Friday, February 01, 2008

Not Another Remake!

Recently, I have noticed that many television and films in the science fiction genre are retreads of previous offerings. I’m not just talking about Battlestar Galactica, Flash Gordon and even more Star Trek, which is going to be revived with a prequel film later this year. Actually, I am also talking about middle-of-the-road and blockbuster science fiction on the screen. Recent genre films included I am Legend, which is based on the 1954 horror novel by Richard Matheson, and Beowulf, which is very loosely based on an Anglo-Saxon epic. Later this month, Jumpers will debut in theaters. This film is based on a series of books for young adults which began in 1992, but the plot deals with teleportation, hardly a new science fiction concept. Further out, Universal pictures is remaking The Wolf Man, and Fox is remaking The Day the Earth Stood Still. Warner Brothers’ planned feature film version of Justice League, based on an animated television show, which in turn is based on fifty plus year old comic book heroes, has been delayed due to the writer’s strike. Not long ago, Entertainment Weekly published an article, Is science fiction out of ideas? Maybe.

As a long time genre fan, I have often asked why? Yet, as a teacher of middle and high school students, I do remember that teaching science fiction; a topic I seldom used in the classroom, did not endear me to many students. The excellent ezine, Sci Fi Dimensions ran a pair of commentaries on this topic a couple of years ago. The tone of “Kids and Sci Fi” is quite sarcastic, but the author’s points are well-taken. Students just don’t get science fiction themes, and young people are the future. If they don’t enjoy science fiction stories and films, the genre will die off. Kevin Ahern’s “Meekly Going Nowhere” is a more thoughtful discussion of the lack of new ideas in science fiction.

Yet, a look at the highest grossing films of the past couple of decades would indicate that science fiction is healthy enough on the big screen. Video games often use this genre for settings and plot. Unfortunately, many of those are also retro in theme, and again, there is a dearth of new ideas.

Editors and publishers must look for new and entertaining ideas in the manuscripts which come to them. Serious science fiction has long suffered from a focus on dystopia, which is just not particularly entertaining. Some of the mid-sized publishers such as Baen Books are doing a better job of finding action/adventure genre stories, but Baen loves the “series” writer, and the problem with those is that the same characters and themes naturally repeat.

As I have stated previously, I do think some of the small publishers have picked up some of the more entertaining manuscripts lately. Tigra and The Key were both printed by small publishers, and either of these would make a fabulous film, without resorting to a remake of anything. Now if Hollywood would just take a look at Pam’s Pages, I could steer them away from yet another remake.

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