The Potential of the Mistborn Movie

Modern fantasy movies haven’t had a decent run of it recently. Most of them have either been forgettable or just straight-up bad. The only fantasy movies that people really talk about with any fondness are the Lord of the Rings movies.

The genre has needed a new film to reinvigorate it. Something that’ll really bring fantasy movies back into the spotlight. And if ever there was a property that could do that, it would be Mistborn.

A film adaptation of the first Mistborn book, The Final Empire, has been in the works for a few years now. However, as of the writing of this article, we’ve still yet to see anything from it. All we really know is that it will exist and that Brandon Sanderson himself will be assisting with writing the screenplay. Not much to go off of.

However, I have hope. I’m willing to hedge my bets on this movie. At least until I see something to convince me against doing so.

Sanderson is a master of three things: characters, plotting, and magic systems. All of which have made for some of the best modern fantasy stories of our time. They’re dramatic, exciting, emotional, everything you could want from a fantasy story. If brought to the screen, they could be a ton of fun to watch.

But he does have a problem: length. See, Sanderson tends to write really long, detailed, and densely packed books. The Stormlight Archive is the most dramatic example of this; the shortest book in the series is still well over 1000 pages. And so much happens within those pages that you’d have to divide it up into several movies in order to fit it all, even with significant cuts.

Though it would work really well as a TV show… Especially since a certain other fantasy show is no longer around…

Getting back on topic: Mistborn doesn’t have this length issue. The book isn’t a short read by any means, but it isn’t the hulking goliath that the Stormlight Archive is. Not to mention that it’s a much easier story to trim; all you have to do is rework a few key scenes and you could very easily trim this story down to a 2-hour runtime.

But that’s not the big point in its favor. That point would be the magic system.

See, Sanderson has a boner for hard-magic systems. He doesn’t like to leave it vague and open-ended, like the magic in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. When he crafts a magic system, he sets out well-defined, unbreakable rules for it, then explains it all to the audience so they can fully understand it. Since he understands the possibilities and limitations of those powers so well, he can masterfully craft fun and engaging action scenes centered around them.

Mistborn is the finest example of this out of any of his magic systems. Allomancy is so simple and easy to understand that it doesn’t take long to explain; you eat metal and it gives you powers depending on the metal. This metal does this, that metal does that, so on and so forth. Each of their uses is so simple that anyone can understand them and so flexible that you can apply them in just about any way you can imagine.

The books take full advantage of this. You see all kinds of creative applications applied to make full use of it. Vin uses a clever system of pushing and pulling with horseshoes to allow herself to fly. Kelsier often made creative use of pushing and pulling his enemy’s weapons in combat to slaughter multiple foes at once. Even characters who could only use one power at a time, like Spook or Ham, manage to make good use of them.

And dear god, there are two other magic systems in the series to put to use.

If done properly, the Mistborn movie could become an incredibly fun fantasy action heist movie. And with Sanderson himself working on the project, there’s a strong chance that it could meet that potential. Am I speaking too soon? Probably. But I prefer to have hope.

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