I’ve mentioned this previously, but it never ceases to frustrate and annoy me how our Film and Television Studios insist on “rebooting” or re-imagining an existing film franchise. I am of course focussing my thoughts on the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, since that’s where my tastes lie.
Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Judge Dredd, Godzilla, Star Trek, Robocop, Flash Gordon, Total Recall, Conan, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, The Tomorrow People, V, Dune, – all of which have been rebooted or re imagined to varying degrees of success. Usually with a change in some or all of the principal cast, often with Cameo appearances from earlier incarnations, but most of the time with a re-imagining of the original storyline.
This frustrates me for two reasons. Firstly, as someone who is feeling distinctly middle aged, I usually grew up with the original incarnation of the film or TV programme, and seeing it re-written and produced afresh with new actors undermines the originals I feel.
I don’t mind so much where the storyline picks up later on, or where the original left off, or even before the original (eg Star Wars Eps 1-3). Finding a way to solve a cliffhanger from the last episode or incarnation is where some of the story lines come in to their own, and is not a foreign skill to Scriptwriters, or Storytellers.
However even then, the new storytellers have a dangerous tendency to step away from Canon, and play fast and loose with the old history because they think we won’t remember; Take Doctor Who for instance, which in the new post-Ecclestone era seems to have developed a tendency to ignore much of what went before. The Cybermen were originally from Mondas, and in the later series they re-originated from a parallel universe and were supposedly created by John Lumic from CyBus industries. While the two story lines weren’t totally incompatible, there was really no good reason why a new origin and back story was created.
My Second frustration is that there is no end of Fiction out there which is crying out for transition to Film or TV, which I wish the Screenwriters and Authors would turn their attention to. Some of the best TV in recent years has come from this route, and includes the acclaimed “Game of Thrones” – adapted from George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire“.
Here’s just a few of the candidates that come to mind:
- The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne & Todd McCaffrey
- The Magician series, by Raymond E. Feist
- The Assassin / Fool series’ by Robin Hobb
- The Honor Harrington series by David Webber
- The Troy Rising series by John Ringo
- The Kris Longknife series by Mike Shepherd
- The RAMA series by Arthur C. Clarke
- The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
There are of course hundreds more. I understand of course that there is an implicit cost to obtaining rights to materials, and some authors may not be so keen to allow their content to be transitioned, based on the experiences of people like Ursula K. LeGuin with her Earthsea series, where she was exceedingly unhappy with the transition to screen.
Of course, not every attempt succeeds, and there are a number of critically acclaimed hits, and an equally extensive list of misses.
I’d point at a number of successes, including:
- The Colour of Magic / Going Postal / The Hogfather produced by Sky
- Enders Game – the 2013/2014 film
- Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, A Scanner Darkly; All based on novels by Philip K. Dick
- I am Legend, and I Robot – adapted from books and starring Will Smith
- Thor, Iron Man, The Avengers, Captain America, etc – The Marvel Machine is doing a great job of making the most of their intellectual property and transitioning one story after the other to the big (and the small!) screen.
Some of the also-ran’s include:
- John Carter – the attempt to transition the “… of Mars” series by Edgar Rice Burrows didn’t wow audiences, although it was an entertaining enough film in it’s own right.
- Oblivion – starring Tom Cruise, but based on a book by Joseph Kosinski, it didn’t really draw the crowds at the box office.
- Battlefield Earth – based on a book by renowned Scientologist L. Ron Hubbard, this one had strong potential, but the links including the Star John Travolta to the Church of Scientology contributed to low popularity.
- Red Planet – an all star cast including Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Terence Stamp wasn’t enough to drag this one up the charts.
- Lost in Space – the remake starring Heather Graham, William Hurt, and Matt Le Blanc, failed to engage audiences, despite being an entertaining and well executed update.
Often these films fail because they don’t stick closely enough to the book to satisfy the die-hard fans.
Unfortunately the number of reboots far outweighs the number of original Films & Serials.
So this is a heartfelt plea, to the Film & Television industry. Please PLEASE PLEASE, enough with the Reboots and Remakes, how about putting some effort and time in to some original Scifi and Fantasy?
Do you agree?