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[P]
Asimov's "I, Robot" on the big screen at last... sort of

By noodles in Culture
Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 03:34:59 AM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)
Movies

Yet another Hollywood travesty. I know a lot of folks out there must be Asimov fans, so I thought you might want to know, a film called "I, Robot" is being made. But according to the news, it's NOT the Ellison treatment, and it's not the Asimov story, even adapted. The studio just bought the rights to the name.


The film, then called "Hardwired", apparently started out as yet another ho-hum robots-trying-to-take-over-the-world film. No big deal there. One more piece of screenplay-by-committee out of Hollywood isn't news.

In the last year, though, someone at Fox came up with a really great marketing idea. Buy the rights to just the name from a famous work of classic science fiction, use that, then make a series of crappy robots-try-to-take-over-the-world movies, but they would almost be guaranteed money-makers because fans would be expecting something good (to wit, the story attached to that title for the last few decades).

The original article on CNN that got me all in a huff is here. Here's a link to the Coming Attractions page on Hardwired, er "I Robot". It has a pretty good history of the project. I tried to link directly to it from within their normal site navigation, but they've got some wacky frame setup. First link is to the main site, second is the page specifically about the film.

The tragedy in all this is that Harlan Ellison wrote up an amazing screenplay based on "I, Robot" something like 20 years ago and the studios have been refusing to move forward with it ever since. Something about actual quality seems to repel most Studio execs like garlic to a vampire. Go figure. In the early 90's, Ellison finally managed to at least get the screenplay published in book form and it is excellent. It would be an amazing movie, and undoubtedly a blockbuster.

Thanks to the special logic used by Hollywood execs, though, we may never see it made.

Perhaps though, if this use-an-existing-famous-title marketing strategy works out for them, we may at least see some other familiar titles. I for one would love to see the Foundation Trilogy. Of course, that title would be attached to a film about robots trying to take over the galaxy.

Perhaps "Atlas Shrugged" could be slapped on Bill Gates' dramatized biography. "Snow Crash" could be used to sell a movie about a virtual reality ski resort where a crazed killer stalks ski bunnies and ski instructors who are up to their usual crazy hijinks. Perhaps the Alan Dean Foster Humanx novel titles could be put on some of the new "Alien" sequels, sell a few more tickets ... people like those titles, right?

Ishtar could be renamed/repacked as "Dune" - they both involve a desert, right?

Hey, maybe we could extend this to other things... if "Will Smith" was renamed "James Earl Jones", we could sell the movie as "I, Robot", starring James Earl Jones, and the great thing is we wouldn't have to have either the story or the actor! Wow! This is so clever!

As I'm coming across more articles arond the net, I'm seeing more spin/market suggesting that it's an adaptation, but it's not. This project existed - apparently in preproduciton hell - for a few years before being reanimated by the simple notion of buying and using the title of something that people would actually pay money to see. It's not "I, Robot", it's a robot story called "I, Robot".

Does anyone understand hollywood logic? They want to build a multimillion dollar.. 'bird'... they plan to give it some feathers, a beak maybe, and a bunch of other stuff that they figure bird-lovers like to see on birds, then they buy the rights to use the title 'Duck'. Only, it barely resembles a duck, doesn't much smell like a duck, and only occasionally shows as much life as a duck. The industry insists on calling it a duck tho. All right, fine. But what if an actual duck was available? "I, Robot" has been out there, with a top-notch screenplay, just waiting to be made for decades. It's not like the studio is having to settle for a half-baked effort... they have money and opportunity to make the actual adaptation that millions of fans would love to see and love to pay for. I'm just trying to understand why. Is that fair?

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Poll
Would you rather see
o a bad adaptation of a good story 10%
o a bad film with a good story's title 0%
o a bad story's title used on a good film 82%
o a bad film adaptation of a bad story with a good story's title 7%

Votes: 57
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o original article on CNN
o here
o Coming Attractions
o Hardwired, er "I Robot"
o an amazing screenplay based on "I, Robot"
o Also by noodles


Display: Sort:
Asimov's "I, Robot" on the big screen at last... sort of | 130 comments (110 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
how did this happen? (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by aphrael on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 09:44:59 PM EST

doesn't janet asimov own the movie rights? why did she sell?

Umm (5.00 / 6) (#8)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:24:36 PM EST

By no means am I an expert on this, but I assume money had something to do with it.

--
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
-- George Orwell


[ Parent ]
that and... (none / 0) (#14)
by noodles on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:03:21 PM EST

i've read conflicting stories - some say Fox bought the movie rights, others say they just bought the name...

[ Parent ]
Don't forget Harlan's "Deathbird" (4.33 / 3) (#6)
by michaelp on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:09:24 PM EST

As a crazed & mutated giant condor stalks innocent airliners and poops them from the sky with nuclear waste...

But the hero who kills the thing while riding on top of an airborne laser carrying 747, played by Cruise or if the budget can't afford him or Nicole has given him what he deserves, Siegal, in a stoned nod to accuracy, is named "Snake" just to get a little of the 'devil is really a good guy' flavor of the original...


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Minority Report, Blade Runner, etc (3.33 / 3) (#9)
by Burning Straw Man on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:37:53 PM EST

The film "Minority Report" was quite, quite different from the Philip K. Dick short story, but I enjoyed both.

Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) was another treatment of which I enjoyed both book and what eventually found its way onto the silver screen, even though there were substantial differences between the two.

Johnny Mnemonic... okay, well that movie was awful, pure awful. So nevermind on that one.

You could even argue the case that since "The Fellowship of the Ring" left out Tom Bombadil, it is a Hollywood bastardisation of the original work. How far is "too far" when it comes to Hollywood leeway?

But on another one of your topics, I would LOVE to see "Snow Crash" made into a movie. Also "Neuromancer", but that book would be a lot harder to translate onto the screen.

The real question is: Who should be cast as "Hiro"? Please, please... not Wesley Snipes. For god sakes... not Wesley Snipes...
--
your straw man is on fire...

why? (none / 0) (#12)
by momocrome on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:01:35 PM EST

Why does nearly everyone harp on about how  'Johnny Mnemonic' was such a bad film? Considering when it came out (1995) and the reasonably competent adaptation of the Gibsonesque effluvia to the standard action film formula, it wasn't so bad.  There were several nicely done scenes and even a decently acted  rant/monologue by Keanu (on top of the trash pile).  

Maybe you are thinking of Freejack, which was a truly obnoxious take on cyberpunk scifi.

"Give a wide berth to all that foam and spray." - - Lucian, The Way to Write History
[ Parent ]

Johnny Mnemonic (none / 0) (#29)
by budcub on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:48:29 AM EST

Actually, I watched that movie on cable, and I was amazed at how good it was, except for Keneau Reeves. And how the actors where all great and did great jobs with their characters, except Keneau Reeves. I'm not much of a film critic, but it seemed glaringly obvious that Keneau was in need of acting lessons, and some talent too.

[ Parent ]
some of the best stuff (none / 0) (#31)
by dr k on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 01:50:26 AM EST

from Johnny Mnemonic ended up on the cutting room floor. At least that is what I like to believe -- a whole lot of CG stuff (er, cyberspace) got chopped during the two odd years the film was being test marketed. Eventually the studio was forced to release the film, crappy sets and all.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Henry Rollins was in it (none / 0) (#42)
by Quila on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 07:01:29 AM EST

That has to count for something. That plus the bit of Skinny Puppy used in the trailers.

I've read the book and seen the movie, and I like both (except for Keanu Reeves) even though the movie deviated A LOT.

[ Parent ]

Zodiac (none / 0) (#16)
by Pac on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:05:58 PM EST

I would actually like to Zodiac as a movie first. If there is a Stephenson book made for the screen, this is the one. And then, after Zodiac made the grade, we could hope to see "Snow Crash" and "Cryptonomicon" some day.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners


[ Parent ]
interface (none / 0) (#87)
by anotherda5id on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 07:08:26 AM EST

i would love to see "interface" written by neal stephenson and ... someone else :) that book has 70mm written all over it

[ Parent ]
true. (none / 0) (#96)
by fenix down on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 04:59:08 PM EST

Zodiac would kick some ass.

The big problem I see is that they'll massively overblow the whole environmental thing.  A lot of the book is how the guy isn't a tree hugger, he's mostly just trying to keep people from getting killed.  I can just see them casting Keaneu and having him hug a dolphin or something to take some of the anti-corporate edge off.

That's the other big thing right there.  Hollywood doesn't do bad guys who are just doing their job and aren't really evil.  They'll give the company some ulterior motive beyond profit, like conquering France or making bombs for terrorists.

The whole charm of the story just depends on realism an awful lot, and Hollywood isn't too good at pulling that off.

[ Parent ]

Stephenson for the theaters. (none / 0) (#105)
by cdyer on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 09:00:52 AM EST

For my money you just couldn't do better than In the Beginning Was the Command Line.... That book has everything for a movie. Tanks, batmobiles, technology. How could Hollywood go wrong?

Cheers,
Cliff



[ Parent ]
Cryptonomicon (none / 0) (#121)
by vryl on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 12:20:20 PM EST

I am a big Stephenson fan, but Cryptonomicon was waaaay too long.  It could have been done by cutting by about a third.  There was some crazy scenes, a female character that was utterly superfluous, and a heap of email that could have just gone.  Personally, I am waiting for the Readers Digest condensed version.  None of his other books have this problem, so I don't know what got into him on this occasion.

[ Parent ]
The LOTR bastardation was good (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by mayo on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:40:30 PM EST

Tom Bombadil can bite me. Personally I think the movie benefitted greatly from leaving out the annoying little bastard and most people I've spoken to have shared this view and laud Peter Jackson highly for making this bold executive decision.

[ Parent ]
D'oh! Bastardisation n/t (none / 0) (#22)
by mayo on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:41:10 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Wouldn't that be... (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by dark on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 04:00:26 PM EST

debastardization?

[ Parent ]
Other possibilities (none / 0) (#25)
by Pseudonym on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:32:29 AM EST

The Diamond Age would be straightforward to turn into a screenplay, but it would be pretty long.

I see Cryptonomicon as a 26-part TV series.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Movie adaptations of novels (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by Demiurge on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 03:02:40 AM EST

I've found that some of the best movies based on novels are ones that didn't stay absolutely in line with the published work. Take, for example Blade Runner and Minority Report, both excellent.

A movie can also very closely follow its book source and turn out incredibly well done(Lord of the Rings), or absolutely horrible, like New Rose Hotel

[ Parent ]
aren't those the exact examples I gave? (none / 0) (#77)
by Burning Straw Man on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 01:53:34 PM EST

From my post:
The film "Minority Report" was quite, quite different from the Philip K. Dick short story, but I enjoyed both.

Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) was another treatment of which I enjoyed both book and what eventually found its way onto the silver screen, even though there were substantial differences between the two.

From your post:
I've found that some of the best movies based on novels are ones that didn't stay absolutely in line with the published work. Take, for example Blade Runner and Minority Report, both excellent.

--
your straw man is on fire...
[ Parent ]
Neuromancer (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by LaundroMat on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 05:29:27 AM EST

Also "Neuromancer", but that book would be a lot harder to translate onto the screen.
Hmm. I'm not too sure about that. It does have a filmic (albeit zippy) style.

[ Parent ]
Re (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by djotto on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 09:37:41 PM EST

Have to agree with you here.

Neuromancer is a fairly straight quest story - some kid with a unique talent gets picked out by circumstaces to complete a special task. (It helps that the "hero" is passive in almost every scene - he merely observes the action, so the camera can follow his view-point).

It's eminently filmable, and it's one of the top-five most-recognised SF novels of the past 40 years... far more-so that any other Gibson text, or the I, Robot discussed above.. All of which makes me wonder why it hasn't been filmed yet.

I believe Molly didn't appear in Johnny Mnemonic because the character was contractually bound to Neuromancer... does anyone know who owns the film rights here? That might explain a few things.

[ Parent ]

filmable (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by Burning Straw Man on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 01:51:05 PM EST

The problem with Neuromancer is that much of the activity takes place while Case is "jacked in". I just don't want another bad film version of cyberspace, i.e., the server room from "Hackers", or the virtual reality software from "Disclosure".

I think the story is eminently filmable, and I own a few copies of that book in various states of disrepair from frequent readings. However, the question remains, how would Hollywood film ICE?
--
your straw man is on fire...
[ Parent ]

I don't know... (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 04:10:45 PM EST

...who now owns the film rights, but early pre-production of Neuromancer did get under way in the late eighties. I remember reading something circa '90 that the film was to star Peter Gabriel and William Burroughs and the music of King Crimson. I can't seem to find anything confirming the participation of Burroughs and Gabriel, but I did find an archived listserv posting from Robert Fripp, of King Crimson, confirming his involvement.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Gibson and Hollywood. (none / 0) (#107)
by haflinger on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 09:43:34 AM EST

Johnny was made into a movie because Gibson got confused doing fundraising. He wanted to make an arthouse movie, but when he went to Hollywood, he couldn't get them to give him 1 million dollars to make a movie. So he asked for 20 million or thereabouts, and the money started to roll in.

Consequently, we had Keanu Reeves cast (actually not a bad choice), and a lame mainstream Hollywood director who had no clue. As a result, we have lots of long, slow shots, including an attempt at romance between Johnny and the Molly-replacement.

Gibson has to take part of the blame. The moralizing Hollywood ending was in his script. And he left the Killing Floor out of the script. Including the Killing Floor would have made the rest of the movie all worthwhile. Of course, the director probably would have turned it into a mishmash anyway.

However, Gibson did succeed in turning a profit on Johnny, so now, I guess he's able to get 1 million dollars if he asks for it. There's an arthouse movie of New Rose Hotel that is absolutely incredible, with Walken and Dafoe, directed by Ferrara. Well, I think it's incredible anyway.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

NRH (4.00 / 1) (#122)
by dabadab on Wed Dec 11, 2002 at 08:01:07 AM EST

Yeah, New Rose Hotel is incredible, although reviewers on IMDB did not liked it too much :) But I think it greatly captures the original story, where all the cyberpunk stuff is just some blurry background.
--
Real life is overrated.
[ Parent ]
I think... (none / 0) (#95)
by ninja on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 04:21:23 PM EST

...That I remember reading a Neuromancer screenplay (or, at least, part of it). Whether it was legitimate or not, I can't remember. It started with Case's betrayed employer putting the neurotoxin into his system - I remember that it was well written. Not much seems to be happening with it recently.

I also recall much was made about All Tomorrow's Parties inclusion of God's Little Toy. It was suggested that Gibson was paving the way for a movie adaptation. I don't know if anything has come of it.

[ Parent ]
You could say that about Fellowship (none / 0) (#51)
by regeya on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:44:19 PM EST

But it's not really a Hollywood bastardization.

Still a bastardization, though, kinda. But would we really want to see a word-for-word adaptation of Tolkien's original story? The movie would be longer than some of Warhol's tragedies. I can just imagine sitting watching Fellowship for 96 hours or so.

If only Peter hadn't taken so many liberties with the story.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

Oops, typo (none / 0) (#52)
by regeya on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:48:10 PM EST

When I said "Worhol's tradgedies" I meant to say "Worhol's travesties". My apologies.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

Minority Report (none / 0) (#85)
by epepke on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 01:26:35 AM EST

That movie was the first Dick adaptation that I hated. All the others I've liked, including even Total Recall and Screamers and the radio adaptation of Colony. But Minority Report just threw away all of the good cinematic suspense in the short story for no good reason.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Just case Bombadil was dropped.. (3.00 / 2) (#88)
by brunes69 on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 08:52:44 AM EST

...doesn't make it a "bastardization". If all the Bombadril junk had been left it, it would have added another 20 minutes at least to an already extremely long film. Theaters really don't like these super long shows because it messes up their airing schedules, and most viewers can't stand to sit there watching a screen for four hours.. you start to get numb, etc.

As well, writing a screenplay its nothing like writing a novel. You have to keep the story going constantly, keep the audience interested. The viewer can't just "put the movie down" and go do something else for a few days like with a book. The Bombadil sequence is pretty much unrelated t the main story, and would throw many people who hadn't read the book off on a tangent.

You have to make these kinds of sacrifices when making a motion picture. Until you become famous hollywood screenwriter, you have no right to moan and bitch about it.



---There is no Spoon---
[ Parent ]
Snow Crash (4.00 / 1) (#116)
by Lagged2Death on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:14:21 PM EST

As much as I liked "Snow Crash," I can't picture it being made into a good movie.

The book is long, and chock-a-block full of ideas; you'd have to cut 70% of it just to deal with the length.

Too much of the book is deliberately satirical, campy humor; it's just the sort of thing that would go whooshing over the heads of the movie-making crowd. I can just see them playing the whole "Deliverator" thing straight, not even realizing how absurd and funny it is, for example. About the only thing they'd get right is YT's wicked rebel skateboarding, which they'd turn into a 5-minute action scene/Nike commercial right in the middle of the movie, and it would end up (tragically) being the best bit.

And as for casting... Hiro is a post-modern USian renaissance uber-geek of Asian/African ancestry, so naturally, Hollywood will choose... Jean Claude Van Damme!

Still want to see it made?

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]

I learned a new obscenity today (4.50 / 4) (#10)
by Otto Surly on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:40:27 PM EST

You should mention it in your story. The word is "preawareness". It means "people associate the title with something good, so you can use it to sucker them into paying for something that really, really sucks and would otherwise make no money".

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
Hollywood needs money. (5.00 / 3) (#13)
by noodles on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:02:37 PM EST

Sounds like an old movie plot, doesn't it? "Mars needs women!"

A friend of mine keeps up with movie industry stuff and they recently had some article in the industry mags talking about how Hollywood figured out that by reducing dialogue content in movies, they reduce cultural references and translation costs, simultaneously making it cheaper to translate and less specifically North American so that the 'story' is less confusing...so keep an eye out for 'reduced content' content,the latest thing from Hollywood.



[ Parent ]
Ah, yes, the crippling poverty (4.57 / 7) (#17)
by Otto Surly on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:17:49 PM EST

that besets the major studios. Observe, from my eyes, of tears, a river.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
Bravo (none / 0) (#56)
by p3d0 on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 04:46:23 PM EST

What a fantastic post. Nicely said.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Foundation movies (4.60 / 5) (#18)
by Blarney on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:22:34 PM EST

I for one would love to see the Foundation Trilogy.

Natalie Portman as Arkady! That would be something to see! Especially when Lady Callia loans her some of her sexy outfits!

Seriously, maybe we can consider this an homage to Mr. Asimov's work, kind of like R. Dorothy Wainwright in the Big O anime. That was a sneaky reference to his Robots as well...

And if Uzi Nissan can own Nissan.com, and if we can all still say "OK" after Coke's trial of OK ColaTM which tasted like crapTM then how can Isaac Asimov's estate own the two common words "I" and "Robot"? Somebody should tell the Slashbots about this, they'd certainly consider Fox pioneer activists against intellectual property oligarchy.

Foundation films (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by Pseudonym on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:32:29 AM EST

I have a strong suspicion that any screenplay of Foundation cannot be both faithful and filmable at the same time, simply because of the material. It's very wordy, with a lot of concepts that would be very difficult to get across. I fear it would end up looking like the film of Dune.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Bah (none / 0) (#28)
by carbon on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:38:43 AM EST

Am I the only one on the planet who likes both the film Dune and the book Dune, simeltanously? I like them for completely different reasons (they might as well be in completely different universes) but I enjoyed both of them quite a bit.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
AOL! (none / 0) (#33)
by ggeens on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 03:48:52 AM EST

Me too!

Dune is one of the best SF novels I've read in my life. (I reread it a couple of months ago.)

I saw the movie a long time ago. I don't remember a lot of it, but I still found it enjoyable. It's not a good adaptation of the book, but a good movie regardless.

I'm convinced nobody will ever make a Dune movie that captures the book well enough.

L'enfer, c'est les huîtres.


[ Parent ]
The sci-fi channel version (none / 0) (#45)
by wiredog on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 09:03:32 AM EST

Good adaptation of the book to a script. But the acting was horrible. If the miniseries had been done by Lynch, or at least had competent actors, it could have been great.

More Math! Less Pr0n! K5 For K5ers!
--Rusty

[ Parent ]
What about the miniseries of Dune? (none / 0) (#106)
by haflinger on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 09:20:14 AM EST

I think the problem with the film was that it was, well, much too short. (Well, that and David Lynch. Lynch is pretty cool, when he's doing his own thing, but he doesn't know how to be faithful to somebody else's vision.)

But the miniseries was pretty good: and it's not a coincidence it was six hours long. I think Foundation could be done in something like twelve hours or so, the trilogy anyway.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Natalie Portman (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by pgdn on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 05:34:44 AM EST

Don't you think Lucas has some line in her contract that says she can't star in a sci-fi film for 20 years to avoid dilution of the Star Wars brand?

[ Parent ]
I don't know... (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by Giant Space Hamster on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:49:23 PM EST

The plot on the pages linked doesn't sound all that different from The Naked Sun or Robots of Dawn. If it uses the Three Laws of Robotics, it may very well be a good use of Asimov's title.

I don't really understand where you got the whole robots-take-over-the world thing. The pages you link to say nothing about that.

-------------------------------------------
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
-- Bertrand Russell

it supposed to sound similar...that's the point... (none / 0) (#65)
by noodles on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 08:06:40 PM EST

It involves robots and a murder. As a coarse plot outline, that's a pretty wide net to throw and i'm not surprised that folks recognize the similarities.

However, that being said, it's not an adaptation. It's a bad project with a script that got shopped around forever and a day, until the studio decided to slap the title of a decent work onto it, figuring they could salvage all the money they threw away on poor writing and bad plotting by just using a good story's title.

The offensiveness comes in because they couldn't be bothered to just go ahead and use the entire work - they just used the first two words, "I" and "Robot" and counted on "preawareness" aka 'audience expectation' to carry your dollars into the theater.



[ Parent ]
Old News (4.00 / 3) (#27)
by DarkZero on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 12:36:08 AM EST

This isn't something new, in the broad sense. Remember the movie "The Time Machine"? The new one? It's pretty much the same thing. The name "The Time Machine" is there, as well as the name "H.G. Wells", but the entire story is different from there. New characters, new events, new basis for the plot... they basically made a completely different movie, threw in the words "morlocks" and "time machine", and then slapped the name of a completely different work on it.

That's exactly what we're seeing here. The plots of the original work and the new movie have a similar basis if looked at from the most illiterate and moronic view possible, and the name of the original work and its creator add a certain prestige that will earn it headlines, first time viewers on the opening weekend, and (they hope) a bit of controversy.

Hollywood has been shitting all over good ideas for decades. The only difference here is that they found a way to shit all over a good idea in an entirely new way.

See (3.75 / 8) (#34)
by starsky on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 04:34:15 AM EST

'The ITALIAN Job' set in New York by American wankers. Or any WW2 film where USA carry out some operation that was actually carried out by some other nationality. Or any war film where the rights of some other foreign nationals are totally trampled over to preserve US soldier / good 'ol US values.

USA USA USA!

Whoa! This just sounds totally fucked! (none / 0) (#43)
by greyrat on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 08:37:50 AM EST

"'The ITALIAN Job' set in New York by American wankers."
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]
Horror Movies (none / 0) (#80)
by driftingwalrus on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 02:51:36 PM EST

How about the classic horror flick formula?  Have a collection of about ten people, and kill each one of them in a different, gruesome way.  Afterwards, only two are left, who manage to destroy the threat, and just so as happen to fall in love with each other.

I have seen it repeated sooooo many times it's sickening.
"I drank WHAT?!" -- Socrates
[ Parent ]

Who'd fall for the name only? (4.00 / 2) (#38)
by LaundroMat on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 05:42:06 AM EST

So, let's see. Word gets out there's a film in the making called "I, Robot". Part of the population says, "Oh, it's an SF movie." Another part'd say: "Nice, I hope the translation from paper to screen works out ok".

Then, the previews, trailers, reviews and what not make one thing clear: "This is not a good movie" (let's suppose it won't be) and "It is not - repeat, not - based on a single phrase out of Asimov's work."(*)

How can the name or the title attract more people then? This would only attract the regular SF movie audience...

(*) What would be nice would be a story where a robot immigrant gets the less pleasant jobs there are, is generally scorned upon and feels lost in Western society. NB: Why are links to Gunther Wallraff so hard to find on the web?

Previews, Trailers, etc. (4.66 / 3) (#40)
by DarkZero on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 06:33:48 AM EST

Then, the previews, trailers, reviews and what not make one thing clear: "This is not a good movie" (let's suppose it won't be) and "It is not - repeat, not - based on a single phrase out of Asimov's work."(*)

If The Time Machine is any indication, the previews and trailers will probably try to make it look like it's actually part of the "I, Robot" series of stories by showing quick little clips of things that look like they could fit into one of them. In the case of The Time Machine, most of the previews and trailers showed all of the events that were in the book, but failed to mention additional characters like the main character's new girlfriend, a psychic supervillain, an entire cast of characters that can suddenly express themselves in full English (there were a lot of non-English-speaking characters in the book that could never express themselves to the main character), and a whole lot of events that don't even come close to what was in the book.

As for reviews, I guess it depends on what you read, but unfortunately, most of the reviews that I read casually usually fail to draw any comparisons between the movie being reviewed and its original source material, even if that source material was another movie.

Despite all logic and rationality, it looks like this tactic actually works and will continue to be used in the future. Maybe it's because people are stupid, maybe it's because they just aren't interested in sci-fi novels... hopefully it's the latter, but I guess we'll find out when someone tries to do this to a non-science fiction book.

[ Parent ]

Imagine... (none / 0) (#46)
by LaundroMat on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 09:53:32 AM EST

but I guess we'll find out when someone tries to do this to a non-science fiction book
"The Secret History" - a history so secret you won't find any reference it (i.e. the novel) in the movie!

[ Parent ]
First example (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 05:57:31 PM EST

I guess we'll find out when someone tries to do this to a non-science fiction book.
that pops to mind is, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but I'm sure others can think of many more.

A couple of Tom Clancy movies back he complained about the alterations to his story. I think it was Stephen King who commented that Clancy needed to grow up, that if you sold the rights you had sold the name, period. (I suppose that's why King often writes the screenplay as well.)

[ Parent ]

OT: Wallraff (5.00 / 1) (#97)
by opilio on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 05:11:55 PM EST

If we both are thinking of the same man, the correct spelling is Günter Wallraff, "ue" is sometimes used to replace the umlaut. Maybe you find something useful *that* way. Here is his homepage. Seems to be in German only, I'm afraid.

---

---
Und die Halme schrein, wenn du den Rasen mähst. -- Element of Crime, Mach das Licht aus, wenn du gehst
[ Parent ]

Tragedy (4.00 / 2) (#50)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 11:35:52 AM EST

The tragedy is, they could copy any one of the I, Robot stories and have a great movie. They could create a totally new movie using the concepts in I, Robot and have a great movie. I could think of 1,001 ways they could make a great movie with I, Robot. So, why do I think this movie will totally suck?!
Information wants to be beer.
Uhm.... (5.00 / 2) (#68)
by djotto on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 09:17:25 PM EST

why do I think this movie will totally suck?!

Because you've seen Bicentennial Man?



[ Parent ]
Hollywood screws up, film at, er, um, nevermind (3.50 / 2) (#53)
by andrewm on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 03:53:20 PM EST

A decent movie based on a book is the exception, not the rule. Is this one somehow worthy of an article because it's a book you like, while you don't care about movies 'based' on books you don't like?

The Difference (4.33 / 3) (#55)
by DarkZero on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 04:30:36 PM EST

A decent movie based on a book is the exception, not the rule. Is this one somehow worthy of an article because it's a book you like, while you don't care about movies 'based' on books you don't like?

The difference here is that it's not a movie based on a book, but rather a movie that bought the title of a book. Rather than being a loose and crappy adaption of one of the "I, Robot" stories, this movie is a completely different story that has that bought the name of that book.

This isn't a case of a movie adaption leaving something out of a book. It's more akin to putting the name "The Lord of the Rings" on a movie about a jeweler in New York.

[ Parent ]

Oh, so just like "Starship Troopers" (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by janra on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 04:59:33 PM EST

Rather than being a loose and crappy adaption of one of the "I, Robot" stories, this movie is a completely different story that has that bought the name of that book.

The movie "Starship Troopers" started out as "hey, let's make a movie about a war between humans and giant bug-like aliens" then they found the book, bought the movie rights, and changed a few character's names to match the book. The final movie had almost nothing to do with the book, apart from the character's names, the title, and the fact that they were at war with giant insects.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Well, it didn't have power armour (none / 0) (#71)
by Rogerborg on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 08:22:51 AM EST

Or Skinnies, but what it did have matched the tone of the book pretty well, I thought.  I started to list the similarities, but then thought, hey, it's your assertion, you can list the differences.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

I found the tone very different (none / 0) (#78)
by janra on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 01:59:40 PM EST

The movie was a pretty straight "bug war" flick, while the book spent the vast majority of its time in boot camp, officer school, and talking politics; the "bug war" was merely a framework to present the political system.

Now if you watched it with the director's commentary, you got lots of politics... ;-)


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Spoof (none / 0) (#83)
by BlckKnght on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 09:01:00 PM EST

Tone of the movie was pretty clearly a spoof of the Gung-Ho tone the book had. The book was all about how great the military is and how tough the soldiers are, the book was about young, sexy and oh by the way tough characters.

Now, that being said, I did think it was a fun movie. I still chuckle when I think of the scene of a scientist shoving some six foot long probe thing into the captive alien. So sometimes, movies that aren't true to their title can still be ok.

But I'm not going to get my hope's up....

-- 
Error: .signature: No such file or directory


[ Parent ]
I refuse to watch it (none / 0) (#91)
by wumpus on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 12:33:37 PM EST

But I understand that Joe Haldeman could probably sue.

In case you haven't read either: Robert Heinlein was an Anapolis grad who wrote Starship Troopers explicitly as pro-military propoganda after Eisenhower halted nuclear testing. Joe Haldeman came back from Viet Nam with enough shrapnel to set off metal detectors and re-wrote Startship Troopers as the Forever War.

Wumpus

[ Parent ]

Forever War (none / 0) (#92)
by ucblockhead on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 02:53:34 PM EST

Haldeman still claims he didn't, but it is hard to believe. Forever War would make a great movie, though not one that would sell in these hawkish times.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Oh, I think it _would sell. (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by dark on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 07:45:52 AM EST

Just like Minority Report did well even in these "terrorist until proven harmless" times. People like contrast and controversy, and for the mindless warmongers it would still be a "war movie".

In fact, if you find yourself attacked without reason by aliens with no sense of self-preservation, it might be a good time to re-read the book.



[ Parent ]
Starship Troopers was commentary on the book (5.00 / 2) (#98)
by ToastyKen on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 06:15:34 PM EST

Whether Heinlein was serious or not, and there's a good chance he was, the book was an exercise in glorifying the military.  Verhoeven took the book and mocked the fundamental message of the book by parodying the facist culture.

The movie wasn't so much an adaptation of the book as it was a parody of the book, so I don't think it's very valid to complain about the movie not being faithful to the book in the case, since the decision was very deliberate and made for a reason.

I wouldn't call the movie brilliant or anything, but it certainly had an intellectual point to make, in addition to being silly fun.

[ Parent ]

Well, duh (none / 0) (#60)
by andrewm on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 05:59:09 PM EST

Are you seriously telling us that this is the first time you've seen that done?

Well, I guess noone can accuse you of watching too many movies :)

Maybe this one annoys you, but it's actually really common, and complaining about it won't get you anywhere.

Still, the thing I really like is when they take the title of a book, make a significantly different movie, and then write a new book based on the movie - still, at least when they do that there is a book that's similar to the movie. :)

[ Parent ]

Examples? (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by Rezand on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 11:08:55 AM EST

Do you have specific examples? I'm curious.

(Thanks.)

[ Parent ]

Outbreak (4.00 / 1) (#90)
by kerinsky on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 11:19:54 AM EST

They did this to Outbreak by Robin Cook and I almost got in trouble because of it at school. We had to do 3 book reviews from a list over the summer and you got to select one of the books from the "fun books" list. About half a dozen of us chose outbreak, one other kid and I got the original versions and the rest chose the new rescripted version. The books were completely different except for fact that there was a plague of some sort so of course our book reviews looked like they'd been written for different books. I originally got a D for not reading the book because it didn't match the other student's reports which did match the movie which the teacher had seen. So I brought in my copy and challenged the teacher to read it and then re-grade my report. She was too lazy to do that but she did give me an A when she figured out what had happened.

I've heard but can't confirm that this was done to Starship Troopers and some of Crichton's books like Jurassic Park and Sphere. As a general rule I stay 6 feet away from any book with a movie poester on its cover at all times.

-=-
A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.
[ Parent ]

Dunno... (none / 0) (#102)
by Canar on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 01:00:23 AM EST

Sphere seemed pretty darn close to the book. Around as close as LOTR. Or so does my memory serve.

[ Parent ]
Jurassic Park (none / 0) (#112)
by bigdavex on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 07:25:08 PM EST

Hollywood munged the characters toward stereotypes, but basically kept the plot and theme of Jurassic Park intact, in my opinion.

[ Parent ]
Bad Movies from Books Is Not the Rule (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by Mr Badger on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 04:13:48 PM EST

It is an old misconception that literary adaptations make for bad films.  In fact, the history of film is full of works that have so "outdone" their source materials that many people no longer think of them as adaptations (though there are always purists that will miss some element of a source book, be it ever so obscure), for example:

Lang's "Metropolis"
Nichols' "The Graduate"
Ford's "The Searchers,"
Keaton's "The General"
Hitchcock's "Psycho," "Notorious," "Strangers on a Train," and many others.
Kurosawa's "High and Low" and "Rashomon"
Lynch's "Wild at Heart"
Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia"
Scorsese's "Goodfellas" and "Raging Bull"
Peterson's "Das Boot"
Kurick's "Paths of Glory" and "Spartacus"
Frankenhiemer's "Manchurian Candidate"
Hill's "The Sting"
Huston's "Treasure of the Sierra Madre"
Zinneman's "High Noon"
Kazan's "On the Waterfront"
Sturges' "The Great Escape"

This list could go on forever, and it doesn't even touch on movies that some feel are better than the source material, like "Gone with the Wind," "From Here to Eternity," and "Fight Club."

[ Parent ]

Also see the story (3.00 / 1) (#58)
by janra on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 05:01:47 PM EST

On Sci-Fi Today


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
Huh? Since when was "I, Robot" a good b (4.33 / 6) (#61)
by delmoi on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 07:36:22 PM EST

Come on, those were cheap pulp fiction stories for magazines when they were written and they still are today. Intresting stories about what goes on with those "positronic brains" (I guess this would be PMOS... Asmov didn't even envision CMOS!) and their robot rules, sure. But hardly great works of fiction.

If asmov wrote those and stopped, I, Robot would never have been as popular. The books are clasic because they are asmov's first work, not because they are amazing peices of liturature.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Yea... (3.00 / 1) (#66)
by DeadBaby on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 08:08:56 PM EST

I love Asimov but I've got to admit his robot books haven't aged very well or maybe they were always cheesey. Either way I can't seem to get very worked up over this. It's not like they're fucking up the Foundation books.

I admit I was too lazy to actually read the article but didn't I hear somewhere they're just using the name anyway? I highly doubt they'll be advertising this movie as "Issac Asimov's I, Robot" -- probably more along the lines of "Will Smith IS... I, Robot" or something equally as Hollywood.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
[ Parent ]

Asimov as writer vs. author (none / 0) (#79)
by freebird on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 02:19:51 PM EST

I halfway agree.

Guys like Asimov and Clarke have always struck me as 'idea men'. They are not really that great in a literary, prose-style sense. But their books are great because they have some really good ideas, and passable plots. I distinguish between great 'authors' (who generate great books) from great 'writers' (whose actual prose is great). Some are both (Delaney, Bradbury) and some are just one.

I do think the I,Robot stories had some really good stuff in them - some of the earliest ideas about how robots should interact with society, and hence really about society itself, and freedom/freewill. But I'd agree that they're not particularly well-written - the characters and plot were pretty thin as I recall, and the prose was workmanlike at best.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Clarke an ideas man? (none / 0) (#99)
by the on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 07:08:35 PM EST

I find the work of Asimov and Clarke to be the epitome of a certain type of highly strait-jacketed science-fiction that I now think is dismal, even though as a young kid I lapped it up. Strait-jacketed because they seemed to set some very strict rules for what subject matter they could write about. It always had to be realistic according to now quaintly archaic rules of realism. Worse than archaic - Clarke and Asimov weren't terribly knowledgeable about science (*) and so they were doubly hampered by restricting themselves not just to science but the subset of science that they understood. When, in later years, I discovered authors like Philip K Dick, I realized there was a whole potential universe of science fiction out there that wasn't tied down by petty rules of realism.

Another aspect of reading Asimov and Clarke, that I think damaged me for life, was the simple structure of tension build up followed by a very quick resolution at the end. In the case of Asimov the resolution could be as extreme as a single word punch-line at the end. It's a little like firing from a catapult. Everything is in the final release and any writing up to that point merely serves to increase tension. As a result, even now, it's sometimes hard for me to adjust to fiction where the aesthetics are distributed through the writing, not just packed into the final denouement. So if you find your kid reading too much Clarke or Asimov - wean them off quick!

(*) I know that Clarke and Asimov both wrote popular science and that Asimov was a scientist but I still maintain that their knowledge of science wasn't that great. At the time they were writing (and still are in the case of Clarke) there was far more interesting science going on than either of these writers were writing about. For example in physics they both still had Newtonian mentalities while physicists were actually practising quantum mechanics and general relativity. For example in Rendezvous with Rama the most advanced science we see is probably a (possibly confused) understanding of centrifugal force.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]

Sure, but... (none / 0) (#117)
by freebird on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:30:12 PM EST

...you mustn't overlook the fact that they had some important ideas. For example, you've heard perhaps of the "Clarke Belt"? That's a concrete idea that was good enough to become the basis of modern telcom.

And some of Asimov's ideas were both interesting and influential. A perfect example for me is the Foundation Trilogy - going back and reading it now, I'm shocked at some of the naive views of society and it's relationship with technology. Nonetheless, it's a monumental work in the history of Science Fiction.

I agree (laregly) with your summary disparagement of their plot and character abilities, but the fact that we've all read their stuff and talking about it here suggests they did something right. I submit that it was their ideas, or 'conceits' in the old terms - the 'gimmicks' and concepts that their stories were built around.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Different media (none / 0) (#81)
by chexmix on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 03:36:23 PM EST

Even if the original material was not great literature (and I concede that not much "Golden Age" science fiction, or even much science fiction period, was far from it), that does not mean that the eventual film could not be a very fine thing indeed. The printed word and the screen are very different things.

Asimov, I always thought, was kind of a wooden writer ... but in a *film* you wouldn't be reading Asimov's descriptive passages or necessarily much of his dialogue. It would be a completely different work, even if it hewed very closely to the original plot. You would be *watching* actors doing things rather than reading words and imagining the actions and voices in your "inner mind theatre."

But I agree with the writer that Hollywood (in general) knows neither good writing nor good acting nor good plot. There is no better sign of the near total bankruptcy of the American cinema than the rash of crappy remakes -- some of films that were crappy to begin with.

[ Parent ]

Nightfall movie (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by drivers on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 07:48:20 PM EST

What, no mention of the Nightfall movie, loosely based on Asimov's first short story? It was awful.

Nightfall?? (none / 0) (#67)
by djotto on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 09:06:52 PM EST

There was a movie??? No, no, I don't want to think about it.

BTW, it can't be "Asimov's first short story" - that's no longer extant.

Cosmic Corkscrew (reaches for a book) 1937/8. Ah, a handy appendix. First-published was The Callistan Menace (1940). Nightfall was published in 1941.

Man, I used to love Asimov shorts.... I must have been an utter machine as a child.

[ Parent ]

Nightfall (none / 0) (#75)
by drivers on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 01:01:27 PM EST

Yes, and apparently there were two versions!
here
and
here

Interesting... looks like Nightfall was also a working title of Pitch Black (not related to the Asimov story... or is it? The rare sunset is a direct rip of the initial idea but the story is completely different, and cool (for a movie).)

[ Parent ]

noodles is a whining pansy (1.17 / 17) (#70)
by jann on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 03:53:04 AM EST

nt

Will Smith - A opinionated view... (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by Reverse Entropy on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 09:16:06 AM EST

Ah. Will Smith a bad actor or a actor that acts badly. or is it a bad singing actor or actor singer. Getting "jiggy" with the hollywood execs. Reminds me of SpaceMan Jones on SNL. %<------ Cut to the end of a skit...--- <Nasal voice> "You like?" Enough said....

Hm (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by carbon on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 10:52:52 PM EST

Will Smith was good in the first MIB. And he was okay in Wild Wild West (of course, I'd say so, being one of the 4 people on the planet who liked that movie.) But I can't think of anything else I liked him in, including his raps.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
enemy of the state? (none / 0) (#93)
by speek on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 03:01:50 PM EST

I like that movie, and thought will did a decent job there.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Never saw it. So many movies to see.... (n/t) (none / 0) (#110)
by carbon on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 02:56:53 PM EST



Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Well, (none / 0) (#86)
by kuro5hinatportkardotnet on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 05:19:21 AM EST

at least maybe now he can finally beat Mike Tyson.

 

Libertarian is the label used by embarrassed Republicans that long to be open about their greed, drug use and porn collections.
[ Parent ]
Forget this! (none / 0) (#89)
by Joe Tie on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 09:42:13 AM EST

Where's a SpaceMan Jones movie. It might not make for great scifi, but at least I wouldn't be sitting through the whole movie thinking it should be.

[ Parent ]
Alex Proyas gives me hope (4.00 / 2) (#74)
by ToastyKen on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:17:43 PM EST

The fact that Alex Proyas, of The Crow and Dark City is attached gives me hope for this project.  Dark City is one of my favorite movies.  He can make it visually interesting, if nothing else...

I agree (none / 0) (#109)
by ogre2112 on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 02:35:15 PM EST

I agree. ALex Proyas did an excellent job in 'Dark City'. Completely immersive, nice angles, wonderful lighting and scenery.

I have doubts about this Will Smith character, but I'm willing to see it just to see if Alex can pull it off.

Does anyone have in-depth knowledge of a release timeframe?

[ Parent ]
Irony (4.75 / 4) (#94)
by gidds on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 03:55:33 PM EST

Up until 1940, science fiction was stuck with the `Frankenstein complex' view of robots: merely things to be feared.  Asimov developed his famous Three Laws as a direct reaction against that scenario, to portray robots as reasoning beings to be studied, used, communicated with, even trusted.  (Which makes for far more interesting, and intelligent, stories.)  He developed these three laws in a series of short stories, which were collected in the books The Rest of the Robots, and - you guessed it - I, Robot.

And now Hollywood is going to use that title to portray something it was specifically designed to protest against!  And in doing so, show that Hollywood is over 60 years behind the written word.  [fx: long-drawn-out, resigned sigh]

Andy/

Faithful adaptations... (4.50 / 2) (#100)
by failrate on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 07:43:15 PM EST

I don't see all book-to-movie adaptations as being faithless whores. Two of my favorite examples are Fight Club (which WAS changed to make the movie, but changed in a way that particularly fit the film medium) and New Rose Hotel (Check out last week's The Onion A/V Club for an interview with the director).

Ultimately, though, if the movie is drek, then the target demographic (SF fans) will crap on it, and it will die in horrible anguish. This will be good: The movie will fail entirely on its own merits. This will be bad: Hollywood will decide that SF is the kiss of death for a while.


Voodoo Girl is da bomb!
Nothing new (4.75 / 4) (#101)
by Drooling Iguana on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 08:42:09 PM EST

This isn't the first time that the title "I, Robot" was used with a work unrelated to the original Eando Binger short story. As I recall, a reasonably well-known science fiction author stole it (at his publisher's insistance) and attached it to a compilation of short stories (which did not include the original story) back in the '50s.

They just don't "get" it... (5.00 / 5) (#103)
by slan on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 01:10:03 AM EST

Someone mentioned that it's possible to have a good movie "based" on a good book, even though the one is ultimately nothing like the other. And certainly that's true, especially if the film's director pays attention to the source material and attempts to honor its subtext in the movie. Witness "Blade Runner," which had several differences that purists might decry but nonetheless was effectively evocative of Dick's themes. "Minority Report" is a lesser case, for while it didn't strike me as particularly Dicksian (or is that "Dickian"? And is there any adjective with the name "Dick" attached to it that doesn't snickeringly evoke the phallus?), it was nonetheless a good science fiction movie. And that's because the director -- Steven Spielberg -- is one who respects (and reads!) printed-word science fiction, who "gets it."

And that's the rub. There just aren't enough filmmakers in Hollyweird -- maybe not even enough filmmakers anywhere -- who really "get" sci-fi, let alone respect it. And there are even fewer producers and business managers who do. To them, sci-fi is "genre" (redundant, natch?), and it's all about the window-dressing -- a few robots here, some rayguns there, an acid-spitting menacing alien (or, alternately, a wise feel-good alien prone to spouting pedantic New Age sermons) here, some half-naked green-skinned dancing girls there, a strutting and preening male hero coupled with a damsel in distress, mixed in with some action figures and product tie-ins for the kiddies, and -- voila! -- a bonafide hit sci-fi movie, guaranteed to rake in the denarii.

(Unless it's "Battlefied Earth." They still don't understand why that movie failed. The people who made "Battlefield Earth" really believe they are smarter than us. They're convinced that its failure was a function of marketing, not quality. "Battlefield Earth" should have been a hit, and it's our fault -- not theirs -- that it flopped. We're just too dumb to recognize quality sci-fi when we see it.)

Anyway, in printed-word entertainment, there are many crafters devoted almost exclusively to one genre. Stephen King may depart now and then to pure soap opera fiction, but he's primarily a horror writer, and widely recognized as such. David Brin might write a non-fiction book of sociocultural analysis, but he sticks mostly to science fiction.

But with film, that ain't the case.

The number of directors, producers and screenwriters devoted exclusively or primarily to sci-fi can be counted on a yakuza's hand. Hollywood simply lacks a subculture of crafers who respect and understand science fiction for its own sake. It's pretty much limited to JMS, George Lucas and the late Roddenberry, with occassional brilliant visits from Spielberg, and one of them -- Lucas -- is so bad at "getting" yet so good at presenting it that he's left a terribly mixed mark.

No, I have no idea what can be done about it.

So, this whole "I, Robot" project has mixed potential. On one hand, we've got Alex Proyas, an amazing visual stylist; and Wil Smith, a bankable if not always talented actor. On the other hand, we have what is from all indications a horrible script written by Jeff Vintar, whose most notable prior screenwriting work was "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within." Yeah.

Fox has brought in Akiva Goldsmith, the screenwriter for "A Beautiful Mind," to "polish" the script (that's called "re-writing" amongt us commoners). With Goldsmith and Proyas together, it's possible we'll get a good movie out of it, especially if one or both of them reads Asimov's work and tries to honor his themes and subtext. And I can (barely) conceive of the notion that Fox bought the rights to "I, Robot" and is "incorporating" elements of it into this script because someone at the studio recognizes the prescient elements of Asimov's vision, and hopes that using them will improve the film.

With luck, we'll end up with a movie where the robotic murder suspects are all innocent and have been framed by a robotophobic jerk-off human supremacist, where robots in general are so durned helpful and so consistently ethical that most humans resent them for being constant reminders of what base scoundrels a majority of us are, and in which the audience is encouraged to sympathize with and learn from the machines, not the humans. That would be an interesting departure for Hollywood, most of whose sci-fi of late has been both technophobic and xenophobic.

If they brought in characters named Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw, and kept them true to Asimov's vision of those characters, I could even forgive the production crew omitting an actual Asimov plot, the same way I forgive Spielberg for so drastically changing "Minority Report" or Ridley Scott for the divergences in "Blade Runner."

I'll keep my fine manipulators crossed, but I'm not holding my breath....

Well.... (none / 0) (#114)
by carbon on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:49:31 AM EST

And is there any adjective with the name "Dick" attached to it that doesn't snickeringly evoke the phallus?

Dixie chicks. Wait, *snicker*, nevermind.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
And p-adick, of course (none / 0) (#125)
by Pikachu with an Axe in his Head on Fri Dec 13, 2002 at 12:05:47 PM EST

No snickers there.

[ Parent ]
I for one thought aliens was a good series (none / 0) (#118)
by auraslip on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 03:35:16 AM EST

The plot may have been lacking, but what it does, it does well. Everything is perfect, and it still looks FUCKING good after 15 years. I guess I'd have to blame the director for making a shit script look great.  
124
[ Parent ]
Read any Stephen King recently? (4.00 / 1) (#119)
by interactive_civilian on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 07:55:12 AM EST

Anyway, in printed-word entertainment, there are many crafters devoted almost exclusively to one genre. Stephen King may depart now and then to pure soap opera fiction, but he's primarily a horror writer, and widely recognized as such.
Primarily Horror? Let's take a look at a few of his books:

The Eyes of the Dragon
The Stand
The Gunslinger (Dark Tower book 1)
The Drawing of Three (Dark Tower book 2)
The Wastelands (Dark Tower book 3)
Wizard and Glass (Dark Tower book 4)
The Talisman
Black House
Hearts in Atlantis
The Green Mile
Tommyknockers

I would not consider a single one of those to be "horror". In fact, the last one is more Sci-Fi (not good sci-fi IMHO, but still sci-fi). The Green Mile kind of stands on its own...perhaps we can call that Supernatural And the rest...well, those are all actually part of the same story and it has a lot of Fantasy as well as some Western feeling to it.

If you want to classify Stephen King into a single genre, perhaps "Supernatural" would be the best term, since it would include all of his many different types of stories.

Ok...so this really has nothing to do with the article. But, sometimes it bothers me when people classify Stephen King as "primarily a horror writer" because I have met a lot of people who won't even try to read any of his many excellent books because they think they are all horror.

And now I return you to your regularly scheduled topic. ;)

[ Parent ]

Fair enough (none / 0) (#126)
by slan on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 11:13:56 PM EST

I stand corrected.

Though for the record, I've read everything King wrote up to about Bag of Bones, and I'd still call him "primarily a horror writer." It's what he calls himself, at any rate, and the works you mentioned are only a small sampling of his complete body of work.

Personally, I prefer the term "macabre fiction," which is a much more accurate description.



[ Parent ]

Elijah + Daneel (none / 0) (#120)
by Happy Monkey on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 11:46:54 AM EST

If they brought in characters named Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw, and kept them true to Asimov's vision of those characters, I could even forgive the production crew omitting an actual Asimov plot,

Except Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw were not in I, Robot. :)
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
I know this, of course.... (none / 0) (#127)
by slan on Mon Dec 16, 2002 at 11:18:54 PM EST

...but Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, et. al., were part of the larger robotic themes for which Asimov was known, and the stories incorporated elements first introduced in I Robot, notably the Three Laws.

Since the preliminary description of the movie's plot sounds more like a Lije Bailey/R. Daneel Olivaw story than something from the life of Dr. Susan Calvin, I figured including those characters would be a suitable tribute to the source material.

But then, it wouldn't really be I, Robot, would it?

Yet another wrinkle to the problem...

[ Parent ]

The original title was stolen, too (4.00 / 1) (#108)
by 87C751 on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 11:34:51 AM EST

"Hardwired" was a pretty good cyberpunk book by Walter Jon Williams, out roughly the same period as Neuromancer. It, too, would have made a good movie.

I hate Hollywood.

My ranting place.

Lawnmower Man (5.00 / 1) (#113)
by marktaw on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 07:41:25 PM EST

I still don't understand what this bad movie about Viritual Reality has to do with Stephen King's story about someone who eats grass.

Neither did King. (none / 0) (#123)
by Echo5ive on Thu Dec 12, 2002 at 06:37:40 PM EST

Apparently, he sued them. Quoth IMDB: "Early versions of the film claimed that they were related to a Stephen King work. King did write a short story called 'The Lawnmower Man', but it was completely different to the movie. King sued the film makers, and had his name removed from the film."



--
Frozen Skies: mental masturbation.

[ Parent ]
Atlas Shrugged (3.00 / 2) (#115)
by duncan bayne on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 01:10:03 AM EST

Perhaps "Atlas Shrugged" could be slapped on Bill Gates' dramatized biography.

Oh great, thanks - now I'm going to wake up screaming in the middle of the night for next week or so :-)



It's a Prequel to the I, Robot Movies Yet to Come (none / 0) (#124)
by Drog on Thu Dec 12, 2002 at 11:56:27 PM EST

I wrote an article on this on my site awhile ago too. Are you sure you're not being overly critical of this film? From the link we both found, I got a different feel for it (and I'll just quote from my article here):

"The project started with an original script Hardwired, by Jeff Vintar. When Fox acquired the rights to "I, Robot" in the hopes of creating a series of robot films, they decided that Hardwired would make a great prequel to that series, so "Hardwired" was renamed to "I, Robot" and several characters added from Asimov's stories. Subsequent drafts of the script have been done by Hillary Seitz ("Insomnia") and, most recently, Akiva Goldsman ("A Beautiful Mind"), so this promises to be a good story."

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.

Not Holding My Breath (none / 0) (#128)
by Jamie Re on Thu Jan 16, 2003 at 10:38:22 AM EST

ok

we all know hollywood's rep and really the results of thier efforts should be a forgone conclusion to most of us .

the movie is going to be really bad . and even if it is not really bad then it is NOT going to hold true to Asimov's message that humanity is a flawed creature and that is what makes us so special .

if any of you want to see the closest thing that I have seen to Asimov's vision on the screen go rent Bicentennial Man . while yes Robin Williams is not the most suited for the role he does an ok job and the feeling of the early Asimovian Robotic Era is very apparent .

but yea . Don't hold your breath for I Robot . ( mabye we will be pleasantly surprised . but it will never live up to expectations )

THE TRUTH ABOUT HARDWIRED & I, ROBOT (none / 0) (#129)
by Major Matt on Wed May 07, 2003 at 03:38:18 AM EST

Just writing in to set the record straight. First of all, the spec script "Hardwired" was not about robots taking over the world. It was an extremely intelligent spec script that read like a stage play, revolving around a mystery mystery with a human detective [the only true human being in the story] trying to find out which one of his non-human suspects [robots, computers, holograms] committed the crime. So cool was this script that Bryan Singer [The Usual Suspects] was attached for years, although the film finally was destroyed by the Touchstone Pictures development machine. Fox picked up the project at great cost for director Alex Proyas, and Vintar did an outstanding job of taking a very claustrophobic stage-bound screenplay and turning it into a smart big-budget studio film. When Fox decided that the project could serve as a prequel to a series of "I, Robot" films, he then did an even more impressive job of using the mystery to introduce viewers to the world of Susan Calvin and the Three Laws--doing honor to the world of Isaac Asimov. If you don't know Vintar, it's because his excellent sci-fi screenplays have been lost in development hell, like most original works are. His version of "Final Fantasy" was terrific, saved the project--and got the high-profile cast to sign on--before the film was considerably muddled in the two years after he completed his work. His "I, Robot" screenplay remains the very best treatment of Asimov-style robots ever committed to the page. What the previous commentor does not understand is that the studio is reacting to the perceived failure of "A.I," "Minority Report," and "Solaris"--this is why a very Asimovian screenplay has been cast with Will Smith, and is now being tailored for Smith by Akiva Goldsman [a considerably less-accomplished genre writer, but who is also repped by CAA, and was part of the deal to get Smith]. The film will undoubtedly be turned into more of an action film now. But let the record be straight: "Hardwired" was a fantastic sci-fi screenplay, and the "I, Robot" scripts prior to Smith signing on were everything an Asimov fan could have hoped for--and even more. Fans who think that anyone is seriously going to film that Harlan Ellison script--a screenplay that Alex Proyas stopped reading after two pages because there were too many pointless camera directions--is fooling themselves. That script was not a filmable screnplay in any sense of the word. We won't be getting the smartest version of Asimov, not with Will Smith and a film now redesigned as a summer-blockbuster film. But if they retain even 50% of Vintar's original script, fans will be treated to the smartest summer movie in many years, and one hell of a robot story.

THE TRUTH ABOUT HARDWIRED & I, ROBOT (none / 0) (#130)
by Major Matt on Wed May 07, 2003 at 03:44:57 AM EST

Just writing in to set the record straight. First of all, the spec script "Hardwired" was not about robots taking over the world. It was an extremely intelligent spec script that read like a stage play, revolving around a murder mystery with a human detective [the only true human being in the story] trying to find out which one of his non-human suspects [robots, computers, holograms] committed the crime. So cool was this script that Bryan Singer [The Usual Suspects] was attached for years, although the film finally was destroyed by the Touchstone Pictures development machine. Fox picked up the project at great cost for director Alex Proyas, and Vintar did an outstanding job of taking a very claustrophobic stage-bound screenplay and turning it into a smart big-budget studio film. When Fox decided that the project could serve as a prequel to a series of "I, Robot" films, he then did an even more impressive job of using the mystery to introduce viewers to the world of Susan Calvin and the Three Laws--doing honor to the world of Isaac Asimov. If you don't know Vintar, it's because his excellent sci-fi screenplays have been lost in development hell, like most original works are. His version of "Final Fantasy" was terrific, saved the project--and got the high-profile cast to sign on--before the film was considerably muddled in the two years after he completed his work. His "I, Robot" screenplay remains the very best treatment of Asimov-style robots ever committed to the page. What the previous commentor does not understand is that the studio is reacting to the perceived failure of "A.I," "Minority Report," and "Solaris"--this is why a very Asimovian screenplay has been cast with Will Smith, and is now being tailored for Smith by Akiva Goldsman [a considerably less-accomplished genre writer, but who is also repped by CAA, and was part of the deal to get Smith]. The film will undoubtedly be turned into more of an action film now. But let the record be straight: "Hardwired" was a fantastic sci-fi screenplay, and the "I, Robot" scripts prior to Smith signing on were everything an Asimov fan could have hoped for--and even more. Fans who think that anyone is seriously going to film that Harlan Ellison script--a screenplay that Alex Proyas stopped reading after two pages because there were too many pointless camera directions--is fooling themselves. That script was not a filmable screenplay in any sense of the word. We won't be getting the smartest version of Asimov, not with Will Smith and a film now redesigned as a summer-blockbuster film. But if they retain even 50% of Vintar's original script, fans will be treated to the smartest summer movie in many years, and one hell of a robot story.

Asimov's "I, Robot" on the big screen at last... sort of | 130 comments (110 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
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