Villagers With Pitchforks

The flaming torches were delayed in transit, sorry.

Monday, July 19, 2004

SF Fans with Pitchforks

And torches. And petitions.

I went to see that new Will Smith thriller over the weekend.

I expected a Will Smith thriller with robots and a couple of characters with the same names as Asimov characters, and that's what I got. The first half of the movie seemed to have some promise. The second half of the movie had a couple of good moments. Shame about the plot, though.

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday had a segment about this thriller, in which Harlan Ellison mentions his own modest contribution to the effort: possibly the best screenplay adaptation of Asimov ever. Which was not used at all - except that the opening of the movie looks exactly like the beginning of Ellison's screenplay for a few seconds.

Harlan Ellison's adaptation was written in the seventies, rewritten, rejected, resurrected for a project which never got past pre-production.

Eventually Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine (edited by Gardner Dozois at the time) published it as a serial. This was popular enough that the screenplay was published in a beautifully illustrated book.

And the fans had hope.

Will Smith is a bit of a SF fan, and he is one of the executive producers of the current movie. I'm sure they read the Ellison screenplay - okay, I hope they read it - and decided that Ellison's lead character, reporter Robert Bratenahl, just wasn't going to be a good Will Smith character. So they commissioned their own script, and off they went.

I'll be the first to tell you that Asimov stories are hard to translate to movies. But the deed can be done. Want proof? Go rent Bicentennial Man, which is a thoughtful combination of two Asimov stories: Bicentennial Man and The Positronic Man.

And I still want to see Ellison's screenplay done sometime. It needs to be done.

Note: I always abbreviate Science Fiction as SF. I may be in trouble if I ever do a post on Science Fiction in San Francisco, but I'll burn that bridge when I get there.


Blogger Patrick Connors said...

I was, it turns out, too hopeful. Also not paying attention. Twice. It turns out that what actually happened is that Asimov characters and the name of the film were grafted onto an already existing thriller with robots.

And now I can't find the link.


4:59 PM  
Blogger homercat said...

So being a hard core Asimov fan, should I go see this movie or will my heart be broken?

11:14 AM  
Blogger Patrick Connors said...

Don't go expecting Asimov's or even Ellison's "I, Robot".

Go expecting to see a Will Smith action thriller in a version of Asimov's world in which the Zeroth Law isn't quite there yet. Park your brain and look at all the pretty lights.

12:04 PM  

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