So here are my choices for an initial Forgotten Realms movie, presented in no particular order.
(With the caveat that it’s important for the actual creator to be involved. If WotC is going to try and interpret one of its novels onto the screen without the writer, the result is going to be less than ideal.)
1) AZURE BONDS (Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak): One of the first Realms novels, with intrigue and strong nostalgic value, featuring a cool female protagonist, her dinosaur companion, and a great intro to the Realms. Charlize Theron as Alias.
2) DARKWALKER (based on Darkwalker on Moonshae, Doug Niles): The origin of Realms fiction and a stirring, Arthurian sort of story. Huge Game of Thrones intrigue possibilities. It’s also the first of a series, so you could go on from this (excellent) starting point).
3) CRYSTAL SHARD (R.A. Salvatore): The first Drizzt novel and the intro to a much loved and popular series. Salvatore’s work has been a power-house for the Realms for almost thirty years, and seeing his vision on screen would be amazing. You’d have to do the drow right, of course–see below.
4) TWILIGHT FALLING (Paul Kemp): The second Erevis Cale novel, kicking off his own trilogy. Shadow’s Witness was very tied into the Sembia series, and I think this makes a good starting point. Intelligent, dark, heroic, powerful. And I’m just going to say it: Idris Elba and Vinnie Jones as Cale and Riven.
5) ELFSHADOW (Elaine Cunningham): We so need Arilyn and Danilo on screen. Great romance, great intrigue, great story, and the kickoff of a sweeping series. Elaine brought us some of the best Realms work over the history of the setting.
6) BALDUR’S GATE (Interplay): I know it’s not a novel, but Baldur’s Gate has wide cultural impact, the nostalgia factor, and it’s general enough that you can tell a sweeping, fun fantasy story with it. Plus it has Minsc, and you know you want to see Vin Diesel as Minsc.
WHAT, NO GHOSTWALKER?
You may be surprised that I didn’t include GHOSTWALKER on that list, seeing as I wrote it. And it’s great–High Plains Drifter in the Realms.
But here’s the thing: would it be the best way to introduce the Realms as a cinematic entity? I don’t know. It’s a spin-off side story that would make a great movie but be most effective when the Realms is already established on film.
(SHADOWBANE is similar–it’s a series but it shouldn’t be first. I’d want the Realms more established as an entity before we start breaking it apart.)
Drow are tricky to put on the screen. They aren’t black people . . . they just happen to be an entirely evil race with a sinister reputation that live underground and have jet-black skin. The racial implications are all there, and the drow as-is would present an unfortunate picture on screen.
Also, if you put a white actor in blackface, it will destroy your movie, full-stop. Do not do that, Hasbro. (Please Gods and Goddesses, do not!)
The problem, of course, is that no small part of Drizzt’s appeal is that he represents a struggle against racism. In our world, he would be the one black man in a sea of white people, fighting for acceptance and respect. If he has nothing to fight against, that aspect of his character is lost.
I have suggestions for a few small changes to how the drow are portrayed that will alleviate or at least lessen some of the obvious objections:
1) Cast a black actor. Drizzt cannot be a white dude in blackface. The actor cast needs to be a young, promising black actor.
2) Introduce them slowly. In the first Drizzt movie (Crystal Shard), no other drow appear, and Drizzt’s “drow-ness” is basically a non-issue. There’s one moment when he and Wulfgar are in a tavern where people are giving Drizzt the stink-eye, and he explains to Wulfgar that his people are not welcome on the surface world, owing to their reputation for death and destruction. Bar fight ensues, Drizzt refuses to kill a dude, people go away confused at this non-drow-like drow.
3) When drow eventually do show up (which should be at least 3 movies into Drizzt’s story), they are presented as having a range of skin colors, from light white-gray to purple to coal-black. I think one of the main problems with them visually is that they are depicted as monochromatic. If they were less, ahem, “black and white,” it would make them seem less like a stand-in for black people.
This may seem like a retcon (and it is), but I think it’s an acceptable one, particularly if you consider: a) the depictions of drow on the covers of Realms novels have varied widely over the years, b) black skin is really difficult to do effectively on screen, c) there is so much fan art out there on the internet (just google “dark elf” and you’ll see what I mean) that varies the skin color so widely.
What do you think about a Realms movie?