could be a big hit as well, given that para-rom plots are frequently chicks-with-weapons stories but with more sexing.

No, really, I think urban fantasy adaptations should be the Next Big Thing. Here's why:

  • Hollywood thinks men go to movies for hot women, fight scenes, monsters, blood, big weapons, and explosions.
  • Vampires and werewolves are in at the moment.
  • Hollywood is running out of superheroes. They'll need to replace them with something.
  • As @ElenaLikesBooks pointed out, YA urban fantasies are already being adapted. She mentioned Cassandra Clare. I countered with Melissa Marr. Sarah Rees Brennan's been optioned. And then of course there's already Stephenie Meyer and L.J. Smith.*
  • Urban fantasy's already popular at the box office (and on TV). Underworld, Supernatural, Being Human, True Blood, Medium, Ghost Whisperer, Harry Potter, Enchanted, Sanctuary, Hellboy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel: The Series, Highlander, Warehouse 13, Haven….
  • We haven't had a good quest fantasy since Return of the King, unless I'm not remembering something. 
  • Slower-paced, indie-style films are becoming more popular. UF quest novels would work well in this mode, I think. They'd do well as mini-series too, I'd imagine.
  • Urban fantasy is hot and a number of adult authors, not just Charlaine Harris, have massive followings. Laurell K. Hamilton, anyone?
On the downside, Tanya Huff's and Jim Butcher's urban fantasies have already made it to television, only to be cancelled. But that was a few years ago. There's hope!

Of the urban fantasies I know and love, I think Mike Carey's dark, ghost-infested London, Lilith Saintcrow's demon-rich American desert, and Seanan McGuire's quirky, fae San Francisco have potential. Neil Gaiman's American Gods would make a great mini-series. I worry a little that Hollywood would cheapen the stories, make them shallower and more formulaic, which is what I think happened with the Huff and Butcher adaptations, but shows like Supernatural, Lost, and Fringe prove that dark, complex shows with season-long (or longer) story arcs can and do work for the viewing public.

Which urban fantasies would you like to see on film?

* I should also credit Elena with the superhero analogy.


Amanda said...

I totally agree! UF and Para-romance need to be the next hollywood trends! ;)

Anonymous said...

I am amused to find myself in this post! :)

The more I think about it, the more I realize that urban fantasy is kind of overrepresented in TV. Maybe the fact that so much of UF is series makes it have a more episodic appeal. Thinking about which novels would make good movies, I actually found myself thinking, "Well, that would probably make a better TV show" pretty frequently. And then most of the movies I thought I would like to see would be adaptations of YA fiction, and Hollywood seems to be pretty on the ball there.

For adult UF, I am left with Emma Bull's War for the Oaks (far in the lead for a first choice to see on the silver screen), Robin McKinley's Sunshine, Gail Carriger's Soulless (perhaps better as a miniseries?), and maybe Wen Spencer's Tinker.

Sam said...

I feel like I'd rather see more Movies and less TV Shows when it comes to adaptations. I feel like a lot of Urban Fantasy Novels would need either a full movie or an arc-based tv show instead of an episodic one.

Jon F. Merz said...

Just thought I'd chime in with this tidbit: technology is getting cheaper and smart authors might start looking to set up their own production companies to adapt their material themselves for the big or small screen. This is exactly what I'm doing with my Lawson Vampire series - we're shooting the pilot for the series (THE FIXER) in a month or so and will be producing this entirely outside of the Hollywood system. We've raised the financing through investors and we're just about set to go with a fantastic cast & crew. This will be the norm in the future, which means more UF coming to both the big and small screens!