Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Gets a Movie Adaptation

I’ve been talking recently about how there’s not much in the way of straight up science-fiction movies being made right now, but it appears that perhaps Hollywood is about to prove me wrong. Just yesterday I posted about the possibility of another Twilight Zone movie, and now today comes an announcement about a big screen adaptation of one of the most worshipped science-fiction books of all time, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.

Foundation is the first in a series of books about a world where mathematician Hari Seldon has developed a complex formula for predicting the future, and the ripple effect that such knowledge brings with it. The fact that Asimov’s book has been frequently called “unfilmable” doesn’t seem to intimidate producers Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Golden Compass). Warner Brothers will like the fact that there is potential for a franchise here, but personally I don’t see this story having a lot of mainstream appeal. Here’s to hoping they can pull it off without having to compromise the original stories like a certain other Asimov adaptation that came out a couple of years back (I, Robot).

  • I’m dying to see this movie, but I can’t really hold out hope that it will do the original text justice.

  • I’d say “unfilmable” is an understatement. I only read the first book but it would definitely need some true masters behind the camera to do justice to the great philosophical and theoretical concepts of this beloved book (thus making it “straight” sci-fi [I’ve thought about this alot since you mentioned it Sean and it’s definitely sad that the thinking man’s sci-fi hasn’t been around in American cinema for quite some time]). It’d be hard to have solid market appeal (the obligatory action slant that passes for sci-fi) AND not go against too much of what makes the book great.

    I don’t remember any particular parts that make for great action sequences (I read it ten years ago though). I, Robot had the potential to add action sequences almost willy nilly (the shorts didn’t do anything but be wax-philosophical) because it’s not about a continuous evolving plot. This is a whole different beast that makes being faithful to Watchmen look easy. With that said; it easily makes for the great post CG (pseudo)cyberpunk epic people have been waiting for since Blade Runner. Just imagine fellow bookies…it could be incredible!

    However, if I see a tight director on this piece it’ll still only add a glimmer of hope.

  • Oh yeah, I could totally see this becoming another I Robot. There’s no way these films would make good movies, at least with the popcorn audience. I don’t think you could make a blockbuster with Foundation unless you really dumbed it the hell down.

  • Reed Farrington

    I’ve always thought Asimov’s Foundation would be a great film or TV mini-series if it was filmed exactly as described page by page and with the exact dialog. I don’t know where people get the impression that the book is unfilmable.

    The story is simple, and involving.

    People think Asimov’s characters lack character development, and that the women are underdeveloped. That’s what makes Asimov books so filmable! What I mean to say is that Asimov’s stories are heavily plot-driven and dispenses with the inner dialog and expression of feeling that make books more satisfying than film. But Asimov’s writing is compelling even without the stuff that books rely on.

    Oh, some people may think that his dialog is not natural, but I enjoy his type of dialog.

  • Well that’s mostly true…I actually believe nothing is technically unfilmable. I’m just speaking in terms of the grim reality that hacks can get their mits on it and blow the whole thing. Even non-hacky guys like Proyas can fail at making a thoughtful adaptation. Sure, I, Robot had basically nothing to go on but the three laws but that means it had lots of room to be cinematic AND interesting.

    I wouldn’t do exact dialog though because all that “inner dialog and expression” could be explicated through spoken dialog and scenes.

    I just ordered the book to replace my lost copy and read I’ll it with the mind I read everything nowadays: how could this be an awesome film and be true to the book at the same time?

  • Matt

    Wow, that’s a lot of praise for one book. This post has actually convinced me to take Foundation off of my bookshelf, dust it off, and actually give it a try. I was gonna read it a long time ago, but never got around to it. Hope it’s as good as everyone claims.

  • Hello all,

    I think Ridley Scott recently said that the Sci-Fi film genre has been more or less dead since “2001: A space odyssey” (still my favrourite), and I have to agree. The fantastic literature is full of great stories just waiting to be told: instead we are still being fed mindless action film junk. There are notable exceptions like “Gattaca” but I still look forward to a sense of wonder experience like “2001” or Tarkovski’s “Solaris”. I like P.K. Dick but most of his books have been turned into B-movies and I’d like to see other author’s turn now.

    I read Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy when I was an early teenager and ever since I’ve been re-reading it and still find new angles. I really hope the makers of the film will be able to pick out the philosophy of the film and not turn into a typical Hollywood mass-market product like “I Robot”, which had little or nothing to do with the charm and intelligence Asimov’s original Robot stories.

    Here’s a list of novels/short stories. I’n not saying all are filmable, but it just shows that there is enormous potential out there.

    Huxley: “Brave new world”
    Silverberg: “Hawksbill station”
    Robinsson: “Red Mars”, “Green Mars”,”Blue Mars”
    Clarke: “Childhood’s end”, “The fountains of paradise”
    Andersson: “Tau zero”
    Card: “Ender’s game”
    Stephensson: “Cryptonomicon”
    Dick: “The man in the high castle”
    Lem: “The cyberiad”
    Niven: “Ringworld”
    Pournelle: “The mote in god’s eye”
    LeGuin: “The dispossessed”
    Vinge: “A fire upon the deep”
    Harrison: “The stainless steel rat”
    Bradbudy: “The martian chronicles”
    Bear: “Eon”, “Darwin’s radio”
    Aldiss: “Hothouse”, the “Helliconia” trilogy (3 books)


    Sören Molander

  • Reed Farrington

    Sören, I’ve been accused of making the same general statement as you that science-fiction films have become “mindless action film junk” that relies on visual effects. I think my contempt of the current science fiction films comes from the fact that I’ve “seen it all” and that there’s “nothing new under the sun.” Each generation has its own set of “classic” films based on what is current during their formative years.

    I’ve put down films like Star Wars, Blade Runner, and The Matrix, but I can’t deny that these films can be thought-provoking even if they are only recycling “old” ideas.

    As for your list of books that might make good films, I wanted to mention a television mini-series in the 70s that adapted Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles.” Admittedly, the visual effects were crappy. And the critics hated it. But I loved it. The adaptation was done by Richard Matheson who is no slouch as a science-fiction writer, himself. The problem, I think, was that the characters did too much pontification, but I love that.

    BTW, most people hated “2001” when it first came out. And then when people got the explanation as to what it meant, they began to think it was a great film. The reason why I wouldn’t place 2001 in my top ten is because it ironically lacks humanity. It’s sterile. It’s boring. It may be “good” science-fiction, but the general population will not like it.

  • Eduardo R.

    The asimov books taken to the big screen have not been faithful to the original text, and I find very difficult to adapt the whole details embedded in Foundation book into 120 minutes. It would be worst if you put both books (Foundation and Foundation&Empire) into 120 mins. Would be far better to make a large mini series for TV in epic size like Rome.

  • james

    im honestly scared of what will end up on the screen the first book covered 500 years of foundation history! the only way to make this plausible is if the entire first book was turned into a prologue and the rest of the first movie be second foundation.

  • james

    sorry in my anger i got the book sequence screwed up scratch second foundation and make that foundation and empire

  • @Eduardo
    Emmerich has said the script would be written giving the main importance to characters and not to the long period lasting story of Asimov.
    Wait and see…

  • Lucio

    Hi, my name is lucio from Argentina…
    Please Please Please……. Do NOT make this movie, i´m begging you people!
    This is actually unfilmable.
    You just can´t do it rigth.
    Just think… there is only ONE battle on the story and it solves without a single shoot!
    You holliwood peopple… I´m shure you´re gonna make an amazing space battle!
    Is a political book! They just speak and that´s the great think of this book.
    You are just gonna ruin another book, an amazing book.
    Don´t do this!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I´m agree with Eduardo R. this will be better to do in a large mini series, because its very LONG for a 120 minutes movie!

  • Joaquin

    Dude , WTF, how can u make a movia about foundation :S
    it would completely SUCK… i LOVE the books..but a movie would just be a series of meetings bettween action , no “plot” no nothing..

    and 3d??? 3d?????????? WTF , he wants us to se Hardins face in 3 dimensions or sth?