Today came out with some crazy, crazy news: the entire cosmere has been optioned for films by DMG Entertainment, according to Variety. That's right, all of the cosmere. Stormlight Archive, Mistborn, Elantris, Warbreaker, Emperor's Soul, and all other rights are all in one place, with the intent to create the universe for the big screen.
You might not recognize that the name of that company, but they aren't nobodies. DMG has produced real movies that you've absolutely heard of or seen: Iron Man 3, Transcendence, and Looper. DMG is serious about these, too. According to Variety, DMG has committed to spending $270 million so far, which supposedly will cover "half the money needed to back the first three movies made." And I, as a leading expert in numbers, can confirm that $270 million is, "a ton of money." (My math degree is coming in handy!)
DMG originally held the rights to The Emperor's Soul, which led them to the whole cosmere in the first place. Brandon actually commented last year on Reddit that they also had the rights to Stormlight Archive, Elantris, and Warbreaker. It's interesting that DMG now owns the Mistborn rights, because the Mistborn film rights have had some storied history, which we'll talk about below. Perhaps this deal wasn't formally announced (despite Brandon's Reddit comments) because DMG had been in talks to acquire the Mistborn rights for so long.
So, what's first for film for the cosmere? Variety reports that DMG is "fast-tracking" an adaptation of The Way of Kings. Not to be left out, they also intend to adapt the first Mistborn book "simultaneously" to The Way of Kings. No one has been attached to the Mistborn project yet, but Way of Kings has people. They've hired Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan as screenwriters, who have worked on films in the Saw franchise. (This might be a bit concerning, because that doesn't exactly scream like a match made in heaven for Stormlight Archive, but AliasHandler on the forums helpfully pointed out that Peter Jackson had been known for Dead Alive--a horror flick--before doing Lord of the Rings. So it could be bad, but isn't inherently disastrous.) The founder of DMG, Dan Mintz, is producing the film, and Brandon himself along with his agent, Joshua Bilmes, are serving as executive producers.
Brandon says that those at DMG are fans, who immediately understood his vision for the cosmere, and Brandon is excited to work with them to make this happen on the big screen. On Reddit, he has talked about the deal in some more detail. Though he's excited, he wants to temper expectations. Film options are just the first step in a long process. Brandon said:
Okay, before you all freak out too much, let's manage some expectations. I am obviously very excited, and am pleased with DMG. So far they have been very good to work with, and have involved me a great deal.
But understand that films and television take a LONG time and lots of luck to get off the ground. Usually, this is the process:
1) A studio or producer "options" a work. (They pay around five or ten percent of a negotiated purchase price to kind of "rent" the right to start development on a property.)
2). The studio or production company commissions a screenplay.
3) The screenplay goes through several revisions or drafts as needed.
4). The finished screenplay is used to attach a director or actors.
5) Based on the strength of the screenplay or talent attached, a studio funds and greenlights the film.
This is very simplified, of course. The thing to remember is that steps two through four often take years, and many properties under option never become films. The Wheel of Time got to step three and stayed there for years, and is now back to step two. Ender's Game spent twenty years going through these steps over and over.
This is why you will often hear announcements like this, then hear nothing more for years.
I hope we will be reasonably quick, and DMG's enthusiasm and commitment has been excellent so far. I really feel they are going to make this happen. But do understand that we still have a long road ahead of us, and you will probably not get any good updates (beyond "all is well") until very late in the process.
So, this stuff is not coming out anytime soon. I know I personally share a lot of skepticism going around on the forums that The Way of Kings can be a coherent film. I assume DMG wants to make a truly awesome, cashing-printing movie universe (aspiring to be Marvel), so they will want to make these films great. It may just happen that Way of Kings progress might stall, and Mistborn comes into production first. Who knows!
How much involvement will Brandon have on the films? He is an executive producer, but he's said on Reddit, regarding how much power he has on the films: "Too early to tell. But I wouldn't want to have too much. I'm not a film maker. I have told them from the start that I want creative input, but that I feel the best adaptations happen when passionate film makers are allowed freedom to practice their art." This statement is something he's always said, whether it’s a film or a video game, it isn't his area of expertise, and he wants to enable the experts to make something awesome.
I am worried that The Way of Kings is a dangerous place to start in the cosmere. Yes, it's his biggest property, but it's also the weirdest and has the steepest learning curve. I think if there's one thing we've learned from the Marvel Cinematic Universe vs. the newer DC movies is that you have to earn the respect of the audience to care about a cinematic universe. You need to tell awesome stories, and sprinkle in the crossover stuff slowly. This is the philosophy Brandon's used in writing the cosmere, after all. Now, The Way of Kings is Roshar-centric, but it's still a lot heavier on cosmere stuff than Mistborn 1 is. Mistborn just seems like a more natural place to start, because a lot of it is directly cinematic, and it's well-contained. It can be the hook to sell the more ambitious Stormlight movies on.
Stormlight Archive is also dangerous to start with because it isn't done. Yes, these movies are a long way off despite how excited DMG is, but Stormlight books are a huge undertaking. It'd be a shame if the Stormlight films took off and a Game of Thrones effect happens, where the films overtake the books. After Oathbringer in 2017, we have seven more books, folks. If Brandon gets one out every two years, that'll be 14 more years. And we've known that between book five and six we're taking a break for Brandon to work on some other projects, like Mistborn Era 3. We could easily be in a situation with Stormlight adaptations where the actors age too fast for the time scale this would involve. This could be solved by whatever sort of break we have in the Stormlight Archive between books five and six, I suppose. It's also very early to worry about such matters, but it is a can of worms they need to keep in mind. Mistborn doesn't have these can of worms: you can easily adapt the first trilogy and not worry about this.
So, let's just say we're concerned. Excited, but concerned.
I would, however, ask all cosmere fans to remember that the films, no matter how good they are, will not be the same as the books. Your favorite scenes might get cut or radically changed. It's going to be hard on all of us, because we love these books so much, to not heavily criticize these films. But when they do come out--and I have no doubt that even if DMG can't do it, someday they will be adapted to film--just remember, filmmakers need to make a good movie first. Absolutely everything else is secondary. It is going to be different. But, hopefully, they will capture the essence of what makes these books amazing, even though the details will be different.
Trust me, if or when these films come out, we'll be giving you an in-depth review of it. If they suck, we're going to tell you. But I'd really like them to be great. Here's to hoping, right?
There's a few other things that this announcement might mean regarding some related Mistborn adaptations. If you haven't been keeping track of the Mistborn rights, they've had quite a storied history. Originally, Brandon sold the rights to Paloppa Pictures, who had owned the rights for many years until 2014, where they lapsed. Then, sometime afterwards, the film rights were optioned by a company called Applied Allomancy, which seemed created specifically to hold onto these rights.
Why am I bringing this up, and who is Applied Allomancy? Well, Applied Allomancy is owned by the same people who own Little Orbit, the people who theoretically have the rights to the Mistborn video game, Mistborn: Birthright. We've talked multiple times about this disaster of a project that is. It's been vaporware for a long time (remember a 2012 release? Adorable.). Well, if Applied Allomancy sold the rights to DMG, I think it is safe to say that, once and for all, the Mistborn video game is dead. She's dead, Jim. (Probably) I think we can all be happy that at least with DMG, films have a much higher chance of occurring in the first place.
Discuss this news on the forums here or in the comments below!
Big thanks to Ian (WeiryWriter) for some helpful research in writing this.
Also, thanks to CNET for linking to the Coppermind's Cosmere article (which I mostly wrote)! Cool!