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A long time ago, in a galaxy far away...
August 9, 2008 1:05 AM   Subscribe

Since Georges Melies' 1902 'Trip to the Moon' cinema has been in love with science fiction. The romance has been rocky though, with many potential classics lost to spiralling budgets or studio whim. David Hughes the author of a new book, The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, shares his favourites with us - The Top 10 Greatest Sci Fi movies never made Via The Times online
posted by infini (48 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ten Sci-Fi books that were better off on paper.
posted by halcy at 3:13 AM on August 9, 2008


Neat article, definitely some food for thought there.

Some thoughts...
Although I am a great fan of David Lynch's Dune, I do long to see a version of it done by someone else that knows how to make movies. What I really mean is that the Sci-fi Channel adaptations kinda sucked, as far as my opinion is concerned.

Also, if someone can make an actually worthwhile adaptation of Childhood's End, I would be absolutely amazed. Like most non-action sci-fi, it's likely to either turn out amazingly boring, or into something like the actiony piece of shit that i-robot turned out to be.
posted by agress at 3:17 AM on August 9, 2008


“A lot of people have tried to film Dune. They all failed,” stated the opus’s author, Frank Herbert – after David Lynch’s noble effort reached the screen in 1984

Sorry, but this calls everything else into question. Lynch's adaptation of the book was unmitigated drivel shit from start to finish; shit script, shit cinematography, shit acting.

The costumes were okay, but they got the stillsuits spectacularly wrong.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:54 AM on August 9, 2008


A Schwarzenegger/Verhoeven film set during the crusades? Why was I not informed about this? If financing was the problem, I would have gladly sold my blood and extranious organs to help raise money.

Some of these have failure written all over them. Dune doesn't need yet another adaption, the book is cool but political intrigue and lectures on environmentalism do not a great movie make. Plus the whole "religious fanatics fighting to gain control of the substance that makes an empire feasible" theme may hit too close to the bone these days.

The Times Online articles description of the directors cut of Alien3 is spot on. It is a completely different movie from the original release and very watchable.
posted by AndrewStephens at 4:10 AM on August 9, 2008


I'd just like to say that the old Alien 3 tagline - "On Earth, everyone can hear you scream" - is fantastically chilling.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:44 AM on August 9, 2008


I could go for another Dune. Salvador Dali as Shaddam would have been cool to see.

Yeah, despite being a fan of the Dune books I am also a fan of David Lynch's movie. But all other fans of the books I know want to claw out my eyes for that.
posted by XMLicious at 4:53 AM on August 9, 2008


Kubrick's version of A.I is one of the greatest SF movies never made. Yes, that's Kubrick's version....
posted by Mintyblonde at 4:59 AM on August 9, 2008


Arnie’s waning box office clout led Warner Bros. to get cold feet. Star and director both walked – Arnie to Washington as governor of California, Scott to ancient Rome as director of Gladiator.

Seems like the long way around for Schwarzenegger.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:07 AM on August 9, 2008


No, Starship Troopers was great. It was like homemade grilled cheese- lots of it and all of it lovingly placed in there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:49 AM on August 9, 2008


Since Georges Melies' 1902 'Trip to the Moon' cinema has been in love with in a frequently abusive relationship with science fiction.
posted by nanojath at 6:53 AM on August 9, 2008


and I have avoided the LOTR trilogy though i've been rereading the books every few years for the last 31 years since we first did The Hobbit in English class with Mrs Allsop. I know its not 'sci fi' but there are books that shouldn't be anybody else's vision but our own. Been ignoring the Narnia chronicles as well, we did the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 33 years ago. *weeps silently*

Agree on Dune. Except for Sting, he was hot, he always is ;p
posted by infini at 6:55 AM on August 9, 2008


There are two kinds of people in the world - those who like Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, and those who shouldn't have the right to vote.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 7:18 AM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


unmitigated drivel shit

Now, now. I have a functioning brain stem, so I agree that the Lynch Dune is complete crap (crap I have a bit of a soft spot for, but still).

But language like "unmitigated drivel shit" should only be used in reference to Gentry Lee.

The Sci-Fi Channel adaptations were well done and by people who knew how to make movies; they were just on a low budget, especially spread over six hours each.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:56 AM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was like homemade grilled cheese- lots of it and all of it lovingly placed in there.

No, it was like homemade grilled Cheez brand substitute, served because when you ordered grilled cheese the chef decided that you're a horrible person for not being vegan, that you must be too stupid to notice the recipe substitutions, and that this is his opportunity to show you once and for all the evils of cheese.
posted by roystgnr at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some time ago I read in one of Jodorowsky's books his own account of trying to film Dune. Apart from starring Dali, the idea was to have Pink Floyd doing the score. After a little googling, I found a translated version of Jodorowsky's anecdotes.
posted by micayetoca at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2008


Hughes is instantly credible to me because he includes Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination on his list. No novel cries out more to be filmed: spectacular settings; flawed, struggling characters; grand ideas; and pretty much non-stop action. If you haven't read it, do so, whether you think you like science fiction or not.
posted by drdanger at 8:12 AM on August 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


The way to tell fantasy from science fiction is to check the movie adaptation. If it was worse than the book, it was SF. If it was better, it was fantasy.
posted by DU at 8:52 AM on August 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Jodorowsky's Dune sounds like it would have been at least as unintentionally hilarious as Lynch's.

What, no love for Rendezvous with Rama or John Steakley's Armor?
posted by infinitewindow at 8:54 AM on August 9, 2008


I want to see harrison bergeron
posted by infini at 9:28 AM on August 9, 2008


infini, here you go.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:49 AM on August 9, 2008


sorta OT but now that I've finished season 3 of BSG I gotta say that I think the series would have been better, perhaps, as anime.

Not that the SFX aren't great, but I have been watching the episodes on my PMP out walking -- one episode out and one episode back, and don't feel compelled to actually look at the screen all that often.

anime is a vast unexplored frontier AFAICT, so many cool ideas yet to be done, not necessarily from books because what makes a good book and what makes a good drama are often disjoint.
posted by yort at 10:01 AM on August 9, 2008


But what is goint to happen to Firefly/Serenity? That's what I want to know?

And is Dr. Horrible a series or not?
posted by humannaire at 10:12 AM on August 9, 2008


So, I guess I'm still the only person that actually liked Alien3.
posted by oddman at 10:25 AM on August 9, 2008


If it was worse than the book, it was SF. If it was better, it was fantasy.
You are much more charitable than I am, DU. My rule would be something like: If it was worse than the book, it was a movie; if it was better, it wasn't made.
posted by joaquim at 10:26 AM on August 9, 2008


I don't think that Childhood's End would work as a film.

If someone is bound and determined to turn a Clarke novel into a movie, The City and The Stars would be vastly better. That would make a great film.
posted by Class Goat at 11:09 AM on August 9, 2008


thanks infinitewindow

btw, i know its not a movie the newest dr who is totally hot :p

yah, i always fall in love with my 'heroes' - the first was Jason DinAlt, i'll favourite if you can guess the book or author
posted by infini at 12:02 PM on August 9, 2008


Previously referenced on Ask.
posted by Hogshead at 12:24 PM on August 9, 2008


So, I guess I'm still the only person that actually liked Alien3.

Nope, I loved Alien3, except for Ripley's death.. the visual of her cradling the Queen as it came out of her body was a bit off-putting.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:32 PM on August 9, 2008


Taking the Starship Troopers movie as a parody of a fascist propaganda film makes it much more enjoyable.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:08 PM on August 9, 2008


The Never Made book is at the top of my 'to buy' list

I'm still in mourning for Chris Cunningham's Neuromancer...

I always wanted to see a film version of the Stainless Steel Rat, but apprently some producer sat on it for years, and now I feel it's time has passed.

Still, all probably for the best as I'm sure Watchman will show (though I still hope to be proved wrong.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2008


ShooBoo, the movie form of Starship Troopers wasn't a parody about a fascist state? It was supposed to be genuine?

::blinks::

(I knew a guy who once argued for the political system presented in the book. I think he's working on Wall Street now.)
posted by Hactar at 1:35 PM on August 9, 2008


"The Outer Limits" is on the list...? It's been a long time since I've seen the show, but the series always struck me as being a kind of imitation of "The Twilight Zone", and often just a showcase for the monster-of-the-week.

Also, (a little more on Dune), I often watch David Lynch's Dune. I'm always surprised how much I like it; the movie has so many faults. I'd go to see another version even if just a single fault was remedied: those almost wingless ornithopters....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 1:45 PM on August 9, 2008


So, I guess I'm still the only person that actually liked Alien3.

Yeah, we're a small but scrappy contingent. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers! I've honestly never understood what so many people hate so much about it. I couldn't make Alien : Resurrection work for me though; Jeunet's fantastical-grotesque style just seemed like a really poor fit (I had no idea until looking it up just now that Joss Whedon wrote the script for that).
posted by nanojath at 2:14 PM on August 9, 2008


While The Stars My Destination would make an excellent movie, The Demolished Man has always struck me as the best Bester movie to film.

I agree that a movie of Childhood's End is a bad idea... the novel doesn't contain much action at all, so of course the movie will have plenty of gun battles.
posted by selfnoise at 2:39 PM on August 9, 2008


I couldn't make Alien : Resurrection work for me though; Jeunet's fantastical-grotesque style just seemed like a really poor fit

I think the movie looked really cool, it's just a pity that it was ruined by a shitty script and shitty acting (Sigourney and Dan Hedaya excepted).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:54 PM on August 9, 2008


To be accurate the article cites Jodorowsky's Dune as something Great and Unmade, but I've always been a little baffled by this presumption given the movies the man actually shepherded to completion. Although the pre-production work of Giraud and friends was genuinely stunning, I'm not convinced that Jodorowsky shared the same technophilic chops as say George Lucas to actually drag such visions toward any kind of mid-Seventies reality.

For the record, I rather liked Lynch's take because it was just that, an interpretation. When movies map the text rather too closely (i.e. Linklater's recent A Scanner Darkly) the result rarely lives in the memory past its initial viewing, at least for me that is.

Personally, I'd quite like to see Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron hauled into world-weary being.
posted by specialbrew at 4:40 PM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


That Star Trek idea is not great

"Could you put in some Mayans?"'
posted by Anders Levant at 5:27 PM on August 9, 2008


So, I guess I'm still the only person that actually liked Alien3.

Nope; count me in too. I even liked the fourth movie, as well, but I think it had to do with its take on motherhood. I had some ideas about it being a horror movie for women in that it addressed specifically female fears.
posted by jokeefe at 7:48 PM on August 9, 2008


Here are some short stories that would be cool to 'see'; maybe someone can do a series ?

The caves of steel - asimov

Unaccompanied Sonata - orson scott card

nightfall - asimov

and maybe pattern recognition by gibson is a better thriller than a book?
posted by infini at 7:50 PM on August 9, 2008


I've always thought that Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat was made for the screen. A likable anti-hero poacher-turned-gamekeeper who eschews guns and saves the day by relying on his wits. Then again his distaste for excessive violence and contempt for martial bureaucracy may make the character less of an easy 'sell' to Hollywood.

I thought Lynch's Dune was embarrassing, but I liked the cinematography and set design. IIRC - reading Frank Herbert's take on it - he felt that Lynch shared his vision for the film, but it was sabotaged by the studio who panicked at the prospect of a three hour film and cut it to pieces.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 8:42 PM on August 9, 2008


I think Kurt Vonnegut once commented that stage and screen adaptations of his work must take liberties in order to avoid being total pieces of crap. Vonnegut admitted that as an author of short stories and novels, that he didn't have a clue about writing good drama.

I would love to see Neuromancer done with the same sort of treatment as Pleasantville in which the computer-generated things in Case's worldview get vivid color treatment and everything else is desaturated.

But then again, I also feel that the whole "found documentary footage" narrative device would be a perfect match to H.P. Lovecraft.

In general though, I feel that science fiction cinema and television works best when you start with a screenplay rather than a novel. Star Trek, Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, and X Files had some really brilliant stories.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:40 PM on August 9, 2008


Reading the first half of The Book of the New Sun, re-reading Lathe of Heaven, and working my way through Lukyenko's Night Watch series has pretty much convinced me that the primary distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy is that the fans who are into BEMs and cyberpunk don't want to be associated with the fans who are into unicorns and vampires and vice verse. Ohh, and the sci fi folks are more likely to bullshit about science, and the fantasy folks are more likely to bullshit about mythology and folklore.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:59 PM on August 9, 2008


hmm i must then be using both sides of my brain ;p seeing as how I like both sci-fi, preferably hard science and fantasy - most escapist
posted by infini at 11:11 PM on August 9, 2008


Personally, I'd quite like to see Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron hauled into world-weary being.

That would be a great movie, except they'd do some serious damage to it to get it an R rating.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:14 AM on August 10, 2008


Do Hugo Winning Novels Make Great Films?
by Metafilter's own John Scalzi.
posted by various at 6:00 AM on August 11, 2008


My rule would be something like: If it was worse than the book, it was a movie; if it was better, it wasn't made.

Joaquim, clearly you haven't read Puzo's Godfather.
posted by nushustu at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2008


Here are some short stories that would be cool to 'see'; maybe someone can do a series ?

The caves of steel - asimov

Unaccompanied Sonata - orson scott card

nightfall - asimov

infini

Caves of Steel is a novel, not a short story, but you're right, it would make a great movie. It deftly combines the detective story, which is popular, and SF, and would entertain audiences with its puzzles. It was actually made into a radio play by the BBC in the 80s which you can...legally acquire...if you poke around. It's pretty good.

Nightfall was already made into a movie, twice. I haven't seen those, but it was also made into an excellent X Minus One/Dimension X episode. (Direct MP3 link, public domain, courtesy of the Internet Archive which as a ton of great old radio programs if you like this.)
posted by Sangermaine at 1:48 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Forgot to mention that Escape Pod also did a reading of Nightfall.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:48 PM on August 11, 2008


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