Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hyperion Falls to Warner Brothers

Normally I don’t discuss movie news at length until the flick is released and there’s something to actually talk about. What’s the point of wasting air speculating on a lookahead story when any number of things could come along to derail production or release? But in this case, when it involves one of my favourite stories (SF or otherwise), I can’t help but get drawn into the news. The boys at SF Signal highlighted a story from the Hollywood Reporter the other day about Warner Brothers giving the green light to a movie based on Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos (“Hyperion” and “The Fall of Hyperion”).

This feels like years ago when New Line announced it was bringing “The Lord of the Rings” to the big screen. On one hand, it would be immensely cool to see a “Hyperion” movie if it was done right – if it was done right. That leads to the other, much more likely possibility, that it’ll be gutted and worthless.

Peter Jackson treated LOTR with love and respect, and understood that it had to be done as a trilogy to preserve its depth and scope. But early indications about “Hyperion” aren’t inspiring a lot of confidence in me. The HR article says the plan is to make a single film and that screenwriter Trevor Sands has taken “a selective approach to the two novels’ multiple points of view in a way that managed to coherently and unconfusingly tell the story.” Sounds to me like they’re considering dropping or severely stripping-down some of the characters and story lines and most likely favouring a single type of narrative style. I worry that what’s left might be a typical Hollywood slasher flick with a sci-fi backdrop. Lame.

“Hyperion” isn’t a confusing story. It’s demanding, certainly. There’s a lot going on that requires not only a reader’s attention to the plot, but a lot of thought about the philosophical issues raised. And a single film, even one allowed to stray into the 2-3 hour range, just wouldn’t cut it to cover all that.

A proper treatment of the Cantos needs, at the very least, a 3-5 part miniseries (like the Sci-Fi Channel’s great adaptation of “Dune” and “Children of Dune” a few years ago) with each part consisting of minimum 2 hours run time. Ideally, it should have a full TV season to properly flush it out. Here I’m thinking of HBO’s plans for George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Think about it, there are seven pilgrims who embark upon the journey to the Time Tombs, each with vastly different stories told in completely different narrative styles, and each having crucial bearing on the final outcome of the Cantos. Granted, Het Masteen doesn’t play much of a role directly and doesn’t really share his yarn, but by the second half (“The Fall of Hyperion”), you’ve got the Keats cybrid playing a central role. To have a faithful adaptation of Simmons brilliant work requires patience. The Cantos would need an introductory episode, followed by separate episodes for each of the pilgrims’ tales in order for them to be told in enough detail to make any sense and for them to have relevance to the “current” action. You’d then be up to speed enough to play out the events of the second act over the course of several other episodes. And because the perspectives and types of storytelling would change, such a series would offer a completely new experience within itself with every episode. This isn’t an extravagant budgeting of time either. Believe me, I’ve cut enough tape over the years as a reporter that I know you can pare a story down pretty significantly to get to the focus and still make it good, but ultimately, there’s a point where if you hack at it like the Shrike, if you don’t leave the necessary details, if you remove crucial perspectives, then you don’t have a story anymore. At least, not a good one.

I hope I’m wrong, but the more I think about this WB film in development, the more I become resigned to the fact that it will probably be a simple monster movie.

But, since we’re spending time speculating about a movie that hasn’t even started production yet, let’s follow the SF Signal lead and have some fun playing the casting game. Since they’re going ahead with this flick, who would be the best actors to play the key roles in “Hyperion”? Here are my picks:

Martin Silenus – Danny Devito
Father Hoyt – Edward Norton
Colonel Kassad – Oded Fehr
The Consul – John Cusack or Nathan Fillion (Fillion might be better as Endymion from the sequels)
Brawne Lamia – Rosario Dawson
Sol Weintraub – Gene Wilder (watch “Murder in a Small Town” if you don’t believe me)
Father Dure – Robert Duval or Sir Ian McKellen, maybe Al Pacino
Het Masteen – Chow Yun Fat
Rachel Weintraub – Jessica Brooks
John Keats – Jamie Bamber
Meina Gladstone – Lauren Becall
Sad King Billy – Terry Jones
Theo – David Tennant
Shrike Cult Bishop – Bill Duke

Who am I leaving out? More importantly, who would you cast, if you had the time and the resources to make “Hyperion” right?
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