I was thinking about this on my way home from work yesterday. With G.I. Joe releasing it’s own movie on Friday, other Hasbro property and games are in the works to be made into movie. Monopoly is being made by Ridely Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven), a Michael Bay produced Ouija Board movie, a Candy Land family movie, a Stretch Armstrong Movie by Steve Oedekerk (Kung Pow: Enter the Fist), and a View-Master movie (If you don’t know what it is ask your older siblings or your parents) are all movies being made right now. Does Magic really need a movie?
The way I see it, there are three ways to make a Magic movie: Do it all in the Multi-verse, have someone go from our universe to the multi-verse, or have people play in tournaments. Each of them all have their setbacks as you’re going to have backlash if you choose one of these over the other. Let’s look at the possibilities.
The movie is set in the Multi-verse.
So, you’ve got a property that some people know but to everyone who doesn’t know what Magic is, it looks like another Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter ripoff. You’ve got wizards casting magic spells, you’ve got goblins and elves and zombies all doing battle with each other. The Magic brand does not have several New York Times bestseller books to its name like LotR and Harry Potter does so it doesn’t have the mass appeal like those two did. Even Eragon had some books behind it and it was just a re-hash of A New Hope but in a fantasy setting and no one saw it.
Plus, what story is going to be made? Is it the Weatherlight crew just forming so that it can be a trilogy (if enough money is made)? What about any of the other worlds that have appeared since then: Mirrodin, Kamigawa, Alara? Or what if you design a whole new world where you design the set and have an entire block be devoted to the movie that gets released in June? Either you’ve going to tell a story that players at least have a idea of what is going on (much like those other two fantasy properties), or you create a new one where people don’t know and take a chance on that. I don’t see this making the money to make it profitable to film it or even other ones without taking shortcuts, making this option the most risky. Wizards is heavily marketing the new Planeswalkers which might go well into this. But that leads into the next point.
The Neverending Story Route
Or the story could be someone in our world gains “The Spark” to become a Planeswalker and goes to the Multi-verse and learns how to handle his/her new powers. This has most famously been done with the classic The Neverending Story movie and its neverending sequels (If you haven’t seen the original, please do so).
Enter a new fantasy world where someone from this world goes into the other world and is their hero/someone of great importance. Sounds like Neverending Story? Well, it will for a lot of people; it’s different if someone is going to make a small indie film going from one world to the next, but Magic and Neverending Story are going to wind up the same to most, I mean, they both already have Giant Tortoises. When someone makes a new submarine movie, no one thinks it’s a rip-off of The Hunt for Red October, but when a movie has the “same” premise to most people, it’s not going to attract lots of people. And do you really want to see a story like this?
The 2 hour commerical
While Transformers and G.I Joes will be talked about as basically a 2 hour toy commercial, there was one movie that was solely made as a commercial: The Wizard. Made to show of both the power glove and Super Mario Bros 3, it was every video gamer’s dream: go to a world championship to play the game you love and have people screaming for you.
So this Magic movie would be a kid wanting to play Magic, overcome some obstacles and win a Grand Prix or get to the World Championships and win. It would be the least costly of any of these three option and it be a let down for most of the fans; they want to see all the fantasy stuff, not the real life playing and play testing and situations written directly for the movie. If Gabriel Nassif’s called shot hadn’t been real, it would have been one of those situations where it felt really fake and made just for the movie.
But this isn’t like Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokemon where you have the built in Japanese audience and young kids. Both of those properties were animated and I’m sure you’ll get a wince or two if someone thinks that a Magic movie should play like a Yu-Gi-Oh! movie where people are playing cards and having their creatures fighting. It would be too cheesy and wouldn’t be taken seriously enough.
Magic is just not a property that can be made into a full length motion picture at the moment. Look at Dungeons & Dragons, which was made into a movie almost 10 years ago. It’s got a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes and it had over 30 years of content to pull from with a much bigger and diverse crowd that had played it, or would be interested in it. What makes you think a Magic film is going to fair better? If there is going to be a Magic film, it should be done right and with the money to make the graphics look amazing.
This is why you see web comics at the moment from Wizards. It’s much, much cheaper then doing a movie, but it allows them to make the story quickly and under their control. One America gets out of the recession, might there be web series or an animated series? I could see that down the road, but not for a while.
The one movie I think that could be made wouldn’t appeal to all audiences (especially not the younger ones), but it would gather more respect for the game and get people interested in it: a documentary. Take a look at Ringers, the Lord of the Rings documentary, or even The King of King: A Fistful of Quarters about the quest for the Donkey Kong high score.
A documentary could focus on various things, such as what does into making the cards, to fanboys who check the rumors sites every few hours, to the tabletop gamers to FNMers to the Pro Tour. What is it like to play under the lights of the finals in a world championship, what’s it like to find the combo and exploit it to get cards banned, what’s it like to play with friends you’ve known for years and still to have your first rare you ever pulled? There’s so much open area that could be explored so much human interest stories and so much play with Magic, I think it should be done.
With this option, it can be done cheaply (not a ton of CGI, obviously), and it could earn its money back very easily, something that movie producers always look do to. Not only could this be one with Wizards help, but it’s also can been see as a promotion for the film, making sure that would get the quality it deserves. I think this is the best option at the moment. It might not be the most popular one, but it would be the best quality over the other three.
EDIT: Apprently great minds think alike. There is already a documentary about Magic being made called “I Came to Game” (icametogame.com). If I had known about this earlier, I would have love to participated in this project somehow. Anyway, go check it out and hopefully it will be able to come out soon.
What do you guys think? Would you watch a documentary on Magic? Is there a way I over looked on how to make a “proper” Magic movie? Sound of on Twitter and here.
4 thoughts on “Why We Shouldn’t Want a Magic Movie”
I see no reason why a movie couldn’t be good, but you might be right that it wouldn’t make money. The Dungeons and Dragons movies were horrible, but some really bad B barbarian movies were a lot better with almost no budget. Those barbarian movies could have easily been dungeons and dragons movies.
I would like a more intimate small-scale story rather than a huge epic. Something like Unbreakable but in a fantasy world. Perhaps most people don’t know about magic, but someone starts to have magic powers. (Or he could be from our world as you pointed out.)
I generally want my movies with good personalities, correct timing, a lot of linearity, not too complex, without many things happening at the same time, and so on.
If the movie was made well (get a good director), then it could become a cult classic that makes money in the long run rather than being a box office smash.
I think “I Came to Game” (http://icametogame.com) is a project that is exactly matching the last option you suggest. It’s 11 months into production now.
As mentioned above, I Came to Game is a MTG documentary currently in production. I’m a filmmaker myself, and I’ve long thought something like this would be worthwhile. I’m anticipating ICTG to see what they decide to focus most on.
As for a storyline movie, most MTG storyline buffs tend to favor the Brothers’ War storyline the best. I wholeheartedly agree. I think WotC should look into doing something straight to DVD, probably animated, like DC Comics has been doing lately. Doesn’t need a huge budget but will still attract current MTGers plus new fans if marketed well.
I don’t know, I kind of like the idea of a ‘Rocky’ movie set to Magic. 🙂