Please, Please, Please Don't Let This Be Screwed Up Like Starship Troopers Was

Movie deal for Old Man's War.

Also heard that Ridley Scott is doing the Forever War.

By the way, I was working on a list of SF stories that were completed screwed up as movies in the 80's and 90's, so much so they would be worth a remake.  So far I have only a couple, but would appreciate suggestions

  • Starship Troopers
  • Running Man
  • Total Recall  (not as awful as the first two but had that same cheesy unserious style that brings it down for me)

I suppose some might put Robocop in this category but I am attached to that movie, in part because if there was an underlying novel I hadn't read it, and the campiness kind of worked.


  1. Eric Berlin:

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    "The Running Man" is, as of 9/11, officially unfilmable, at least with any adherence to the novel.

  2. joe:

    Dune - fantastic book, but gross and unwatchable movie. it would be much more remakable now, using cgi and blue screens.

  3. ADiff:

    I've wondered if they could make a series based on "The Great Explosion" ... kind of a more explicitly libertarian version of 'Firefly'.

    The Forever War sounds both like a challenge to film-making, and virtually predestined to be 'hosed' in the treatment. Great SiFi novel, good luck with the movie!

    The only SiFi that worked as such (most of it's just outer space Western anyway!) I think was 'Blade Runner', a very different, but strangely very complementary to original, beast 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'.

    A paranoid like P.K.Dick might actually have loved the 'director's cut'....

  4. Jim Collins:

    Battlefield Earth comes to mind immediately.

  5. NL:

    Wikipedia says that Starship Troopers was already being made before they associated it with Heinlein's book. The writing staff and director allegedly never read the book before pre-production. So it makes sense that fans of the book revile in horror.

  6. Dr. T:

    Other candidates for bad movie versions of sci-fi stories:

    Battlefield Earth
    I, Robot

    ADiff said: "The only SiFi that worked as such (most of it’s just outer space Western anyway!) I think was ‘Blade Runner’..."

    I would add:

    12 Monkeys
    Dark City
    The Abyss
    Dune (the miniseries)
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind (dated, but not a western!)

    and the animated movies:
    Iron Giant

  7. Stan:

    It's not out yet and it's not exactly scifi, but I'm sure people will complain about Atlas Shrugged P1.

    Not sure about movies that tortured their respective books, but I know a few Heinlein books that should be made into movies yet would be impossible to do; Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one example.

  8. Sam L.:

    Starship Trooper was not a great book, not a great story, but a really lousy movie. So much truly dumb things were done in that movie (at least, as depicted). Got to wondering after--how could the bugs, from where they were, drop asteroids on Earth--guidance, propulsion, timing to hit a city?

  9. Panzersaga:

    Adding to list:
    I, Robot
    13th warrior

    Part of the problem is that Hollywood will make a movie and then attach a name to it. I, Robot was originally called Hardwired and had nothing to do with Asimov's work. However nobody would touch it until they tied it in to such famous work. Such as NL mentioned with Starship Troopers.

    In a lot of cases they will write the script first and then if they can't sell it tie it in with something more famous. 13th warrior was another example of this, they came up with a script for a viking movie, but it wouldn't go through until they tied it in to Michael Crichton's book Eaters of the Dead.

  10. Andrew:

    Paycheck is another film to add to the list of terrible movies attached to PK Dick's name. I like the original cheesy Dune with sting and music by toto, (and captain Pickard)!! Also a Scanner Darkly was a well done Dick movie. But they Need to turn the Illuminatus trilogy into a movie now. you could use the play's script and adapt it into a screenplay.

  11. MNHawk:

    Hands down the best story/worst movie combo


    Probably a $10,000 budget, shot in Eastern Europe.

  12. DrTorch:

    I thought Total Recall was far worse than Running Man.

    Just curious Coyote, how will you feel if they keep Taggart Transcontinental as a passenger railroad line in the movie?

    I personally feel they should move Taggart to become an airline operator and freight railroad, and have James always pining for the gov't to bring back the passenger line.

  13. Dan:

    I love The Running Man novel, but I hear the movie was a complete failure that hardly took anything from the book. I'd love to see it done right, and I wonder if Stephen King has ever thought about taking on that project. As for the 9/11 reference, I suppose that would be a barrier if you want it to be true to the novel. I don't think it's insurmountable, though.

  14. Dan:

    You could probably get a pretty good arguement going over whether "Flash Gordon" belongs ion this list. I think it was deliberately cartoonish, and combined the sunday-comics pallate with the 1930's era ideas of what a spaceship would look like better than the later Dick Tracy, which tried for essentially the same thing. The Queen score didn't hurt either.

    The Pilot movie for Buck Rogers was also reasonable good, and reasonably true to the original story, but the follow-on TV series was mostly dreadful. The second season of the series on board the Searcher is one of those Sci-Fi moments that we should pretend never happened.

  15. Simon Allaway:

    'Bicentennial Man'...originally a fairly decent Asimov story. Totally ruined by Robin Williams.

  16. GoneWithTheWind:

    Not exactly a movie but have you noticed that the TV show 24 seems incapable of using the obvious "bad guy"? They have to resort to using semi-Nazis, cold war relics or unnamed fictional right wing organizations. Are they just afraid to use radical islamist or is it not PC? I am confident that when the next big 9/11 style event happens it isn't going to be some disgruntled Nazi group.

  17. Steve:

    Oh man, I thought Total Recall and Starship Troopers ware just as over the top as Robocop, all being made by the same director. Blood and guts in ridiculous quantities, bad guys and bugs that are beyond ruthless, good stuff!

    There seems to be few examples in any genre that can claim much faithfulness to the books they are loosely associated with.

    Crossing my fingers Forever War is watchable.

  18. BlogDog:

    I'll live up to the "dog" part of my nom-de-net by saying that as bad as "Starship Troopers" was (especially the egregious Denise Richarda), there was certain redemption in the shower scenes with Dina Meyer.
    Oh my. What a gorgeous, gorgeous woman.

  19. Dr. T:

    People are too negative about the "Starship Troopers" movie. It wasn't a straight movieization (yes, I just made up that word) of Heinlein, but it works as an action movie with humor and satire (and gratuitous nudity). I greatly enjoyed the way it poked fun at old war movies (the shower scene where the recruits, now of both sexes, casually talk about their backgrounds and their plans), government propaganda (the legless veteran recruiter who says that the military "Made me the man I am today."), military overconfidence (the disastrous landing on the bug's planet), military discipline (high-tech flogging!?), patriotism (the protagonist becomes an instant patriot after the bugs flatten his family's city), male chauvinism (The "noble" male pilot lets the brain bug kill him. The female pilot slices off the bug's probe.), etc. It isn't high concept sci-fi, but neither were many of Heinlein's stories.

  20. Ray K.:

    What could "Old Man's War" be other than an action movie with humor, satire and gratuitous nudity?

  21. That guy:

    Any discussion of sci-fi movies that should be made that does not include "The Mote in God's Eye" should be banned.

  22. sch:

    Major problem with movies is that a typical 100-140 min movie can't encompass more than 90-130 pages of text, so books longer than
    this get truncated in the movies to a considerable degree. Less of a problem with the PK Dick sources as they are all novelettes
    or less and have to be padded up/fleshed out a bit. The other problem is the availability of CGI which takes over the plot, as in
    I Robot. Mote in God's Eye, or any Niven plot would perforce be blown sky high by the CGI. (Ring World!!! god no, never as a movie)
    Surprised no one mentioned Puppet Masters, rather cheaply done with no CGI at all (NOT the egyptian puppet series, but
    Heinlein's book, reasonably faithful to the novel.)

  23. sch:

    Also forgot the original Lathe of Heaven, reasonably faithful to the novel, also done inexpensively, almost campy in the alien

  24. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    1) The Running Man is not only fairly good, but it's a bar bet trivia money winner. It's the only Arnie movie in which Arnie gets killed onscreen (it's only a faked sequence by the bad guys, but it still fits the bill)

    2) Starship Troopers was not that bad. Yeah, it entirely missed the point of the books, with the whole fascist-nazi-SS motif going on. Yeah, it wasn't a great adaptation of the books, missing out on the whole with regards to the central theme of Why We Fight. In its defense, here, that's hardly easy, since the book is remarkably didactic for a book-to-movie... But it wasn't that bad ON ITS OWN.

    > Dune – fantastic book, but gross and unwatchable movie. it would be much more remakable now, using cgi and blue screens.

    Sci Fi did a miniseries, both had good qualities, both had weaknesses. Kinda hard to adapt and do justice to one of the best SF books (seeing any 'series' as one very long book) in all of SF history.

    > I, Robot

    LOL, like there was a story there to adapt.... That's a collection of short stories. They did enough to make a serviceable action pic out of it, the two central characters are engaging enough, the FX and action are adequate.

    > Moon
    Oh, gimme a break. I cannot grasp the attraction some seem to have for this ludicrously lame movie. I saw through the whole macguffin within about 5 mins after the first main "reveal" and it was downhill from there, as well as being about as preposterous and unlikely as macguffins go, AND the sloppy attention to FX detail is flat out glaring (Hint: you cannot even vaguely completely counteract the effects of the moon's 1/6th gravity with just "leg weights", with at least a dozen or so blatantly flawed shots screaming for either suitable FX or, at the least, judicious camera use and editing to hide the Earth-normal gravity that screams "HEY! HEY! LOOKIE! I'm Heeeeeeeere!!!")

    > Got to wondering after–how could the bugs, from where they were, drop asteroids on Earth–guidance, propulsion, timing to hit a city?

    Uh, since what you're talking about is in the original book, you're whining about RAH himself. I won't answer your questions since they show a likely ignorance of basic physics.

    > Part of the problem is that Hollywood will make a movie and then attach a name to it. I, Robot was originally called Hardwired and had nothing to do with Asimov’s work. However nobody would touch it until they tied it in to such famous work.

    Ummm, clue, please. Just a little one:
    "is that Hollywood will make a movie and then attach a name to it..."
    is more likely correct as:
    "is that Hollywood will take a script and then attach a name to it..."

    That movie has so many inherent references which invoke Asimov's "I, Robot" stories (Susan Calvin, US Robotics, etc.) that "retrofitting" the movie after it was made would be impossibly expensive.

    And taking a good plotline and shifting it to fit into a specific draw** is inherently none of the following: a bad idea, bad business, bad movie-making.

    ** Ah, yeaaaah. "I, Robot". SUCH a huge draw. I'm sure, what, 200, 300 people went to that movie expecting a great movie because of its association with Asimov's **50's** short story collection... Uh-huh.

    > Are they just afraid to use radical islamist or is it not PC?
    IIRC, they started to do this in s2 or 3, but wind got out, CAIR or someone jumped on it, and Jack Bauer dhimmied out. One reason I've never paid any attention to the series.

    > I am confident that when the next big 9/11 style event happens it isn’t going to be some disgruntled Nazi group.

    HWood did the same thing with the Ben Affleck "Jack Ryan" movie. IIRC, the book used Islamists, but this got changed for the movie to the widely dispersed and incredibly powerful Neo-Nazi movement so prominently factoring in HWeird's denialist view of the world.

    In my experience, SF does best as "original screenplay" more than adaptation, for reasons much as sch comments. Even low-budget pix do better ("Robot Jox" was actually a halfway decent movie, much better than "Transformers" though infinitely cheesier on the FX end)

    I sometimes find a good SF movie based on a book or novel, but not often. I haven't read the original, but I think "Minority Report" is a damned good movie, one of Spielberg's best since the 1980s. And I concur with sch that "The Puppet Masters" was an adequate adaptation though I still wanted all the bare breast scenes inherently in the original book (subtly described in the novel, mind you) 8^D

  25. alanstorm:

    What about the complete bastardization of "The Puppet Masters", with Donald Sutherland, back in '94? Utter crap.

  26. TomG:

    I have to second what alanstorm said previous: I just got done reading the essay (via Wikipedia) about what happened to The Puppet Masters on its way to the big screen. It wasn't pretty.

    (Besides, for an R-rated movie, what the hell happened to the nudity? Heinlein, in 1951, had the end scenes of the novel describing a USA where everyone was required to wear nothing more than a skimpy bikini bottom - and it was an essential plot element!)

  27. Craig:

    Warner Brothers is supposedly going to film Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion (two of my all-time faves) as one movie. This can't end well. Only the 15-hour HBO treatment could possibly work.

  28. jared:

    I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there are apparently a lot of people who don't think "The Running Man" was an awesome movie.

  29. DngrMse:

    Riverworld. Though not really a movie, it exists as a pilot for what I suspect is a tv show that never got beyond episode one.

  30. tehag:

    "What about the complete bastardization of “The Puppet Masters”, with Donald Sutherland, back in ’94? Utter crap."

    I was at an LA SF Worldcon where the producers (I think) apologized and explained why it turned out so badly.

  31. Robert:

    I agree with Dr. T's (and probably even his 5,000 fingers') assessment of "Starship Troopers". Too many fans have too narrow a concept of adaptations; I'd probably find their adaptations redundant with the originals, and hence superfluous.