Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Know What I Think It Looks Like, How About You

It seems clear to me from all of the internet chatter I have been mostly trying to avoid on the subject (in an effort to prevent spoilers), that HBO's Game of Thrones series has thus far been a huge success. That is awesome. I honestly can't wait until I am able to watch it. I am happy for George R. R. Martin, for fans of the series (book and television), and even for HBO. It sounds like Game of Thrones is setting the gold standard for adaptations of fantasy series to television in the same way that The Lord of the Rings films did for movies. Kudos to all involved.

An interesting (and not really unexpected) result of this success has been renewed chatter about getting a favorite series of mine adapted to television. Fans of The Wheel of Time have long wanted to see Jordan's creations brought to life on screen. Mostly the general consensus has been that it has to be done via a television series rather than a movie or set of movies, because that would be the only way to do it justice. WoT supporters have been keeping a watchful eye on HBO's venture with the adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, hoping that if done right, and successful, it would be the evidence needed to bring forth the long-desired WoT series. With only one book left to go, it is an easy thought to get excited about, I'll grant you.

I'll admit, my husband and I love to play the WoT casting game with each other. One of us is frequently pointing an actor or actress out to each other and saying, "Wouldn't (s)he make a perfect _______ (insert character's name here)?!?" Between the two of us, we have a fair chunk of the series' cast picked out, hypothetically of course. The fun part about this game is you can pick anyone, which includes people who are no longer with us or a certain person twenty years ago. But we've never been able to settle on a Rand, or an Egwene or Nynaeve. That's...telling, I think.

The more people start to talk about how awesome it will be to see WoT brought to the screen, the more I begin to think that it would be better if it didn't happen. At least...well. Let me explain.

I don't think the world needs a live-action WoT series. I think that if we were to get a television adaptation, we would be best served for it to be an animated one. Yes, that's right, I would prefer a cartoon.

Okay, wait, wait, hear me out here, okay?

Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson filling in his shoes) has always been extremely descriptive of people, places, clothing, buildings, everything in this world. WoT fans are notoriously prickly about attention to detail. These two facts, coupled together, mean that anyone trying to make a live version of this series is going to be going up against a huge challenge to get everything right. I'm talking about casting--from hair color and eye color and height and age--to costuming to the sets to the props themselves. Not to mention some serious makeup challenges. With casting alone, any network is going to apply pressure to get a few big names in there, and even with everyone's dream casting games, just shoe-horning a celebrity into a role has the chance of ruffling a lot of feathers and could easily ruin the whole project for a lot of people.

The effects budget on a live-action series would be insane. Think about all of the magic that happens in this series, and think about how Jordan describes it. Even if the VFX crew managed to capture the feel of that action just right, they would have to replicate it how many times in each episode? Also, think of all of the creatures in this series. Trollocs. Myrddraal. Grolm. Draghkar. Gholams. Maybe, maybe, they could pull off the Trollocs with some guys in heavy prosthetics, but...there's a lot more going on there than Trollocs. Then there's the Aes Sedai appearance of agelessness. I don't think that will be achievable through makeup alone. That's gonna take some CGI to get right.

Forget getting the sets exactly right, for a moment. The sheer volume of different sets and locations, indoor, outdoor, cities, country, desert, blight, that also would be a huge challenge budget-wise.

When it comes down to it, despite fans' continued dream casting, casting this series will be a bitch. It is going to be almost impossible to find the perfect people to play the primary characters. Not to mention the number of people who are in it, who play important roles but only pop up once every two or three books? Someone is going to be hard-pressed to resist the urge to cut characters, combine others, and change around plot lines to reduce the number of recurring roles. That ticked me off enough in the Harry Potter movies, and that was only seven books, and nobody they glossed over was my favorite random character or anything. Actually, I take that back. I am still pretty miffed that there was no Charlie in the movies dangit. They try doing that with WoT and I promise you there will be an uproar.

Also, I don't think there is a horse in existence capable of portraying the sheer awesomeness of Bela. Just ain't gonna happen.

I suppose that it could be done completely green-screen a la Sanctuary. But look, as much as I love Sanctuary, and I really do, there is a level of cheesiness to that show due in large parts to the CGI. It works for what it is, but for WoT, that would not go over well at all. It just wouldn't.

So, yeah, I would like to see an animated version if we get WoT on our televisions at all. I'm not talking the kind of animation of regular cartoons. I am thinking more the modern video game style of animation. Have you seen the cut scenes of some of today's video games? They are beautiful, and gritty, and real, and fantastic, and perfect for Jordan's imagined universe.

With an animated series, there would be no need to try to find people or places to fit Jordan's descriptions. The artists could just render them faithfully from the books themselves. Sure, everyone sees the characters a little bit differently in their heads, but I guarantee you this way would be much much more satisfying across the board than trying to find real people to fit the fantasy. Also, voice casting with the required big-names will ruffle a lot less feathers as well.

You know what I would love to see? I would love to see an animation pioneering powerhouse like Pixar and a gaming animation master like Bioware sit down and animate up the prologue. I bet that would be enough to convince the masses.

I'll be honest, I have no idea how cost effective an animated series would be, but something tells me that in the long term, and when it comes to satisfying fans and getting The Wheel of Time world right, it would be more than worth it overall. Think about how absolutely groundbreaking such a series could be for the world of animation as well! There isn't anything animated out there like what a WoT series has the potential to be.

Maybe I am wrong, maybe there's someone out there who can bring us a live version of this series that will be as satisfying as Game of Thrones. If it happens I'll be the first person to apologize for saying it couldn't be done. But until then, I'm gonna stick with hoping that it's an animated series if anything. I'm also going to wish really hard that people will direct their ideas about the next big fantasy series to make the jump to television elsewhere. Nothing will kill the idea of a WoT series faster than a badly done WoT series.

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