The next Game of Thrones? Dune, Lord of the Rings and more fantasy classics coming to screens
Dune, The Wheel of Time, House of the Dragon and Amazon's billion-dollar Lord of the Rings are heading your way. It's a great time for epic sci-fi and fantasy novel adaptations.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Amazon Prime Video is throwing money at Robert Jordan's long-running series of fantasy novels. The Wheel of Time is set in a realm that's simultaneously Earth's past and future, where women warriors protect the Dragon Reborn to battle the Dark One. Rosamund Pike stars, and the show premieres on Nov. 19.
Pushed back twice in 2020 due to the pandemic, this new version of Frank Herbert's classic novel premiered Oct. 22, 2021, and streams on HBO Max until Nov. 22. The new film is only part one of the series, however: "This 2021 Dune is a tour de force of cinematic sci-fi," we said in our CNET review, "then it stops right in the middle." The story takes place in the far future of humanity as Duke Leto Atreides and his son Paul battle over a life-giving spice with venal Baron Harkonnen on the desert world of Arrakis. A cult 1984 movie and 2000 miniseries have their fans, but this time acclaimed Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve takes on another sci-fi classic with the help of a galaxy of stars, including Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem.
Isaac Asimov's seminal Foundation series is now on
's streaming service, Apple TV Plus. Begun as a series of short stories in 1942, the Foundation books make up a vast, dense sci-fi saga about scientists trying to stave off an oncoming dark age. The 10-episode series was developed by Josh Friedman, the man behind the Terminator TV series, and David Goyer, co-writer of the Dark Knight movies.
Lord of the Rings
Amazon paid a quarter of a billion dollars for the rights to a five-season TV show based on J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings stories, because who hasn't looked at Peter Jackson's movie series and thought: Yeah, it's OK but it could be longer. The eye-wateringly Amazon Prime Video series is set in the distant history of Middle-earth, years before the events of The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. The pandemic didn't stop filming from taking place in New Zealand, and the show is set to premiere Sept. 2, 2022.
HBO Max is prepping a miniseries based on the 2014 novel by Emily St. John Mandel, which follows a theater troupe in a post-pandemic world. It's coming to screens in fall 2021, and here's the first trailer.
Who Fears Death
Game of Thrones fans will be interested to know George R.R. Martin is an executive producer on this HBO show based on the 2015 novel by Nnedi Okorafor. The post-apocalyptic afrofuturist story follows young Onyesonwu on a quest to find her father -- a sorcerer who raped her mother. It's being adapted by Twilight Zone writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds.
The runaway success of Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One guaranteed that his next book, Armada, was bought by Universal Pictures before it was even published. The book follows high school student Zack Lightman as he suspects his favorite online game is a sophisticated simulator training him to face a very real alien invasion.
Hugh Howey's 2011 book Wool is the first of a post-apocalyptic trilogy set in a vast underground silo. It's being turned into a series by Apple TV Plus. Rebecca Ferguson will produce and play lead character Juliette.
Wool is the epitome of a modern media enterprise: It began life in 2011 as a serialized e-book by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, and now it's being adapted by a streaming service. Howey fans will be pleased to hear that the author's other books Sand, Beacon 23 and Half Way Home are being adapted by Amazon, AMC and CBS, respectively.
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It was adapted by the BBC in 2000, but this time Neil Gaiman and Akiva Goldsman are involved in a new adaptation of the baroque novels by Mervyn Peake. Murder and betrayal ensue as Titus Groan, the rightful heir to Castle Gormenghast, challenges the scheming Steerpike.
The Broken Earth
Sony Pictures is adapting the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky. Jemisin made history by winning the prestigious Hugo Award for all three books in the series. She will also adapt the books into movies, bringing to the big screen a story of devastating post-apocalyptic seasons tackled by "orogenes," people who control the energy of the planet.
Neil Gaiman's legendary comic series has been the subject of adaptation rumors for, well, decades. It's finally happening thanks to Netflix and TV veteran Allan Heinberg -- who also co-wrote the Wonder Woman movie -- with GoT star Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer.
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and cult director Sam Raimi are reportedly overseeing TV and movie adaptations of this recent series by author Patrick Rothfuss. First released in 2007, The Name of the Wind and sequel The Wise Man's Fear recount the memoirs of musician and magician Kvothe. Like Game of Thrones, the final book, called The Doors of Stone, has yet to be published.
gave a personal stamp of approval to the announcement that Amazon's streaming service is adapting Iain M. Banks' 1987 novel, the first in the Culture series. These weighty space opera stories are set in a utopian society in which civilizations awkwardly co-exist with each other and with artificial intelligence, while spaceships have names like "Prosthetic Conscience" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy."
Amazon is adapting Bardugo's Ninth House, the first in an adult series about ghostly secret societies at Yale.
While you're waiting for the next big thing, there are adaptations you can already watch, whether they are midstream or already said and done.
His Dark Materials
Forget the underwhelming 2007 movie version of The Golden Compass. This BBC and HBO adaptation is a TV show giving the space and depth for a satisfying take on Philip Pullman's novels Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Steered by some of the producers behind Doctor Who, the story follows young Lyra in an adventure spanning twisted parallel versions of our reality. Logan's Dafne Keen stars as Lyra with James McAvoy and Lin-Manuel Miranda. A third and final season is on the way.
Based on the popular Grishaverse books by Leigh Bardugo, Netflix's inventive Shadow and Bone brings a fresh twist on fantasy with its Imperial Russia steampunk aesthetic. This YA series began streaming in April 2021.
David Tennant and Michael Sheen are perfectly cast as a demon and an angel throwing a wrench in the works of the apocalypse in Good Omens on
. The Amazon Prime Video 2019 miniseries is based on the devilishly funny 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the delightful shenanigans that ensue when the antichrist accidentally grows up with the wrong family.
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