Clocking in at a weighty 544 pages The Painted Man at times seems that it might be more suitable material for a TV mini-series . . .

That is until one realizes that the book mostly consists of back-story dealing with the various childhood backgrounds of the main characters, the sort of stuff which can be easily excised or relegated to a few flashbacks in a movie. One can easily picture the novel being made into a two-and-half hour movie, just enough running time to give it an epic feel without numbing one’s butt unduly. After all, there is enough incident in the book to warrant this sort of running time. Well, more than in the recent Transformers 2, which clocks in at 147 minutes. The worst thing that can happen though is if they condense into a ninety minutes actioner, throwing out much of the back story and setup for a sequel in the process.

Which brings us to the second factor that ought to appeal to Hollywood producers: The Painted Man eschews the recent trend in “morally ambiguous” fantasy in works by authors such as George R.R. Martin and China Mieville. It is a simple “good vs. bad guys” affair and features some great villains in the guise of the various demons. At times they reminded this author of the beasties found in the original early 1990s Doom game, but one can easily imagine what a talented visual effects artist such as Aaron Sims can come up with the material at hand. The demons are presented as your standard animal intelligence-level movie monsters, so there are no metaphors about the Orcs as being the oppressed racial underclass to muddy the waters. There are also several one-dimensional human villains who torment our trio of heroes at hand to boo and hiss.

"We still liked it better than the last Terry Brooks book we read!"

There is also a lot of talk about “destiny” and Arlen being a messianic “deliverer” that will save humanity. Just the sort of thing that has appealed to Hollywood ever since a certain farm boy living on the desert planet of Tatooine and The Matrix made this genre cliché – arguably invented by Frank Herbert in his epic Dune tome (first published in 1965) – de rigueur again.

With the huge box office success of fantasy flicks such as the endless Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies making The Painted Man into a movie may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of projects never get off the ground and it is still early days for the Painted Man movie. It might never get made. Normally we’d say that “in the meantime there is still the book” but the truth is that while The Painted Man is slickly written, it too often relies on fantasy genre conventions and comes across as unoriginal and simplistic at times.

The author bio states that Brett has been “raised on a steady diet of fantasy novels, comic books, and Dungeons & Dragons.” It shows. The Painted Man is passable beach reading for fans of the genre, but if you’re sceptical of modern fantasy then The Painted Man probably won’t convince you otherwise of its value. (It is suggested that you check out George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones then.)

Still, we liked it better than the last Terry Brooks (who supplies a plug for The Painted Man on the back flap) book we read and believe that it will probably make for a more interesting movie than the planned Sword of Shannara adaptations which will most likely come across as tepid Lord of the Rings clones . . .



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