Earlier this month, news broke (and was swiftly confirmed by official sources) that former Superman, ex-Witcher, and current nerd role model Henry Cavill would be working with Amazon to bring Warhammer 40,000 to streaming, with Cavill both acting in and producing the show. Naturally, this set speculation ablaze. Who would he be playing? What would the show be about? Which xenos would be making their way to the screen?
Now, I don’t have any insider information, but I do have opinions. And I have theories. In all likelihood it will be a couple of years until the show is released, andany details will be heavily publicised in the run-up to that moment. But until then, there are endless possibilities as to what the show might be about. Here are some of my theories.
Henry Cavill is known to be into the books as well as the game, and adapting an existing work rather than starting from scratch could well be the route he and Amazon take with this show. Adaptations come with a built-in fanbase (though this can be a mixed blessing) and an existing story could well hasten production. To my mind, there are a couple of existing stories that make obvious choices for adaptation.
The Horus Heresy is probably the best known story in Warhammer, and has near infinite potential for spin-offs and special epsiodes when it comes to building a cinematic universe. However, it’s sheer size makes it a poor candidate for a more contained series, and I have to imagine that Amazon would rather approach this with a fixed epsiode count in mind.
Games Workshop might well be keen to use this partnership to link with the current storyline of Warhammer. This one has plenty of characters, including more diverse one sthan some more histroical 40k content, but it has a glaring issue for an adaptation, in that it is not yet a finished product. I’m not sure anyone wants to see a divergence etween existing lore and adaptation this early on.
I think this is the most likely candidate for adaptation. Cavill would make a great Eisenhorn, and a myster/heretic of the week approach could easily be used to draw new audiences in. A relatively small cast and more focused storytelling mean this is among the more budget-friendly options out there, plus it already has a very strong following. The only problem I foresee could be the fact it is part of a larger narrative, that is not yet finished.
If the show wants to go for more of an ensemble cast, then it’s hard to beat the Tanith First and Only. This one could certainly appeal to the Game of Thrones/Walking Dead fanbase with its repeated main character deaths and multiple ongoing plotlines. It can wnader a bit at times, hwoever, and would likely need some streamlining as part of the adaptation process.
Warhammer can be very funny, and if Amazon want to psuh that notion, Cavill could well cast himself as the notorious Cain. The format of the series works well for a book-per-season adaptation too. Personally, I think everyone involved will push for something a bit more serious, but if it’s comedy they’re after, this is the likely path.
Given all the difficulties adaptations have faced in recent years (unfinished soruce material, mixed fan reception, the needs of TV overtaking the existing story) I think it’s more likely we’ll see an original story set in the grim dark future than a straight adaptation. Here, the possibilities are infinite, but some outcomes are more likely than others.
What Might Feature
I think we’ll see an Imperial focus. Part of this is for ease of audience access – here are some humans, cheer them as they fight aliens – but it’s also a fact that having humans play humans is cheaper than involving too many xenos. An Astra Militarum/Imperial Guars story is highly likely, and I would expect Cavill to play either an Inquisator or a Commissar. Someone outside of the ranks who is clearly a main character.
The Sisters of Battle are a good candidate for inclusion, as they fit the idea of a strong female protagonist to a tee. I don’t think the whole show will be about them, but I’d be surprised if one or two didn’t make an appearance at some point. They’re easy to understand for unitiated audiences, while also being uniquely 40K.
If we do get xenos, I would expect either tyranids or necrons. Tyranids are a great faceless threat to be carved up in Starship Troopers style, allowing for a better focus on the heroes. On the other hand, a single necron would make for a great and memorable villain.
What Probably Won’t
Though the appearance of a Space Marine is pretty much a given, I’d be surprised if one of the Adeptus Astartes was a main character. While iconic, the scale of these characters makes them awkward to pull off in live action. Games Workshop may also remeber the commercial flop of the animated Ultramarines film, which even a stellar voice cast could not turn into a mainstream success.
Likewise, I don’t expect orks to be a real feature. They’re likely too cartoonish for the more serious toen I expect the show to take, and would rely heavily on CGI to create, which would quickly grow prohibitively expensive. In a similar vein, while I expect heretics to feature heavily, I don’t think we need to be worrying about Chaos daemons just yet.
Cavill has earned a strong reputation among Warhammer fans as a man who loves the show he is now working towards, and Amazon have shown themselves willing to commit to nerdy shows. All of that makes me confident that, whatever show we get, it will be one worth watching. And when I do get to watch it, I’ll tell you all about it.