When I was a kid and heard that a major studio was going to be making a movie version of a book that I liked I'd get a case of the giddies. I'd be so eager to see the characters I read about on the big screen I'd be sending good vibes down Hollywood way to speed up the development process.
Oh, how times have changed.
Let me illustrate my point...
Word came out that 20th Century Fox was going to adapt Isaac Asimov's classic science-fiction mystery novel The Caves of Steel for the big screen.
I should be happy. I should be excited.
But I'm not.
Instead, I can't help but find myself agreeing with this fellow, who finds that the only passionate emotion he can summon up is anger about what will most like be a complete creative abortion.
Why am I so cynical?
Because if there is one thing Hollywood has become brilliant at, it's the fine art of disappointment when it comes to adapting classic novels, especially science fiction novels.
Science Fiction novels, especially the classic ones, succeed because of the ideas at the heart of the book.
However, Hollywood is convinced that science fiction novels, especially the classic ones, are only good for providing familiar sounding titles for bombastic action thrillers that have little or nothing to do with the source material.
Case in point...
I, Robot, a collection on interconnected stories by Isaac Asimov about the development of robotics and artificial intelligence. It's all about what constitutes a "sentient being" as well as issues of morality, and if mankind can create an ethical machine. Pretty weighty stuff.
It languished in development purgatory at Warner Bros. for decades, it even had a screenplay draft by noted writer/curmudgeon/litigant Harlan Ellison. Then Warner Bros. dropped it and 20th Century Fox picked it up, promptly turning it into this...
A loud, bombastic, cliche addled action movie about a loose cannon cop who plays by his own rules fighting a nasty robot rebellion that actually started out as a completely different screenplay, but Fox slapped on the title because they hoped the familiarity would give it a veneer of class and make it sell better.
It did make a lot of money worldwide, so I fully expect Fox to run Caves of Steel through the rewrite ringer until it comes out I, Robot 2: I Hard With A Vengeance.
Now I'm not going to declare that every adaptation of a classic book has to be done to the ink of the source material. Far from it. Literature and cinema are two radically different art forms, and thus taking a story from the page to the screen while keeping the spirit alive is a lot tougher than you think.
But it's not impossible.
Blade Runner has a radically different narrative from Phillip K. Dick's original novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. It has to be different, because the book goes down the rabbit hole a few too many times for a writer to faithfully adapt for a mainstream movie audience. However, the movie is faithful to the books themes of isolation and empathic connection in the never ending quest for identity and humanity.
Sadly, Blade Runner didn't do very well in its original release, only becoming a classic on home video and TV, and no studio executive wants that kind of classic, because it only happens after they've been fired. So best to go all Michael Bay with explosions and loose cannon cops who play by their own rules going: "Aw hell no!" at appropriate times.
Now do you see why I'm so cynical?