For those not in the geeky know, Neil Gaiman is a prolific author and comic book (or graphic novel if you are prissy about it) writer in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. He's a pretty damned big deal in that world (and it is a good world to live in), and now more and more of his written works have been getting the big screen treatment. Neverwhere was made into a UK miniseries, and MirrorMask and Stardust landed to a bit of a culty buzz on the silver screen. The newest adaptation, Coraline, arrives this week. This dark and twisted "children's tale" about a girl who stumbles into alternate version of her life has been turned into a stop-motion feast for the eyes that evokes The Nightmare Before Christmas. While we're excited about this new release, it only makes us want more, and considering the crap load of mediocre fantasy films that have been unloaded on to viewing audiences since The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter hit it big, it is about time we are given some fantasy that we might actually enjoy.
1. Death: the High Cost of Living
While Gaiman's arguably most famous work, the epic graphic novel series Sandman, would be an enormous project to tackle and the mere idea of it kind of makes me nervous, this one book about Death would make a great film. In fact, every couple years it seems like someone is interested in making it, and then it falls through again. It is a simple tale of Death (yes, the Death) spending one day earth and learning to befriend humans to develop a bit more understanding about their nature. How long did it take Watchmen to get made? This one will probably take at least that long, even though it is oddly charming and a good primer for the Sandman franchise... should anyone ever be foolish enough to attempt that enormous saga.
2. Good Omens
Gaiman wrote this sublimely silly novel along with sci-fi author Terry Prachett and it would make good fodder for a screenwriter. Basically the Apocalypse is near and the forces representing Good and Evil have gotten a bit too cozy in their earthly lifestyles. They decide that instead of having a mega battle, it would be way easier just to stop the Antichrist from picking a side. Plus, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride hot motorcycles! If Dogma can get made, this should be able to.
3. Snow, Glass, Apples
Think about how Wicked took the tale of The Wizard of Oz and turned it on its head, with a sympathetic tale about Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West). Gaiman's Snow, Glass, Apples short story basically does the same thing, except it is about Snow White and the Evil Queen. Oh, and Snow White? She's a vampire. It might need a PG-13 rating slapped on it for some of its racy subject matter, but vampires are hot right now. The time is right.
4. American Gods
This dense novel would probably be a massive project to cram into one two-hour film, and let's face it, people don't have time. But if they cut some characters (which would pain me, but I'd get over it) it could work, because Shadow is just the kind of character who's screaming out to be on the big screen. He's an ex-con who has a messed up post-jail life and finds himself working for the Norse God Odin in disguise. Odin (aka Mr. Wednesday) is all about getting the gang back together to kick some ass over these popular new gods (the internet, televisions and that ilk) who people worship in modern society. If it does well, there's already a novella (part of Gaiman's Fragile Things collection) that is just ripe for a sequel. Perfect.
5. The Graveyard Book
Another one that is already in the works, supposedly, but you know how these Hollywood types are. One minute they are greenlighting something, the next it is collecting dust, and if Coraline doesn't do gangbusters, I worry about the fate of this one. So it is going on my wish list, just to be safe. It's the tale of a boy who is raised by graveyard folks, like witches and of course, ghosts.
This one would probably a nightmare because of the rights issues and whatnot, but basically Gaiman took a bunch of Marvel Characters (Hulk, Captain America, Dr. Strange) and set them in 17th century Elizabethan England, 400 years before they were supposed to show up. Chaos and fighting and whatnot ensues, but hey, it would be a good excuse to use Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in a movie. He could busteth a cappeth in some folks (since in this world he's the head of intelligence for Queen Elizabeth). It is a clever concept that would be fun on screen, though there's a part of me that is a scooch concerned that if handled badly, it could be the next League of Extraordinary Gentleman.
7. We Can Get Them For You Wholesale
This one is a short story, which is excellent for screenplay adapations, and it would be a fun one to have committed to celluloid. Peter Pinter is all kinds of pissed off at his cheatin' fiancee and wants her killed off. So he turns to the yellow pages to find an assassin (as you do) and of course the place he finds gives him a great deal if he buys in bulk. Since he's the kind of guy who likely ends up with 100 rolls of paper towels every time he goes to Costco, he decides that it would be foolish to turn down this deal, so the sensible course of action is just to think of more people he'd like to have murdered. Doesn't that sound like fun?
8. Anansi Boys
This novel is a twisted tale of Fat Charlie, who finds out that he is the son of the folk hero Anansi, but he doesn't get any of the cool trickster qualities -- instead all those awesome skills got passed down to the brother he never knew he had. So Charlie calls his brother (via spider) to inform him of the news, and their lives start getting more and more complicated,with lots of embezzlement schemes and impersonations and a lot of general trickery. It would be dark, but if they can communicate via spider, maybe the kids who like Harry Potter's parseltongue would like it.
Part of Gaiman's collection of short stories Smoke and Mirrors, this is what happens when a lady finds the Holy Grail while shopping for antiques. Sir Galahad has to find a way to get the grail back from her, and he has to do so by offering her something equally shiny and pretty in return. It would be perfect for Harrison Ford-- he could still go questing for the Holy Grail in a much more leisurely kind of way, and people would just presume it was an unofficial sequel to Indy 3. It would do gangbusters... it would have to be better than the last Indy flick.
10. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
Maybe it is just because as a parent I'm tired of some of the crappy movies out for kids now, but this one could really hit the younger set... those whom Coraline would scare the hell out of. It would be like The Cat in the Hat, if it had been made into something remotely appealing and didn't involve Mike Myers. In this, a young kid decides that he wants his neighbor's goldfish and exchanges his dad for them, but by the time his irate mother discovers this and makes him swap back, the dad has already been traded for something else, so there's a lot of hunting down of dad and silly swaps to be seen.