There are many movies that could have been done better. Not just in the realm of B-movies, where budget is often the limit, but also in movies from the major studios. The more interesting films are the near-misses, the ones that just missed the mark. The effort is there, but misapplied, resulting in a disappointment instead of an outright flop. Disney’s The Black Hole is such a movie. Released in 1979, The Black Hole was part of a science fiction renaissance born from the tremendous success of Star Wars. Everyone wanted a science fiction movie. However, Star Wars was also a game changer. While inspired by, among other soruces, the pulp serials of old, the hero wasn’t the square-jawed scientist as parodied by the character Brad in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Instead, Star Wars featured a farm boy, a character type more likely to be found in a fantasy.
Changing approaches takes time. Scripts need to be written to accommodate the new paradigm. But to get something, anything out to take advantage of the sudden interest, time isn’t a luxury. Star Trek: The Motion Picture used a script meant for the pilot of a rebooted TV series, and it showed. The Black Hole, released the same month, had a script that would have felt more at home with the science fiction of the Forties and Fifties, featuring square-jawed science heroes. The problem there was that The Black Hole wasn’t solely a science fiction movie.
The Black Hole was gothic horror tucked in a science fiction shell.
Science fiction and horror do go and have gone together. Alien was a classic monster in the dark plot on board a spaceship. The Terminator featured an unrelenting robot out to kill one woman and was born from a nightmare. Having The Black Hole be horror isn’t a stretch; the elements are there. The big problem, though, was timing. The Black Hole was a first in many ways for Disney – the first Disney-branded movie to get a PG rating, the first with even mild swearing, the first with on-screen human deaths. It’d be understandable that the studio would be nervous. Disney created both Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures to be able to release films for adults, but neither existed at the time The Black Hole came out.
That was the core issue with The Black Hole – it was a horror movie from a studio that shied away from being too horrific. Disney was known for children’s entertainment. The studio could present frightening situations, like an evil woman becoming a terrifying dragon, but there was always someone brave to stand up to fight the evil. The Black Hole had the evil, but bravery didn’t help save the day. In horror, the hero doesn’t necessarily defeat the evil, just survive it, and that concept doesn’t always translate well to other genres.
The Black Hole looked like a mish-mash of genres. The crew of the Palomino were the square-jawed science types, using intelligence and research and talking to tackle the problem of the day. The Cygnus, despite being a spaceship, wouldn’t be out of place in gothic horror or a Hammer film, hanging in space orbiting a black hole. The end sequence may have been inspired by the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey with a side trip to Dante’s Inferno. And V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. owed more to the animal sidekicks of past Disney films than they did to R2-D2 and C-3P0.
This isn’t to say that The Black Hole was a bad movie. The film had a strong cast, with Antony Perkins, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, and Maximillian Schell, and the vocal talents of Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickins. The special effects were cutting edge for the time, with the black hole a presence on screen. Even with their almost cartoon-quality appearance, V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. were as capable as any droid from Star Wars, possibly more so with their ability to hover long before CGI made it easy.
Remaking The Black Hole isn’t just hypothetical. One attempt at a remake fell to the wayside after scripts were written. The main issue comes from figuring out just what approach to take with the film. However, for Lost in Translation, the idea is to figure out the core of the original and how to coax it out properly while still keeping the original plot more-or-less intact.
The first step is to get the science as close to correct as possible while still being able to tell a good story. In the original, the Cygnus was poised near the accretion disc of the black hole, using anti-gravity to maintain position. Adding a star in a dying orbit around the black hole allows for a Lagrange point where the acceleration of gravity of both are balanced and will enhance the visuals. The balance of forces also means that the Cygnus can be knocked out of position into danger.
While on the topic of the ships, the Cygnus and the Palomino should look like they’re from the same world. The original Palomino looks more like a lunar landing module of old. The interior of the Palomino is enough room for its five crew and robot. The Cygnus is far larger, and even with its original larger crew, still has far more space than the Palomino. Both were deep space explorers, so why the difference? The Cygnus may have a hydroponics section for longer endurance, but the Palomino doesn’t look right beside it. And it’s the Palomino that needs the change. The Cygnus needs to look like it belongs in gothic horror, brooding in the terrible sky. The Palomino, while smaller, should be a reflection of the Cygnus and what it once was. Get the mood going early.
The last technical design change is V.I.NCENT’s. The core design is good; V.I.N.CENT looks like he should be functional in zero-gravity. The change here is to make the robot more part of the crew, less like an animated character. Keep the basic design, but make V.I.N.CENT less like a commercial product and more a contracted design, where functionality takes precedent over appearance. However, Reinhardt’s robots should keep their appearance, if only updated for modern camera techniques. Provide more articulation to Maximillian, but otherwise keep his appearance. Likewise, the rest of Reinhardt’s robots should only receive minor updates, with some subtle foreshadowing of their true nature before the reveal.
The general plot can be kept, but change the focus from pure science fiction to horror. Once on the Cygnus, the audience should have a feeling that something is off. The scene outside should help; a star losing part of itself to a black hole is not normal. Reinhardt should seem reasonable on first meeting, but as time passes, again, something is off. Only when his plan is revealed should he begin to monologue. For the end, the trip through Hell needs to be kept; Reinhardt’s goal and his fall are key to the plot.
Getting the right feel is the critical. The original was trying to be both science fiction at a time when science fiction in film was going through a paradigm change and horror when the combination of the two was more likely to be a monster movie. The Black Hole won’t work as an action film, and the studio will have to resist the temptation to turn it into one. The goal is to keep the horror aspects front and centre. The Black Hole has potential, but will need work to bring it out properly.
The dam broke. News just keeps flowing, with nothing outside consideration. Let’s get started on the March news roundup.
Catan TV and movie rights purchased.
Gail Katz, producer of /The Perfect Storm/, has bought the rights to the board game, The Settlers of Catan. While the purchasing of rights is just the first of many steps to get a movie or TV series made, it’s not a guarentee. Catan also has the interesting problem of having no set plot. Instead, players are in competition to settle the land of Catan, but may also trade with each other. The trading is the source of endless “wood for sheep” jokes amongst the game’s players.
Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar becoming TV series.
Starlin, creator of Guardians of the Galaxy, will also be the executive producer of the TV series. /Dreadstar/ will follow Vanth Dreadstar, sole surviror of the Milky Way galaxy, as he tries to end an war between two empires. No casting has been announced.
Fox greenlights Sandman spinoff.
Lucifer, a spinoff of Sandman, has been ordered by Fox. The original Lucifer had the lord of Hell giving up the title and moving to Earth to run a piano bar while interacting with other religious figures. The Fox series, though, has Lucifer assisting the Los Angeles police department in solving crimes.
New Alien movie to be directed by Neill Blomkamp.
Blomkamp, who directed /District 9/, has a deal with Fox to film a new /Alien/ movie. This film is separate from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus 2. Blomkamp’s movie will be a sequel to Aliens, and will bring back Sigourney Weaver as Ripley.
EL James to write script for 50 Shades sequel.
James, who wrote the 50 Shades trilogy, is exerting ownership and control and will be the scriptwriter for the next movie in the series. The sequel may be delayed as a result; James has not written a script before and the Valentine’s Day 2016 release date may not be possible. The sequel also needs a new director; Sam Taylor-Johnson will not be back after numerous fights with James on set during the filming.
MacGuyver may be getting a reboot TV series.
Lee Zlotoff, the creator of the original MacGuyver TV series, is working with the National Academy of Engineers on a crowdsourcing competition to find the next MacGuyver. The challenge – the new character must be a woman, who doesn’t necessarily need to be named MacGuyver. The prize is $5000 and working with a Hollywood producer to develop the script.
Netflix to make new Inspector Gadget, Danger Mouse series.
Netflix is becoming the newest source for series. Besides the Marvel offerings, Netflix will be adding animation to the lineup. First, Inspector Gadget, a 26-episode reboot of the classic cartoon, will start in March in the US and in other countries later. A revival of Danger Mouse, will follow.
Not to be outdone, Disney brings back Duck Tales.
Duck Tales, a staple of the late 80s and early 90s, is returning with new episodes on Disney XD in 2017. The same characters from the original will be in the new show.
The Search for More Money may become a reality.
Mel Brooks has said he wants to make Spaceballs: The Search for More Money. Nothing is confirmed, but the idea is to have the sequel come out after Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination may be adapted in near future.
Paramount Pictures may be signing a deal the lead the way to a movie adaptation of the novel. The novel’s been in development hell for twenty years, with Richard Gere and Paul W.S. Anderson being attached to the project. Talks are still early, though.
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl getting remade.
Taking the titular roles are Grace Helbigg and Dana Hart, both of whom are known through their work on YouTube. The original Electra Woman and Dyna Girl was a 1976 Sid and Marty Krofft series and starred a pre-Days of Our Lives Deidre Hall.
Adventure Time to become feature film.
Cartoon Networks’ Adventure Time is in development for an animated film. Chris McKay and Roy Lee, producers of The LEGO Movie and the upcoming The LEGO Batman Movie will produce the film.
John Barrowman to develop project from Heavy Metal.
Barrowman, known for his role of Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood, will produce and star in The 49th Key, a miniseries based on a story by Erika Lewis that just started in the magazine, Heavy Metal, as of issue #273.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM being remade.
MGM will adapt the book by Robert C. O’Brien as a mix of live action and CGI. Adapted once before by Don Bluth as The Secret of NIHM, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM is about a widowed mouse who gets help from escaped lab rats to save her home and her son.
Valiant Comics bringing their characters to the movies.
DMG Entertainment of Beijing has invested in Valiant Comics and wants to bring the Valiant characters to the silver screen and television. Valiant has Bloodshot, Shadowman, and Archer and Armstrong already in development.
Live action Akira film delayed again.
The director attached to the project, James Collet-Serra, is taking time for himself after making the movies Non-Stop and Run All Night back-to-back. The fate of the adaptation is back in the hand of Warner Bros. The studio has been trying to cut the budget from the initial $180 million estimate down to between $60 and $70 million to offset the fan backlash currently happening. Warner has had the Akira adaptation in some form of development since 2002.
Sony working on an male-driven Ghostbusters remake.
The male-driven remake/reboot is being developed in parallel with the female-driven version. Sony is hoping to expand the franchise. Maybe the best approach for the movies is to borrow from the West End Games Ghostbusters role-playing game and set each movie as a separate Ghostbusters International franchise in different cities. Ghostbusters Tokyo: The Anime anyone?
Three Days of the Condor becoming a TV series.
The conspiracy thriller of the 70s is being developed for TV by Skydance and David Ellison. The original movie was itself adapted from the book, Six Days of the Condor, and involved a a CIA operative whose co-workers were murdered as part of a government cover-up.
Archie getting a reboot, new look.
In a possible first for the publisher, Archie Comics is getting a reboot and a new #1. Mark Waid and Fiona Staples will helm the title and will bring Archie to the 21st Century in appearance without taking away from what makes the character who he is. The re-imagining comes with Archie’s 75th anniversary and follows such works as AfterLife with Archie and the announced Riverdale TV series.
A third Tron movie is in the works.
A sequel to Tron: Legacy will be directed by Joseph Kosinski, who directed the previous Tron movie. The movie should follow from events in Legacy.
First, Disney Characters Done Warrior Style. Admittedly some already are, but seriously, this is a collection of family friendly badassery, and Ursula has electric eels as weapons. Which, if you think about it, really would be what Fighting Game Ursula would use. Actually, it sounds like something cartoon Ursula would use.
On the other hand, the kids-of-villains live series Descendants . . . doesn’t look as promising. Jafar, really, you could have raised your kid better.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.
May had a lot of news about upcoming adaptations and remakes.
Farscape movie in the works.
Rockne O’Bannon, creator of Farscape, has confirmed the rumours that a Farscape movie was in production, at least as far as the script. The confirmation was announced at WonderCon.
Prequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in pre-production.
The movie brings back Michelle Yeoh and fight coordinator Yuen Woo-ping to present what Yu Shu Lien did before the events of the original movie. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came out in 2000; the delay was caused by a rights conflict between the studio and the estate of Wang Du Lu, whose novels were the base of the movie.
Six issue Avengers mini-series coming from Boom!
John Steed and Emma Peel will be back in a comics mini-series called Steed and Mrs. Peel. The cover art in the article really does suit the show.
Casting started for the Jem movie.
After seeing how crowdfunding worked with Veronica Mars, the director of the live-action Jem and the Holograms turned to YouTube and asked for fans to sumbit video auditions for online casting.
Twin Peaks returns in fan-made web sequel.
Fans of David Lynch’s TV series Twin Peaks have begun the 25th anniversary celebrations by having a third season done on Twitter. The central repository for the fan series is Enter the Lodge, where the tweets are collected.
Hector and the search for a distributor.
Hector and the Search for Happiness, based on the book of the same name by Francois Lelord, has been picked up by Relativity. The movie, starring Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike, tells the story of a psychiatrist travelling the world in search of happiness.
JK Rowling novel to become TV series.
The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling’s first novel after finishing the Harry Potter series, has been picked up as a BBC and HBO co-production. The book will be turned into a mini-series, following the town of Pagford, England, after the local councilor dies.
More Jem casting news.
All the actresses have experience to some degree but aren’t major names. Hayley Kiyoko, playing Aja, has an EP, “A Belle to Remember“, on her resume. Aubrey Peeples, playing Jem, has performed as a singer, including on the TV series Nashville, but doesn’t have a release. The live action adaptation still has some hurdles, especially with the original creator Christy Marx not involved, but the casting of the core allows the movie to be about Jem and the Holograms and not furthering the singing careers of the leads.
SyFy getting in on the adaptation train.
Four new series on SyFy, all of them are adaptations. Letter 44, Pax Romana, and Ronin are all based on comics. The fourth, The Magicians, is based on the novels by Lev Grossman.
Dad’s Army to hit the silver screen.
The BBC sitcom Dad’s Army is being adapted as a film. Toby Jones will play Captain Mainwaring, portrayed by Arthur Lowe in the original. Bill Nighy will be Sergeant Wilson. The original TV series focused on a British Home Guard unit in World War II. The writer of the original show, Jimmy Perry, added a provision when he signed over the rights that he wouldn’t have to write anything in the adaptation.
Sailor Moon cast announced.
More on the Sailor Moon news from last month. The Sailor Senshi have been cast, with Kotono Mitsuishi is back as Usagi. The character designs for the new series are based on their appearances in the manga.
Toy and snack movies ahead!
First, Barbie. A live action Barbie comedy is in the works from Sony. It’s not too surprising a move; the animated /Barbie/ features have done well and the online series /Life in the Dreamhouse/ has gone four seasons. Mattel, like all toy companies except Hasbro, is also trying to recover from a drop in sales in the past year.
Next, Peeps. The pink and yellow marshmallow candies are following in the footsteps of The LEGO Movie. Adam Rifkin will helm the movie, basing it on the Peeps dioramas his niece and nephew made.
Another Disney ride gets tapped for a movie.
In celebration of the attraction’s 50th anniversary, It’s a Small World will be turned into a family movie. The earworm generating song will be part of the movie. Disney is batting .500 with rides turned into movies lately; while The Haunted Mansion stumbled a bit, Pirates of the Caribbean became a huge hit. It’s a matter of finding the right team. Or inserting a subliminal message into the song.
Minecraft, the movie.
The producers of The LEGO Movie will bring the digital version of playing with blocks to the big screen. Warner Bros, the studio involved, will also work on a live-action tie-in for the movie.
Scarface to be remade, too.
The remake will bring the story into the today’s world. The immigrant’s story will see Tony’s background change to Mexican from the original Italian as seen in the 1932 and 1983 versions. The filmmakers are looking to cast a Latino in the role.
Marvel’s Peggy Carter to get her own series.
Peggy Carter, who first appeared in Captain America, is getting her own spin-off series on ABC in the fall. The series will be set in 1946 following the events at the end of the movie. This comes in the wake of the renewal of Agents of SHIELD. Meanwhile, over at Warner, no news of a Wonder Woman movie.
Private Benjamin to be remade.
The Goldie Hawn movie about a spoiled rich girl who joins the Army is being remade, with Rebel Wilson in the title role. The update will see a redneck join with the rich girl.
Animated Flintstones movie to be produced by Will Farrell and Adam McKay.
The Stone Age family will return to the big screen animated instead of live-action. The movie will be the first animated film of the characters since the 1966 The Man Called Flintstone.
Go, go Power Rangers!
Lionsgate has licensed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers from Saban for a reboot movie.
Didn’t see the Rosemary’s Baby remake? You’re not alone.
Maybe Mother’s Day wasn’t the best day for the airing. The remake was up against A Game of Thrones, the season finale of Once Upon a Time, and Cosmos.
Corner Gas movie being Kickstartered.
The Canadian sitcom about life in Dog River, Saskatchewan is being turned into a movie if the Kickstarter campaign is successful.
Blade Runner sequel may see Harrison Ford return as Deckard.
Ridley Scott may provide the answer to, “Is Deckard a replicant?” in the Blade Runner sequel. Ford himself showed interest during an AMA on Reddit.
Infamous Chick tract being adapted as movie.
Dark Dungeons, Jack Chick’s infamous anti-Dungeons & Dragons comic tract, is getting the movie treatment. Zombie Orpheus Entertainment will be treating the tract with the respect the company, staffed by gamers, think is due and will play it straight and accurate.
AMC working on Walking Dead spin-off.
The spin-off of the TV series adapted from the comic is slated for a 2015 debut. Robert Kirkman, who created the original comic series, will use the spin-off to expand the world of /The Walking Dead/.
The Final Girls to star Jamie Lee Curtis.
The series will be a drama featuring a group of girls who survived horror stories as the sole survivor. The name comes from the trope where the last character to reach the end credtis of a horror movie is usually the well-behaved girl. Curtis herself played one in Halloween.
Stephen King nervous about reaction to The Shining sequel.
Doctor Sleep follows Danny Torrence after he has grown up. King hopes that people think that the book will be better than The Shining, reflecting the experience he has gained since the original book was published.
A Wrinkle in Time adapted as a graphic novel.
Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s novel has been adapted by Hope Larson as a graphic novel.
Star Wars adapted to, wait, Shakespeare? Really?
Verily. In an effort to help students grasp Shakespearean plays, Ian Doescher wrote William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. After Doescher sent in the first act, Lucas Films encouraged him to continue. “True it is, that these are not the droids for which thou search’st.”
Commissioner Gordon to get prequel series.
The announcement came on the same day that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered. Fox managed to outbid Warner Bros. TV on the series, which will focus on the time Gordon spent as a detective on the Gotham City Police Department. Bruno Heller, creator of The Mentalist, will helm the show.
Dark Horse announces Firefly/Serenity continuation comic.
Firefly is seeing a resurgence lately, with tabletop RPG, boardgame, and now a new comic. A release date and a writer have both not been set.
Constantine may be developed for NBC.
NBC has ordered a script based on the DC Comics character John Constantine. A pilot has still has yet to be greenlit.
Lost Three Stooges film found!
A copy of the seventeen minute short “Hello, Pop!” has been discovered in a shed in Austrailia. The short was thought to be lost in 1967 in a fire.
Voice work begins on Thunderbirds Are Go!
A remake of the Supermarionation TV series will be a mix of puppetry and CGI. David Graham will reprise the role of Parker, Lady Penelope’s driver. Lady Penelope will be played by Rosamund Pike.
Live action Cruella de Vil movie in works.
Glenn Close, who played the puppy-fur-loving villain in the live action 101 Dalmations and 102 Dalmations is the executive producer of the movie. Disney also has a live action Cinderella in the works.
CBS to adapt The Songs of the Seraphim novels.
Angel Time is in development with author Anne Rice signed on as executive producer. Vampires are not involved.
Rainmaker Entertainment, who bought Mainframe Entertainment, has announced a reboot of the CGI animated series ReBoot. Rainmaker renamed its TV division to Mainframe Entertainment in conjunction with the news on the 20th anniversary of the creation of ReBoot.
There was much rejoicing.
Walter White’s obituary runs in Albuquerque newspaper.
Fans of Breaking Bad paid for an obituary for lead character Walter White after the series finale.
In 1912, Edgar R. Burroughs’ first novel, A Princess of Mars was published, introducing a new character into the world of pulp fiction. John Carter, formerly of Virginia, was trying to escape Apaches when he stumbled upon a device that sent him to the Red Planet, Mars. John Carter of Mars would go on to have eleven adventures, and Burroughs would introduce other characters, such as Tarzan of the Apes.
A century later, Disney released an adaption of A Princess of Mars, simply called John Carter. Directed by Andrew Stanton of Pixar*, the movie caught the flavour of the original story, placing John Carter into an alien world. The movie showed where many now-familar cliches and tropes, used everywhere from the Star Wars saga to Superman and The Justice League, came from. Stanton’s success at Pixar allowed him to make sure that the Green Martians came to life as more than just CGI objects.
By all rights, the movie should be a successful summer action blockbuster. The film takes great care in adapting Burroughs’ story to fit the the format and modern sensibilities. However, box office returns aren’t as high as expected.
The movie’s problems start in the offices of Disney. Between the start of production of John Carter and its release, there was a turnover of executives. With John Carter being greenlit by the outgoing exec, the new one started doing everything possible to show why the one leaving had to go. Executive meddling, once again, rears its head in the lack of respect of a property. How can a movie be derailed?
First, renaming. While A Princess of Mars from Disney’s studios would draw in an audience expecting something completely different, the title John Carter of Mars would allow movie-goers to know what property the movie is based on, especially the target audience. Instead, though, the movie is just called John Carter, ensuring it would get lost in the shuffle.**
Next, timing. The movie is lush, filmed in 3-D, and obviously meant to be released in the summer, when some of the target audience is no longer in class. Instead, the movie came out in March, before the March Break for elementary and secondary schools and after the Study Break for university students. And, despite summer-like weather*** in the eastern part of North America**** mid-March, it’s not summer when people have the time to head into a dark theatre during the day to catch a break from the heat.
Finally, marketing. Specifically, the lack of marketing. The advertising campaign can be described as lack-luster. Unusually for a big-budget Disney film, there were no tie-in campaigns. The trailers that were released did nothing to get people excited about the movie.
As an adaptation, John Carter was successful. The respect the cast and crew had for the work shows in the final product. However, as a release, the movie was sabotaged by internal politics.
Next time, a look a superhero adaptations.
* He directed Finding Nemo and WALL-E and was one of the executive producers of Ratatouille, Partly Cloudy, and Up.
** The film makers, though, did get a dig in by ending the movie with the title “John Carter of Mars” on screen.
*** March 21, 2011, Ottawa had a high of 27 degrees Celcius and a humdex reading of 30 degrees; something normally seen in June.
**** I do feel sorry the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan who received more winter on the first day of Spring.