Amazon is adapting three high-profile genre series.
Amazon’s head honcho, Jeff Bezos, recently made headlines with his new mandate: “Bring me Game of Thrones.” Amazon Studios’ chief Roy Price joined the conversation, telling Variety that there is a new focus on finding “Big shows that can make the biggest difference around the world.” Now it looks like Amazon is putting their money where their mouth is. Deadline is reporting that Amazon is developing three new shows based on genre source material: “Ringworld,” “Lazarus,” and “Snow Crash.”
With more entertainment options available to viewers than ever before, Game of Thrones and Walking Dead are two of the few remaining shows that deliver killer ratings and dominate pop culture. The takeaway here is that Amazon is seeking spectacle-driven horror, fantasy, and sci-fi series set in worlds with complex characters, and deep mythologies. Those qualities are a lot to ask for but Amazon’s latest development deals put them on the right track.
Here are the three synopses as reported by Deadline:
Ringworld, a co-production with MGM, is based on Niven’s science fiction book series from the 1970s and tells the story of Louis Gridley Wu, a bored man celebrating his 200th birthday in a technologically advanced, future Earth. Upon being offered one of the open positions on a voyage, he joins a young woman and two aliens to explore Ringworld, the remote artificial ring beyond “Known Space.” The books cover their thrilling journey as they attempt to fulfill their original mission to uncover the mysteries of Ring.
“Ringworld” offers the most fleshed out universe of the three properties. Larry Niven published the first “Ringworld” novel in 1970 and the series features several sequels and prequels. Like Game of Thrones, a Ringworld adaptation would utilize source material from multiple books in the series.
Written by [Greg] Rucka based on his comic book, Lazarus is set in an alternative near future where the world has been divided among 16 rival families, who run their territories in a feudal system. Each family has allies and enemies among the other families. To crush uprisings and fight wars, most families have a Lazarus: a one-person kill squad.
“Lazarus” is the title on this list that I’m least familiar with. The common thread between these three series is their creators’ emphasis on deep worldbuilding and “Lazarus” has that in spades. “Lazarus” made its debut in 2013, and its engrossing mythology has only continued to grow. With its feuding families, existential themes, and bad-ass one-person kill squads, “Lazarus” embodies the type of series Amazon is targeting.
Snow Crash, a co-production with Paramount TV, is a one-hour science fiction drama based on Stephenson’s novel, which is set in futuristic America. In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain.
Of the three prospects, I’m most excited about Snow Crash which will be executive produced by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) and legendary producer Frank Marshall (Raiders of the Lost Ark). “Snow Crash” presents a futuristic take on Los Angeles where corporations run the United States and people divide their time between the real world and the metaverse (the most compelling aspect of the book). Neal Stephenson published “Snow Crash” in 1992 and created the metaverse as a pre-internet/online world/virtual reality where people exist as avatars that depict their social status. The metaverse could take the series to some mind-bending places but I suspect “Snow Crash’s” cyberpunk universe may be too hardcore sci-fi for mainstream audiences.