Ridley Scott is in talks to direct and produce something called THE MERLIN SAGA for Disney, the Tracking Board has confirmed, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine why. And don’t tell me the reason is “all the money in the world,” either.
Based on a series of books by T.A. Barron, this potential franchise (because why else make it?) follows young Merlin, who according to literary legend, went on to mentor King Arthur. While Merlin has appeared as a character in numerous feature films, they were mostly about King Arthur, and Merlin’s story was only told once before, in a 1998 NBC miniseries starring Sam Neill.
Here’s the thing though, and let me be crystal clear: Kids today don’t care about Merlin, King Arthur, or any of this medieval mumbo jumbo. Was that not made evident by the underwhelming box office performance of Guy Ritchie’s recent King Arthur movie, or the stunning lack of buzz surrounding Lionsgate’s ill-advised Robin Hood reboot starring Taron Egerton. Hell, nobody wanted to see this stuff back when Ridley himself was making Robin Hood and Kingdom of Heaven at the peak of his powers. And an origin story? Isn’t Joe Cornish doing more or less the same thing with 20th Century Fox’s The Kid Who Would Be King? It’s not even like this kind of medieval mythos went over all that well with audiences who saw Transformers: The Last Knight. Is Scott genuinely interested in this stale legend? This one is truly a head-scratcher, folks!
The Merlin Saga has bad idea written all over it, and frankly, it’s the sort of big-budget Disney project that could cost Scott an Oscar nomination for his impressive work on All the Money in the World. If I was on his team, I wouldn’t have let word get out about this one until the nominations period had closed. Since it opens Friday, this cynical development news will be fresh in the minds of voters, which is a shame, considering the goodwill Scott has cultivated since deciding to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer at the last minute.
Oscar-winning scribe Philippa Boyens (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) will adapt the books and do her best to make this movie feel epic, but in my opinion, she’ll have her work cut out for her.
Scott will produce via his Scott Free banner along with Gil Netter (Life of Pi), and Variety reports that The Merlin Saga is expected to serve as the director’s next movie. So much for The Cartel! For the sake of my own sanity, I’ll interpret this Merlin news as a sign that Leonardo DiCaprio has agreed to do Quentin Tarantino’s next movie, and thus won’t be available to work with Scott this year on that drug drama.
Scott isn’t exactly a family-friendly filmmaker, so I’m guessing his take on Merlin will be edgy. That would make sense, since Disney is already developing a live-action Sword in the Stone that is family-friendly — a project that Scott met with studio execs to discuss before ultimately deciding it wasn’t for him. Disney’s Tendo Nagenda and Foster Driver are overseeing this project.
Scott recently celebrated his 80th birthday, but he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, having directed two films this past year — All the Money in the World and Alien: Covenant. His company is developing dozens of interesting projects, which is why I’m surprised he’s moving full-speed-ahead on The Merlin Saga.
In other Scott news, THR reports that The Restless One will produce the action movie Task Force Two for Amazon Studios. Jennifer Yee McDevitt wrote the script, based on an article by Vince Beiser. Joshuah Bearman of Epic will produce alongside Scott.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief