In the past, I have frantically pitched the idea of a Skulduggery Pleasant film series to Hollywood. The book series by Derek Landy is one of my favourite media properties of all time and since becoming a fan of the books I’ve always wanted to see a film on the big screen. Despite this, I’ve now come to the conclusion that a film would be more harmful to the franchise than good, and here are several reasons why-
It took me a bit longer to read through the latest Skulduggery Pleasant instalment, not the fault of the book itself but due to my exams. Now that they’ve been over and done with, I can finally discuss the brilliant twelfth instalment of the Skulduggery Pleasant saga. Oh boy, what a book this is. At nearly 600 pages this is an epic book and not a word is wasted. Derek Landy crams so much in this book it is quite an achievement. Without further ado, let’s dive into this beast-
Last week saw the release of Skulduggery Pleasant: Bedlam, the twelfth book in the greatest fantasy series of all time. In 2017 I did a series of posts going through each Phase 1 Skulduggery Pleasant book and describing them all, and in Part Three I promised to go in-depth into my favourite book in the series, Kingdom of the Wicked, and look at why it’s my favourite. Well, today is the day I explain my reasoning, as the seventh book in the series is still the high point of the saga in my opinion. When I last talked about this book I went spoiler free, but now, the gloves are off. Let’s dive into this masterpiece spoilers and all.
Whilst there’s no series of Doctor Who this year, Chris Chibnall and his team are busy working on a fantastic somophore season for Jodie Whittaker and the Thirteenth Doctor for 2020. Whilst her first season wasn’t perfect (I’m looking at you Tsuranga Conundrum) it was a great series overall and the viewing figures have spoken- Doctor Who is a household name again and is dominating the pop culture discussion once again. It is a great time to be a Doctor Who fan, as for the first time in years the average person on the street might know what you’re talking about and the quality of stories have reflected the level of attention the series is now getting (not you Pting). Chibnall’s all-new writing team were great and actually better than the man himself- I wouldn’t mind any of them returning, which leads me to this post. Here are twelve writers I would love to see write for Series 12 and make the next season as good as possible-
Would I really say no to the writer of my favourite Doctor Who story returning? Toby Whithouse is a Who veteran, first contributing the amazing Series 2 story School Reunion which still holds up as the strongest story from that series. His main contributions were to the Eleventh Doctor era, where his vision of the Doctor as a dark, mythical figure cropped up first in the underrated Vampires of Venice and then the magnum opus of the entire show, The God Complex, which masterfully deconstructed then reconstructed who the Doctor is. A Town Called Mercy and the Fisher King two parter are both great too, and whilst Lie of the Land was incredibly… not good I can’t really blame that entirely on him due to the difficult behind the scenes circumstances surrounding that arc. In short, any season without Whithouse is poorer off without him and his idea of the Doctor is one that I support 100%. I would have preferably wanted him as showrunner but if that’s not the case, another story would do just fine. Whithouse is a master of genre storytelling and is one of the finest writers this show has had and Lie of the Land is such a poor way to end a fantastic collection of stories.
Next month sees the release of Skulduggery Pleasant: Midnight, and I’m naturally very excited. After a year away from my favourite book series, it’s great to return and see what new threats await Skulduggery and Valkyrie. I can also use this opportunity to think about the inevitable film adaptation. At the moment, there really isn’t a major book series that is on the screen, and Skulduggery Pleasant is a perfect series to bring to film. But how would I do it? Well, let’s assume that I control who is going to work on the film and dive straight in-
In terms of behind the scenes, there is one person who is absolutely vital, and that is Derek Landy himself. He once refused a film adaptation of the series because of the poor quality of the script (it had Skulduggery singing. Urgh) and it’s clear that he’ll be heavily involved in the next film attempt. Whilst I don’t think he’ll have time to write it, I think he should remain on as an executive producer- who are actually quite powerful in terms of making a film. He should hold a similar position to JK Rowling for the Harry Potter films and act as an adviser with final say over the production and casting. It is his series after all and I don’t want this to be another Rick Riordan situation where the author has no say in the books. We know what happened then.
Ok, so what studio should have the privilege to have Skulduggery Pleasant as a franchise? Not Disney, they have everything and if they end up with Skulduggery the stupid “Disney pay critics” rubbish will surface and I don’t want this franchise caught up in that. Warner Bros were the ones who tried before and I still think they could pull it off, and I’m not even considering Sony for the obvious fact that they are a terrible company. I don’t know the future of Fox but their poor handling of X-Men films outside of standalones such as Deadpool and Logan and the continued slow death of the Alien franchise makes me uncertain they could manage Skulduggery. Out of the ‘Big Six’, I can see Paramount doing alright with it and Universal could do a great job. They don’t have any major mess ups in terms of franchises (they’ve recovered from Dark Universe) and are doing fine with Jurassic Park. They would deserve Skulduggery Pleasant.
First things first: do not make the first film just to set up sequels. Make the first film good, get an audience, then pitch a sequel. The sequels exist but don’t greenlight the adaptations until the studio are sure they have a successful franchise. That’s the reason why so many franchises fail.
Right, so now we need a director. In my mind, only one director fits Skulduggery Pleasant perfectly, and it’s Guillermo del Toro.
Del Toro is my favourite filmmaker. His films are of the highest quality and always entertain me. Whilst the strength of Pan’s Labyrinth alone should justify why he should make any film, it’s his two Hellboy films that make me want to see his Skulduggery Pleasant. Hellboy is a similar premise done brilliantly, and del Toro is able to make the comic books part of his unique auteur stamp. Hellboy II has action sequences that are similar to scenes in Skulduggery Pleasant, and a franchise based on the fantastical and macabre would be well served under del Toro. I can imagine a darker, more horror based interpretation of the story. There would also be an emphasis on practical effects and stunts, things missing in Hollywood films. Having an award winning filmmaker helm the project would help the studio fund the film too, and hopefully not have too much meddling. Del Toro is also good with casts, and on that subject we turn to casting the principal players. Valkyrie will almost certainly be an open casting for an unknown actor, but Skulduggery Pleasant will probably be a big name who is well loved. Big name? Well loved? How about David Tennant?
One of my favourite Doctors playing one of my favourite characters. Tennant is just perfect for the part. I know he’s not Irish but he’s not English either and had a seamless accent on Doctor Who. I’m pretty sure he can do an accent for Skulduggery too. He can be dramatic, funny and awesome, and if you read any of Skulduggery’s lines in the Tenth Doctor’s manner then you will see why he is an ideal pick. Ideally Skulduggery should be brought to life by amazing motion capture technology. This technique has gone from being a rarity to being used in almost all major films, mostly very well.
Other casting choices I’d like to see happen in future films are John Barrowman, Nathan Fillion or David Harbour as Sanguine, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Scapegrace and Thrasher, Benedict Cumberbatch as Erskine Ravel, Idris Elba as Ghastley Bespoke, Stephen Fry as Kenspeckle Grouse and Derek Landy himself as Gordon Edgely. The music should be done by Danny Elfman or Marco Beltrami.
I don’t really have any ideas about the rest of the characters, although they should all be Irish or British, unless they are specifically stated to not be (such as Sanguine and Scarab). The cast will probably not be too expensive as the studio will not risk a big budget flop. Have a modest budget as the first book is a mystery with action in so it doesn’t need to be too expensive or full of explosions and CGI. Release it in September or February, two months that have had proven success in recent times (Deadpool, LEGO Batman, Get Out, It and Black Panther) and also away from competition and the living hell that is non-Marvel blockbusters and the pain of Oscar season. Market it well and use the star power of the behind the scenes crew and- bam! A solid opening weekend, positive word of mouth and loyalty to the book series making both fans and casual audiences happy causes a strong box office. Guillermo del Toro continues to rule Hollywood, David Tennant becomes a major film star and Derek Landy’s books gain a whole new audience. Universal now have a franchise.
Of course, that’s probably not going to happen. Regardless, I think this is the best possible way for a Skulduggery Pleasant film franchise. Derek Landy has stated a film won’t happen until he is fully satisfied with what Hollywood is offering him, so until he is I’m happy with the books. I would love to see this amazing series on the big screen, but I don’t want it being bad either. Of course, a film isn’t the only option- a Sherlock style TV show would work, as would a show on streaming. Whatever happens, I will be there supporting it.