News of a possible Brad Pitt sci-fi version of The Odyssey got us thinking. No, not about how quickly we could leave the planet in case said movie ever actually came out, but about what other classic literature could be turned into science fiction vanity projects for some of our favorite actors. Join us as we consider future methods to help high school students get into reading, why don't you?It's not that we're against the idea of using classic literature as the basis for SF movies - Who doesn't love Forbidden Planet's riff on Shakespeare's The Tempest, after all? - but there's just something about the potential of Brad Pitt's Odyssey that screams well-meaning but ultimately ill-considered disaster. That's what we're aiming for with these suggestions, we must admit; something that may be a must-see... just not for the best of reasons. A Tale Of Two Cities What it is: Dickens' tale of life leading up to, and through, the French Revolution, as seen by those living in 18th century London and Paris. What it could be: A stirring story about the violent uprising of the alien underclass in some far-flung galaxy settled by a humanity overpowered by its own greed and need to expand without thought or concern for its surroundings. A metaphor not only for the problems of capitalism/the need for humanity to embrace a more green way of living/the horrors of America's slavery past, it's an ideal project for an overly sincere actor to champion. We're renaming it A Tale Of Two Planets and hoping that Matt Damon will show some interest. Romeo and Juliet What it is: Shakespeare's classic love story about the romance between the children of two warring families - and the tragedy that follows. English teachers would disagree, but the best version is West Side Story; Shakespeare was good, but "Gee, Officer Krupke" is better. What it could be: Leonardo DiCaprio's attempt to win back the youth vote that he's slowly lost since... well, the last time he did Romeo and Juliet. What better way to try and break into the genre market than with familiar material given a new spin? And there's no end to the new spins that could be given to the story - We say that DiCaprio sticks with his A-list director fetish and asks James Cameron to come up with the story of a man and his forbidden love for a sexy robot. Played by Claire Danes. Any Jane Austen Novel What they are: A snarky woman who is underestimated by her peers falls for a snarky bastard from the upper classes who finds himself inexplicably drawn to her inner strength. There may be some comic relief and social commentary on the issues of the day as well. (Can you tell that I'm not a fan?) What they could be: Sienna Miller is Elizabeth Bennett in Pride And Planetary Prejudice, choosing between newcomer to the space station Space Captain Bingley and his gruff friend Lt. Darcy. Swooning and hilarity ensues. Or Keira Knightly is E'Mma, a haughty and arrogant Martian who finds true love in the arms of human settler Mr. Knightly (With a surname like that, I'm sure even Keira could handle it). The Adventures of Tom Sawyer What it is: All-American rapscallion Sawyer and friend Huck Finn go through childhood with all the trials, tribulations and fence-painting that that entails. What it could be: Exactly the same novel, but with the details casually and awkwardly updated, Jetsons-style, to unrealistic futuristic versions. Let's see Tom laserpaint the space fence with his astrobrush, or sneak onto the Paddle Starsteamer or whatever. This one's a steal for a Disney moppet; we say make Tom into twins and give it to The Suite Life of Zack and Cody's Dylan and Cole Sprouse. And we're only slightly embarrassed to admit that we know that that show exists. The Bible What it is: The best-selling book of all time, and popular amongst people called Gideon who spend a lot of time in hotels. What is could be: This is the biggie - We've seen the Bible updated to SF before, and even have semi-fond memories of science fiction Bible stories from our youth, but never before has anyone ever attempted to turn "the greatest story ever told" into the greatest science fiction movie ever told. We're picturing a franchise, with each epic given its own movie - "Noah's Space Ark," "David And Mecha-Goliath," "Jonah and The Galaxy Whale," you get the idea. And to link it all together? Tom Hanks voicing a motion-captured, CGI God. It's dominate the holiday season for years.
The New Testament as SF? I think a guy named Frank Herbert may have touched on that a bit. Hey, How about Casablanca redone in a dark and gritty dystopia? Whoops, that was Barb Wire—ick.
Honestly, Hollywood, if you want to mine the literature and other worthy media of Western Civilization for Science Fiction plots you could look a little further than Gene Roddenberry or Glen A. Larson. Grodd knows you can't come up with anything original on your own.
But if you must, I'd love to see Ariosto's Orlando Furioso done with nanotech-enhanced, transhuman super-soldiers. Ooh! How's about "Leatherstocking on Mars"? Or maybe a take on Little Women set in a mutant-overrun, post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-style future they never made?
Then again, maybe you should drop the Skiffy/Superhero kick you've been on and go back to cop-buddy adventures and teen gross-out comedies; you were getting rather good at those.