Many of the younger science-fiction and fantasy fans out there really don't understand just how good they've had it. They've seen so many top-notch, high-budget, meticulously faithful adaptations of the great works of sci-fi and fantasy that they don't even realize that there was an era where something like "I Am Legend" or "I, Robot" was an exception, not the rule. Back in the bad old days, the source material was just grist for the Hollywood mill, and the finished adaptation was barely even recognizable as the classic book it started out as. So in order to remind you younger fans of this shameful era, here are a few of the lesser-known adaptations of popular sci-fi and fantasy classics.
Brewster's Silmarillions: Montgomery Brewster is left one million dollars by his eccentric uncle, Melkor, but he must spend it all in one year in order to be granted his true legacy, the three legendary Silmaril jewels of the Elven Kingdom. Can he spend the money fast enough? Will the elven host of the Noldor kill him and take back the Silmarils which they see as theirs by right? Will he find true love, or will the First Age of Middle-Earth end before he gets the girl? This wacky 80s comedy attempted to answer those questions, but despite a solid performance by Richard Pryor, it failed.
The Forever War of the Roses: This Danny DeVito-helmed adaptation of Joe Haldeman's classic science-fiction novel jettisoned most of the book to focus on the angle of the relationship between William Mandella and Marygay Potter. The result, a black comedy about a couple that no longer love each other but have difficulty obtaining a divorce due to frequent changes in the divorce laws (frequent, that is, to them--they experience a year in subjective time for every century that passes, due to their frequent use of near-lightspeed travel) turned out to be confusing and alienating to average audiences. It did, however, get good reviews from many critics.
The Sexy Beast That Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World: By now, even if you haven't seen this film, most of you have probably heard of Harlan Ellison's infamous response at learning that his short story about alien beings poisoning the Earth with madness had somehow been turned into a crime caper starring Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley. The negative publicity did nothing to harm the film, though, which took in $8 million at the box office and gave Kingsley an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Brian's Song Of Ice And Fire: It was, perhaps, insanely ambitious to attempt to realize George R.R. Martin's entire saga about the war of succession to the Iron Throne of Westeros as a two-hour long made-for-television movie, but to make the eventual winner a terminally-ill football player was definitely one step too far. Despite the sentimentality of the story, fans of the original were enraged, and the story's signature line, "I love Brian Piccolo...and I will see him on the Iron Throne," became a by-word for B-movie schmaltz.
The Colour of Money: Without the budget or the special-effects technology to depict Terry Pratchett's sprawling Discworld novel, this film adaptation centered the action entirely in Ankh-Morpork, with Paul Newman portraying Rincewind as a retired pool hustler who goes back into action when Twoflower, a skilled but naive player from the Agatean Empire (played by Tom Cruise) comes to town hoping to score some quick cash. Rincewind takes Twoflower under his wing, but the personality clashes between them form the bulk of the film's story.