Saturday, 16 January 2077

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Friday, 20 July 2018

First trailer arrives for UNBREAKABLE / SPLIT sequel

M. Night Shyamalan has dropped the first trailer for Glass, the film which will act as a simultaneous sequel to two of his best-received movies: Unbreakable (2003) and Split (2017).

Unbreakable saw David Dunn (Bruce Willis) gain superhuman powers but also a nemesis in the form of Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), a physically weak but intellectually formidable opponent. Split explored the character of Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), a mentally disturbed man with 23 split personalities inhabited his psyche, at least one of which seemed to have unusual powers. Glass will see the titular villain trying to join forces with Kevin, with David determined to stop them.

The film will be released on 18 January 2019.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER reboot series in the works

20th Century Fox are developing a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which will be set in the modern day and feature a fresh take on the story.

Details are still thin, but Monica Owusu-Breen (Agents of SHIELD) will be the executive producer and showrunner of the project. Joss Whedon is involved as executive producer and may co-write the pilot, but his involvement will be limited due to his commitment to The Nevers, a new genre show for HBO.

Reports suggest that a new African-American actress will be playing the role of Buffy, suggesting a total reboot of the franchise. However, the same reports suggest the show will be "building on the mythology of the original series." Buffy ended with the magical limitation that there could only be one Slayer being lifted, allowing thousands of new Slayers to arise all over the world. For a long time fans have speculated that a "Next Generation" show could launch years later with a team of Slayers as the core cast with maybe a couple of returning actors to work as mentors and parental figures. However, the suggestion seems to be that this will be a contemporary reboot instead with a new Buffy, although this seems to contradict Whedon's statement last year that a new show would feature the same actors.

More news as it comes in.

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Season 2 gets a trailer

CBS All Access have released a trailer for Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery.

Picking up shortly after the events of the Season 1 finale, Season 2 of Discovery sees the crew of the Discovery rendezvousing with the USS Enterprise. Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) assumes command of the Discovery in order to use its superior scientific technology to investigate strange signals emanating from deep space.

Season 2 of Discovery will apparently be focused on getting back to a sense of space exploration and fun with a looser story arc, following complaints about the dour first season of the show.

Star Trek: Discovery will air on CBS All Access in the United States and Netflix in most of the rest of the world in early 2019. Before that, though, will be a series of four short episodes (10-15 minutes long) featuring Saru, Tilly and Harry Mudd, called Short Treks. These will air later this year.

PATHFINDER: KINGMAKER gets a release date

Pathfinder: Kingmaker, an expansive computer RPG set in the signature Pathfinder world of Golarion, will be out on 25 September this year.

Kingmaker is a Baldur's Gate-inspired CRPG which allows you to both take part in traditional roleplaying activities, like quests, monster-slaying, dungeon-delving and romances, but adds on a strategic layer of realm management (similar to the old Birthright setting for Dungeons and Dragons). As you progress through the Stolen Lands - a sort of unclaimed no-man's land in the middle of the River Kingdoms (the pen-and-paper incarnation of which was contributed to by China Mieville, slightly randomly) - you gain more control and influence over the local population, allowing you to build a town and rule over it as a tyrant or a benevolent ruler. As the game progresses your influence over the region grows.

The game's storyline was co-written by the omnipresent Chris Avellone, who has contributed to games including Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol, Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of NumeneraDivinity: Original Sin II and the forthcoming Dying Light 2.

Pathfinder was, for a while, the world's most popular pen-and-paper roleplaying game. Created as an alternative to the unpopular Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition (which not so much threw the baby out with the bathwater but hurled it into orbit), Pathfinder developed from the D&D 3rd Edition rules and sold many hundreds of thousands of copies. After the release of the considerably better-received D&D 5th Edition, Pathfinder lost its crown for a while but is now looking to reclaim the spotlight with a 2nd Edition of its own game rules, a recently-released SF variant (Starfinder) and now its first spin-off video game.

Director James Gunn fired from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3

In an unexpected move, Disney has fired James Gunn, the director of the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, over seven-year-old tweets.

Apologising for the remarks on Twitter, Gunn claimed he made the "provocative" tweets when he was interested in edgy and dark humour and no longer ascribes to such jokes.

The move has complicated the Disney schedule, as Gunn was beginning pre-production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 which was expected to be released in 2020. Disney will be looking for a director who can step in at short notice to take on the project. I strongly suspect they are putting some urgent calls in to Taika Waititi right now, whose Thor: Ragnarok aesthetic would make a good fit for the Guardians sub-franchise.

Although Gunn's tweets are clearly unacceptable and inappropriate for the director of a franchise which has a strong appeal to children, it is less clear why Disney have taken action only now, as the tweets have been widely reported on for years, during which time Gunn directed two movies for the company, as well as providing some assistance and advice on other Marvel Cinematic Universe projects.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Disney and Lucasfilm resurrect THE CLONE WARS for a new mini-series

In a surprise but welcome move, Lucasfilm and Disney are resurrecting The Clone Wars for one last huzzah, a mini-series that will tie in the incomplete series with the start of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

The Clone Wars was an animated series which ran for five seasons from 2008 to 2013. Set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, it took a broad view of the war, switching between planets, groups of characters and timeframes with relentless energy. After a rocky start, the series garnered critical acclaim for its voice acting, the constantly-improving quality of the animation and for its increasingly accomplished storytelling.

The Clone Wars was abruptly cancelled whilst production on Season 6 was underway, leaving that series to air separately as a 13-part series on Netflix. Producer Dave Filoni was allowed to release animatics and materials detailing plans for the rest of the season, including a story arc that would reunite wrongfully-disgraced, ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano with her former master Anakin Skywalker as they launched a military campaign to liberate Mandalore from ex-Sith apprentice Maul. This would lead directly into the events of Episode III.

Lucasfilm clearly hated leaving unfinished business behind, so this story is now being completed with a new Clone Wars mini-series that will air in 2019, with the original voice actors returning. More interestingly, it looks like this mini-series will be one of the launch shows for Disney's new adult-oriented streaming service in late 2019. Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars TV series and a new Marvel Cinematic Universe show will join it on the service, along with a formidable amount of Disney content (and, when the deal goes through, 20th Century Fox's utterly vast backlog of shows and movies that aren't licensed elsewhere).

This will fill a hole in the storyline that spanned not just the six seasons of The Clone Wars but the four seasons of recently-concluded sequel series Star Wars: Rebels, and leave the decks clear for the next animated series, Star Wars: Resistance, which will take place in the era of the new films and focus on Poe Dameron and his X-wing squadron.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Timothée Chalamet in talks to play Paul Atredies in DUNE

Director Denis Villeneuve has earmarked young actor Timothée Hal Chalamet to play Paul Atredies in his upcoming two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune.

22-year-old Chalamet is best-known for appearing in Homeland, Men, Women and Children, Interstellar and Call Me By Your Name, the last of which earned Chalamet a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars.

Paul Atreides is the main protagonist of Dune (and appears in a minor role in its two immediate sequels, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune), the 15-year-old son of Duke Leto Atreides of Caladan. The Atreides family moves to the desert planet Arrakis, known as Dune, the source of the spice melange, which transforms consciousness and allows for interstellar travel. There the feud between House Atreides and House Harkonnen spills into open warfare. Paul has to win an alliance with the mysterious natives of Arrakis, the Fremen, to secure victory against the Harkonnens.

Previously filmed by David Lynch in 1984 and as a SyFy mini-series in 2000, Dune is the biggest-selling single science fiction novel of all time, with over 20 million copies sold since it was published in 1965.

Villeneuve recently directed the highly critically-acclaimed science fiction films Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, but has cited Dune as a much more challenging project. Legendary Pictures have earmarked the film for an early 2019 shoot.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Duncan Jones to direct a ROGUE TROOPER movie

Duncan Jones has announced that he is directing a movie based on cult British comic Rogue Trooper. He made the announcement in a slightly oblique fashion via Twitter.

Rogue Trooper was created in 1981 by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons, originally appearing in issues of 2000AD alongside characters like Judge Dredd. The series is set on the planet Nu-Earth, originally a paradise-like colony of Earth that was torn apart in a brutal, generations-lasting civil war between the Norts and Southers. This was has made the planet almost uninhabitable, with a toxic atmosphere forcing the people to live in domed shelters.

The original and most iconic storyline follows Rogue, the sole surviving of a bungled offensive. Rogue is a Genetic Infantryman (G.I.) who has been engineered to survive in the toxic environment, resulting in blue skin and an enhanced immune system. He is assisted by AI chips with notable personalities built into his helmet, gun and backpack. Rogue discovers his unit was sold out to the enemy by a "traitor general" and he sets out to expose and punish this individual in a storyline that lasted four years. Since the conclusion of that story, Rogue has appeared in numerous further adventures in both comics and video games.

British director Duncan Jones is the director of Moon (2009), Source Code (2011), WarCraft (2016) and Mute (2018), and is a director of some skill, although Mute was disappointing. It's unclear how far into development this project is, but we hope to hear more soon.

SF&F Questions: Is HARRY POTTER an epic fantasy?

The Basics

Harry Potter is the biggest-selling novel series of the past twenty years. More than 600 million copies of the seven-volume sequence have been sold and the nine movies set in the same world have grossed over $9 billion (with a tenth due for release this year). The series is a huge crossover success, attracting both young and adult readers, and its characters, terminology and storylines have entered the popular consciousness.

One question that arises occasionally is to do with the genre of the series. The field of epic fantasy has boomed in popularity in the last twenty years, driven by the success of the Lord of the Rings movies and, more recently, the Game of Thrones TV series (both based on huge-selling novel series). It is therefore interesting, if ultimately unimportant, to ask the question, is Harry Potter an epic fantasy? If not, what genre is it in?

I asked this question previously in 2011 and this generateda lot of discussion (lots of excellent points in the comments as well), but I hadn’t fully caught up with either the books or films at that point. Now that I have done so with the films, it seemed an interesting idea to revisit the question.

What is an epic fantasy?

What makes this question more problematic is that no generally-accepted definition of what an epic fantasy is seems to exist. Most people seem to respond with a variation of, “I don’t know, it’s got magic and dragons and elves in it, or something?”

The Encyclopaedia of Fantasy (1997) offered this definition by SFF uber-critic John Clute:
"An epic is a long narrative poem which tells large tales, often incorporating a mixture of legend, myth and folk history, and featuring heroes whose acts have a significance transcending their own individual happiness or woe. The classic epic tells the story of the founding or triumph of a folk or nation... Prose fiction which might be called EF include several of the central secondary world tales central to the development of fantasy over the past 100 years - e.g. much of the work of Kenneth Morris, E.R. Eddison, J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen R. Donaldson. Any fantasy tale written to a large scale which deals with the founding or definitive and lasting defence of a land may fairly be called an EF. Unfortunately, the term has been increasingly used by publishers to describe heroic fantasies that extend over several volumes and has thus lost its usefulness."
Not tremendously helpful, so in my own blog series A History of Epic Fantasy I offer the following definition:
"An epic fantasy is a substantial work of fiction set either in a fictional realm, or a fictionalised version of the real world, in which several characters (and sometimes many dozens) are faced with transformative goals and tasks. Something inherent in the setting must be impossible or fantastic, to set it aside from being merely an alternative history or work of science fiction. There is usually an antagonist to defeat, magical items to utilise and battles to be fought on a large scale. The work is usually long or extends across multiple volumes, although short epic fantasies are not unknown."
Although not definitive, I think that works as a rough idea of the elements you might expect to see in the genre.

What is Harry Potter about?

If you’re one of the three people on Earth not familiar with the series, it may be constructive to briefly summarise the series to see how well it fulfils the tenants of epic fantasy:

Harry Potter is a fantasy series written by J.K. Rowling consisting of seven novels: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). An eight-film adaptation of the books (The Deathly Hallows was broken into two films) began in 2001 and concluded in 2011. A sequel stage play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and two prequel movies (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Crimes of Grindelwald) have followed.

The books are set in a fantasied version of the real world, where magical creatures, wizards, witches and sorcery exist in parallel to our world, but sophisticated magic is employed to keep the existence of this world secret from the mundane one. The magic community regards the non-magic community disparagingly as “muggles” and takes little interest in them, despite their technology and numbers. Children with an aptitude for magic are taken to one of several magic schools, with apparently one school for each country or region: the UK’s school, located in Scotland, is called Hogwarts.

Eleven years before the books begin, the magical world is rocked by a conflict where one wizard, Tom Riddle, attempts to seize power and conquer the magical world (and possibly the muggle one as well). Taking the name “Voldemort” and styling himself “the Dark Lord”, nearly succeeds in his mission. During a final battle in the village of Godric’s Hollow, he successfully kills two wizards opposed to him – Lily and James Potter – and tries to kill their one-year-old son, Harry. However, Harry is able to resist the attack and Voldemort is apparently killed as a result. When the books open, Harry is being looked after by his mother’s sister Petunia and her husband Vernon, both muggles who despised Lily and James, and hate and mistreat Harry as a result. Despite their objections, Harry is recruited into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry, who was hitherto unaware of the existence of the magical world, starts off on the backfoot. He is also taken aback by his fame as a result of his role in Voldemort’s apparent destruction. Potter quickly makes two very close friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, but earns the enmity of Draco Malfoy and the potions teacher, Severus Snape.

Over the course of his time at Hogwarts, it becomes clear that Voldemort was not killed, but instead reduced to a shadow or wraith-like existence. Voldemort’s followers, the Death-Eaters, successfully restore their master to a corporeal and apparently invulnerable form and Voldemort quickly launches a renewed attempted to conquer the magical community. Harry, aided by friends and allies, organises a resistance and learn Voldemort’s weakness, that to preserve his life he has split his life force between seven vessels, known as Horcruxes. Harry sets out to destroy the Horcruxes and also draw Voldemort’s forces into a decisive battle at Hogwarts.

Does Harry Potter fulfil the criteria?

At first glance, Harry Potter fulfils most of the criteria to be counted as an epic fantasy. The story is epic in scale, unfolding over seven novels (and eight long movies), the latter four of which are quite large. Although the story is episodic, at least to start with, a clear over-arcing storyline quickly emerges and comes to dominate the saga.

The story itself is also the most familiar one in epic fantasy: a Chosen One (Harry) is prophesied to stand against a Dark Lord (Voldemort). Magic is a fact of life and non-human races (elves, goblins, centaurs and giants) and creatures (dragons, giant spiders, basilisks and many others) abound. There are several key and major battles throughout the series and there are a large number of Plot Coupons (magical mcguffins or plot devices), including magical swords, a secret crown (or diadem), the Horcruxes, the Deathly Hallows and magical wands, among many others. There are also conspiracies and political intrigue, with the return of the Dark Lord being regarded with scepticism by many factions which hinders Harry’s attempts to forge an alliance to stand against Voldemort.

Several arguments mustered against Harry Potter being an epic fantasy seem unconvincing. The series is predominantly aimed at children and teenagers, but several key epic fantasy works are likewise aimed at younger readers, including J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (and The Lord of the Rings at least starts in a similar mode before becoming more adult), C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series and Christopher Paolini’s Eragon saga, whilst other series seem to be deliberately calibrated so either children or adults can enjoy them, such as David Eddings’ Belgariad (recently reissued in a YA edition) and Weis & Hickman’s Dragonlance books. Being aimed at younger readers does not disqualify a work from being an epic fantasy.

More debatable is the fact that Harry Potter ostensibly takes place in our world but with a magical hidden society. Some have argued this makes the series more akin to an urban fantasy than an epic one. This seems flawed, as urban fantasies take place in urban environments: Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files features a secret magical world existing alongside our own, but the action itself takes place in the real world (most regularly in and around Chicago). The same is true for Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series and other works of urban fantasy. Harry Potter, by contrast, does not take place in urban environments (a few isolated moments aside) and the majority of the story takes place in fictional locations, mostly in and around Hogwarts Castle.

Furthermore, many epic fantasies do take place in remote and fictional historical periods of our world (such as Tolkien’s Middle-earth works and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time), in parallel universe versions of our history (such as Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker Trilogy and Crown of Stars series) and feature characters crossing over from our world to a fantastical one (such as Narnia, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry and Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever). It’s actually less common to encounter epic fantasy worlds with absolutely zero connections to our one.

The level of worldbuilding that Rowling has done for the series also exceeds that of many epic fantasies, with vast numbers of characters, timelines, backstories, magical rules, terms and bloodlines created and detailed.

Answer: Harry Potter fulfils most of the requirements for being an epic fantasy, and the arguments used to counter its place in the genre would also eliminate many works considered to be inarguably core to the genre. As such Harry Potter can be counted as part of the epic fantasy subgenre, as well as being a YA fantasy.

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