• Editorial: Could Shadow Play Work as a Movie?

    When Shadow Play aired back in October, a lot of people said something along the lines of "this should've been the movie!"

    Personally I think a better thing to say would be, "Can this even work as a movie?" 

    Join me below the break to see what it would take to make Shadow Play's story work on the big screen.

    Let's pretend that, for whatever reason, we've been hired to take the script for the season finale and turn it into a movie. We're living on a diet of pure caffeine and spending all night every night working on this thing.

    And if you're taking any final exams this week, that shouldn't be too far removed from the truth.

    The first thing we're going to have to do is figure out a way to turn a 44-minute story into a 99-minute story. Even if we include every single bit of the script as it is, we've still got 55 minutes left over. How do we fill in that chunk of time?

    We could always put a ton of special effects there and move things along at a glacial pace, but that leads to intelligent Voyager probes and disappointment. 

    A much better idea would be to expand the story as much as possible. Make the opening longer and use it to explain who Starswirl and the Pillars are. Have more interactions between the mane six and the legends after they've been pulled out of limbo, or make the search for each artifact last longer. 

    We could even show things that we're told in the episode. Let's see Stygian's entire backstory, instead of mostly hearing about it. Show him going to the Well of Shade and getting corrupted. Make the audience sympathetic to the guy and want to see him get redeemed right from the get-go. 

    This is also a great opportunity to give all the kids in the audience nightmares.

    Do it right and you'll scar them for life. Years later, they'll make Youtube videos about how it traumatized them.

    This would also help us deal with the biggest problem we're facing when turning Shadow Play into a movie, which is how continuity heavy the story is. 

    It's fine for a season finale to wrap up a bunch of plot threads and rely on things established earlier on in the show. The audience just sat through twenty-four episodes, they should know all the events and backstory they need in order to understand the plot. You can write the story without recapping everything in a giant info dump at the start.

    That's not the case for a movie. We have to make this story accessible to anyone new to the franchise. That way, the movie can appeal to as wide an audience as possible. And in order to do that, you have to reintroduce everything from the show that someone would have to know in order to understand the story. You can't just make something that only the fans would like.

    David Lynch didn't follow this advice when he made his adaptation of Dune, and the result is infamous for being incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't read the book. Theaters handed out playbills explaining everything the movie left out, and people still didn't understand what it was about.

    We do not want to end up making something like Dune.

    Unless you want to throw in a Sandworm. Sandworms are awesome.

    Unfortunately, Shadow Play heavily depends on the viewer knowing a lot of things in order for it to work.

    The viewer has to know:

    -Who Starswirl and the rest of the Pillars are.
    -The Pillars' backstories.
    -What the Cutie Map is and how it works.
    -Starlight Glimmer's backstory and character development.
    -What the Elements of Harmony are.
    -What the Elements of Harmony do.
    -What the Tree of Harmony is.

    And you ESPECIALLY need to know the history between Flutters and this rock, or you won't understand this scene at all.

    To be fair, the finale does address this problem. There's more than a few lines that remind the audience of the things on that list and explain them to anybody unfamiliar with 'em.

    But most of these lines only happen once the episode's well and truly going. A lot of them are said in part two. This is fine for the twenty-sixth episode of a series, but you can't wait until the halfway point to explain a ton of backstory and lore in a movie.

    You do that, and you end up with a Highlander situation. A Highlander situation, of course, is where the people who have never seen the film before don't understand anything that's happening for the first thirty minutes or so.


    Sadly, this problem pretty much kills any chance of turning the season finale into a wide-release theatrical film. At the very least, it makes it obscenely difficult. 

    You would have to walk a very thin line between expanding the story to fit a 99-minute runtime and cramming in enough exposition to make the story accessible to any newcomers. And even then, there's still no guarantee that you'll get it right. This is why the real movie went out of Equestria and avoided continuity as much as it could. 

    Shadow Play works really well as a season finale. But as a film, it would probably be a mess.

    algernon97 is one hoopy frood.