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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Why have the works of Isaac Asimov had such a singularly bad record of getting turned into movies?

Bicentennial Man Sam Neill

Reader Kirk, inspired by yesterday’s QOTD — “Which fictional robots belong in the Robot Hall of Fame?” — writes:

Why have the works of Isaac Asimov had such a singularly bad record of getting turned into movies. That is, there are dozens of stories (and whole franchises) that have never been turned into movies at all, and VERY few that have been the least bit successful.

The only major Hollywood film based on Asimov’s writings is Bicentennial Man, which flopped at the box office and was poorly received by critics. There’s also I, Robot, which did better at the box office and with critics, but is only extremely loosely based on Asimov’s fiction. All of Asimov’s other film and TV credits are for shorts or TV episodes, despite his massive bibliography and general acclaim as one of the grandmasters of science fiction. I’d venture to guess that Asimov’s name is synonymous with science fiction even among the general public who don’t read. It seems like a no-brainer for Hollywood to glom on to Asimov’s reputation to pre-sell films. So why hasn’t it?

Why have the works of Isaac Asimov had such a singularly bad record of getting turned into movies?

My guess: Asimov’s writing isn’t suited to visual storytelling, since it tends to be full of people talking to one another about interesting ideas but not always doing anything with them. Asimov’s fiction may be philosophically provocative, but it’s not generally dramatically interesting.

What do you think?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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