In the wake of the thumping success of Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter film franchise, there are no lack of attempts by other studios to launch their own blockbuster movie series aimed (mostly) at the young-adult crowd. With the young wizard’s story ended – along with the closing out of the Twilight series – only the Hunger Games movies seem to have truly caught the public’s imagination.
As Warners moves forward with their DC Cinematic Universe in the form of the recently announced Batman Vs. Superman project, they are also going ahead with another potential franchise which could skew toward a younger audience.
According to Variety, the studio has tapped Dave Hill ( Game of Thrones) and David Farr (Hanna ) to script a new take on perhaps the original wizard, Merlin. This project is not to be confused with the now-cancelled BBC series and is apparently considered “a top priority” by the studio.
Now, this project might be the adaption of YA author T. A. Barron’s five-book series The Lost Years of Merlin, which Warner Bros. has had an option on as far back as 2011. Those books serve as something of an origin story for the character.
Here is one synopsis for that potential project:
The film will trace Merlin’s journey from being a boy washed on the shores of Wales with no memory and no home, to him becoming a young man learning to use his powers and ultimately defender of the natural world and eventual mentor to King Arthur.
Please note that there is no official confirmation that The Lost Years of Merlin is the project Hill and Farr are working on, and the connection drawn here is only meant to highlight that the studio has renewed their option on Barron’s books at least as recently as December 2012. It’s entirely possible that Hill and Farr’s Merlin will be significantly different if not altogether original.
Hill’s inclusion on this project adds a unique angle on the medieval setting, given his experience first as an assistant to Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and then as one of the staff writers. Farr’s Hanna was dark and complicated, successfully blending an intense action movie with a more cerebral psychological thriller (not to mention some fairy tale elements of its own).
The combined sensibilities of these two writers could yield a take on the age-old wizard we haven’t seen yet. While the general speculation is that Warners wants to aim at a younger audience, Hill and Farr are known for material far darker and more mature than many of the previous versions of the King Arthur/Merlin story.
The character dates back to the 12th century, first appearing in cleric and “historian” Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), which is the first real distillation of the narrative we know as the “Arthurian Legend.” There has yet to be a definitive live-action movie version of this tale – John Boorman’s 1981 Excalibur is a highly sexualized take on the story, Sean Connery starred as King Arthur in the Merlin-free First Knight and Clive Owen played the king in director Antoine Fuqua’s dark and violent King Arthur in 2004.
That film featured an interesting version of Merlin, depicting him as a pseudo-Druid mystic (played by Stephen “Stannis Baratheon” Dillane).
As for television, Sam Neill starred as the titular wizard in a famously campy 1998 miniseries, Eva Green starred in the Starz series Camelot, BBC’s Merlin series focused on the earlier years of these characters, and TNT’s The Mists of Avalon was an attempt to provide a more “authentic” re-telling, with a strong focus on the female characters. I’ll take Monty Python and the Holy Grail over any of these, though.
There really are endless variations on where screenwriters can take this saga, given that the underlying themes (“older mentor guides a young warrior as he fulfills his destiny”) are timeless.
Stay tuned for more news on this new Merlin project, including a final answer as to whether or not it’s an official adaptation of The Lost Years of Merlin.
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