Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ is Next in Line to Be a Franchise

Dante's Inferno - Gustave Dore

Source: Gustave Dore

The Divine Comedy trilogy of poems dates back almost 700 years, penned by Dante Alighieri. As a collective, it’s most known today for Inferno, the chapter detailing the many layers of Hell. Even today, the imagery of Alighieri’s poetry is striking, and has influenced our perception of Satan’s domain in both religion and modern Hollywood. It’s also the next in a long line of planned movie adaptations, with Warner Bros. recently having bought a script treatment for Inferno. It’s only natural that with every other property from the last half-century already getting a timely reboot, the film industry is forced to scrape even deeper from the barrel.

In some ways, this could actually not be the worst thing in the world. Get a visionary director with an interesting style on board with a decent script, and Inferno could be a visual feast. There’s a huge opportunity to comment on the state of evil in modern society, religion, and morality. But it’s a delicate balance in Hollywood, and things don’t always go according to plan. Lots of times, the studio steps in to cut and reshape a movie more suited for wider audiences, and in the process neuters the entire thing (looking at you, The Golden Compass).

Which brings us to how this could be a flaming wreck of a franchise: Let’s say, that by some miracle, Inferno is a smash hit. Hollywood, in their ongoing quest to milk every dollar out of an old idea, in turn has two more installments to turn to: Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Why, you ask, are most people less familiar with these two? Namely because they’re far less interesting. The next two chapters don’t evoke nearly as much striking imagery, and round out the trilogy with more of a whimper than a bang.

There are two directions a Divine Comedy film franchise could go. It could be a Terrence Malick-esque think-piece on the nature of morality wrought with IMAX-worthy imagery. Or it could fall into the hands of a less seasoned director, and end up a jumbled mess of over-budget CGI and obnoxiously preachy dogma. Given Hollywood’s propensity for shying away from angering their more religious customers, it could end up a watered-down green-screen disaster. Simply put, Warner will have to tread carefully in order to do this one the right way.

More than anything, this is a massive indicator that Hollywood’s franchise machine is only continuing to grow. There is literally not a single story in human history they won’t mine for material, in hopes of stumbling upon the next billion-dollar story. The Hunger Games (for now) is on the way out, while Marvel as an iron grip on the world of superheroes. Warner already has plans in place to challenge Marvel, while simultaneously filming a new trilogy in the Harry Potter universe. The conclusion we can draw here is that nothing is sacred, including 700 year-old epic poems.

We’re naturally hoping that Inferno realizes its potential as a meta-commentary on the state of morality and religion. Even so, we’re not entirely hopeful that it’s something that can be accomplished with the film industry being what it is today. The creative decisions made will be the ones Warner feels will net them the most money. Sadly, that’s not always what produces the best possible movie.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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