Roland Emmerich Directing Asimov's Foundation Trilogy
by Brandon Lee Tenney
January 16, 2009
We originally announced last summer that Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy was headed to the big screen. After bouncing around between multiple production companies, the master of disaster, Roland Emmerich, and Columbia Pictures won an auction Thursday for the screen and development rights to Foundation. Best known for his disaster blockbusters (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and the forthcoming 2012), Emmerich will be using Foundation as a directorial vehicle - this time on a galactic scale. Emmerich and Columbia won the rights over others like Alex Proyas and Warner Brothers.
Foundation is an epic saga spanning hundreds of years where humanity finds itself scattered throughout the galaxy under the oppressive rule of the Galactic Empire. Originally published in serial format as five separate short stories beginning in 1942, Foundation tells the story of a group of scientists, the Psychohistorians, who are doing all they can to preserve knowledge as the colonies around them steadily regress. The study of psychohistory equates every possible outcome of a large society into readable, predictable mathematics, allowing its practitioners to accurately predict long-term events. Through this insight, a discovery with disastrous consequences is made and a plan is set in motion to avert it.
Although Columbia did acquire the rights to the trilogy, there's been no word yet on whether Foundation will be a single film venture, or if the entire Foundation trilogy will eventually make its way to the big screen. We're expecting Sony to test the waters and see how this first film does before they greenlight any sequels, given the size of the production. Whatever the case, Emmerich seems to be the perfect fit. However, I am weary of the difficulty to adapt Asimov's saga. With such lengths of time and a plot reliant on long-term, plodding effects, can Emmerich make it exciting while still being faithful to the source material?
Reader Feedback - 40 Comments
Cody on Jan 16, 2009
So it'll look awesome and be dumb as sediment. Nice.
Fuelbot on Jan 16, 2009
There are lots of problems inherent with adapting this wonderful saga to film. The biggest for me is the length and breadth of the story, which just couldn't be contained in one film, it wouldn't be possible. If they could get this right I would be very excited, but I doubt it's possible. It's not like Asimov is even popular these days, who would go as far as to make a trilogy. I hope they do, it was one of the stories that amazed me as a kid.
nemof on Jan 16, 2009
I loved the original trilogy, as well, and don't see it being easily adapted to film. Maybe. Slan would be much a much better choice.
RandyG on Jan 16, 2009
Foundation is an example of a great book that you really cant see as a film (or a good film). Its argubaly the best sci-fi book ever written and dubbed as the Lord of the Rings for Sci-fi, however it looks as if it wont be treated the same with this lame director.
Beetle on Jan 16, 2009
He makes a fairly good disaster film, but he will fail at this. The breadth of this film really is epic, knowing Hollywood they'll reduce it down to it's most basic elements. Scratch that, they'll dumb it down.
DK on Jan 16, 2009
Although Foundation is considered one of the most important and influential science fiction sagas ever written, oft compared to LoTR, aside from the sheer breadth of the film, Asimov is the kind of author that relies exclusively on his grand concepts. Asimov does not know how to write character, therefore what must drive a feature film, the characters, are usually silhouettes at best in the source material. This is what concerns me most when following this particular adaptation process.
Brandon Lee Tenney on Jan 16, 2009
Not knowing the story behind the trilogy and after reading Brandon's^ post, it would be cool if the movie(s) could be done without little character development and make the story/visuals the main "character" of the film. Kind of like 2001 where, in the movie, the characters were not well developed. We'll have to wait and see. But I'm excited. I just hope it doesnt turn into an independence day type movie. I'd like it to be a more thought provoking movie. However I am not familiar with the story.
Dan W on Jan 16, 2009
yeah no faith whatsoever in the director. this guy has shown time and time again that he doesn't care about crafting a decent story or characters. he's all about the spectacle. if a talented filmmaker like alex proyas can't properly adapt an asimov story, how is a hack like emmerich going to do it correctly. plus studios would not properly adapt the book because of the scope of the story and the complexity of the ideas. it would be too much of a risk for the studio. not looking forward to this at all. i'll just go back to reading the novels.
andrew on Jan 16, 2009
Roland Emmerich? Are you serious? First of all, this is a practically unfilmable set of novels -- and secondly... Roland Emmerich?? Could you pick a worse director for this project?
DogChasingCars on Jan 16, 2009
Awww fuck... Why, why WHYY!!!??
Redge on Jan 16, 2009
Emmerich has proven that he can film a good opening, but his films run out of steam very quickly. And most (if not all) Hollywood studios wouldn't bother themselves to get a proper feel for Asimov's work. Thumbs down on this.
Setebos on Jan 16, 2009
#2 is right.
J.White on Jan 17, 2009
can someone tell me why Hollowood doesn't make a movie from Dan Simmons Hyperion saga?
avi on Jan 17, 2009
i mean Hollywood of course! 🙂
avi on Jan 17, 2009
Ender's Game got put into turnaround, it wouldn't surprise me if this one doesn't make it any further. I just don't see this working out.
Lady Aerin on Jan 17, 2009
why couldn't WB have gotten their hands on it? I bet they'd at least do justice to this series. i personally never was able to finish it (too detailed and lacking in characters for me), but i still respect it as an amazing series. too bad Mr. Emmerich won't be able to do that.
dave13 on Jan 17, 2009
This is going to crash and burn extravagantly and expensively. Roland Emmerich has never tackled real Science Fiction in his life and has never shown any desire to do so. Emmerich also doesn't know how to sustain a movie (12 is right). He comes up with an eye candy concept for one particular shot or two (This massive ring of stone is really a Stargate! This massive saucer is right over the White House and blows it up! And the massive Mothership is even MORE massive and IT blows up! This massive dinosaur invades New York! These spiders grow to a massive size! This massive flood drowns New York and then becomes a massive icepack! This massive mastodon runs amuck! The world comes to a massive end!) and gets the greenlight. One of the best, and one of the most hardcore science fiction trilogys ever written (in later years Asimov wrote additions to the trilogy but those really just started an entire new ark.), Roland is taking on something he has neither the intelligence or imagination to handle. I'm not saying this to insult the man, though I know it might sound like it. I haven't the capacity to be President of the United States (and neither have some of our presidents), but at least I know my limitations. I also have to agree with 17 on WB. If anyone was going to do this series justice it would be them.
Feo Amante on Jan 17, 2009
Ever since 10,000 BC I have no respect for Roland as a movie director or producer whatsoever
Scott McHenry on Jan 17, 2009
Emmerich will never make a good movie. He's a big budget Uwe Boll. There, I said it.
DinoChow on Jan 17, 2009
Emmerich can be fun, but this film would be practically impossible in the first place (unless it was sort of like 2001: A Space Odyssey) and will almost certainly be bad. Hmm...maybe if they could do a really high-budget, high-production values HBO miniseries, it might work...but probably not.
scm1000 on Jan 17, 2009
Someone needs to do for Asimov what Kubrick did for Clarke. Emmerich as far from Kubrick as you can come.
shige on Jan 17, 2009
Darn. Why did they have to put such a piss-poor director at the helm of a potentially awesome film??
Ajax on Jan 17, 2009
avoidz on Jan 18, 2009
Oh God no. Oh God no. Oh God no. Og Hod no. Emmerich on the Foundation trilogy? *clutches "Prelude to Foundation" tightly and cries in a corner*
Ganaesh D. on Jan 19, 2009
Terrible choice: Foundation is such a complex book... a director like Emmerich will ruin Asimov's legacy! Please join our group on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=57522728336
Aldo Iannotti on Jan 21, 2009
Emmerich is not a "master of disaster." He is a disaster. This is an insanely bad idea. Let's take a man who gave us such breaindead creations as Godzilla, 10,000 BC, or Independence Day, and put him at the helm of the greatest epic in the history of science fiction. This is an undertaking that requires talent, subtlety, and intelligence. Putting Emmerich in charge is akin to having a butcher perform plastic surgery. No offense to the butchers, of course.
The Reader on Feb 25, 2009
More like having a garbage truck driver perform plastic surgery. No offense to the garbage truck drivers, of course. I imagine Roland Emmerich in future interviews saying things like, "Der audience is going to luff der spaceships. Vhere der special effects und explosions are concerned, ve spared no expense. Der dogfights in space vill be huge also mit der THX sounds. Der money shot, uff course, vill be when der giant spaceship crashes righten tru der planet and comes outten der other side. It vill be cinematic majesty! Dis is vat der pipple vant!" Yeah, I expect Roland Emmerich's FANTASTIC VOYAGE and FOUNDATION TRILOGY to be two expensive mouthfuls of "Der"!
Feo Amante on Feb 25, 2009
I don't think we should be so quick to judge what Emmerich will do here ... meanwhile, here's a podcast that discusses how the Foundation trilogy responds to Laplace's Demon, or the proposition that, given sufficient knowledge of all conditions, we can know everything about the future...
Paul Levinson on Mar 15, 2009
I share many of the apprehensions about Mr. Emmerich and the adaptation of Azimov's gem to the big screen. Despite the negatives, the Foundation trilogy is a monumental challenge I pray can be overcome. If handled properly, the trilogy could become another Star Wars event and attract a similar cult following. Does anyone truly understand the challenge I suggest? As I see it, the principal gauntlet tossed at Columbia and Mr. Emmerich is to help restore acting as a noble profession. In case you've missed it, on-film character development, engaging plot structure, and superb acting is fast disappearing. Meaningful actor performance has been replaced by whizz-bang special effects, screenplays full of utterly pathetic lines, and an actor's ability to make wild-eyed expressions. What has happened to acting performance that touches one's soul, tears at the heart, or climaxes a scene with memorable words or an unforgettable gesture? Frankly, if acting was my chosen profession, I would demand changes before true artists are replaced by lizards, ducks, cavemen, and cartoon characters like we see in some television commercials! The handwriting is on every movie screen today. With a story like Foundation, and a strong cast of dedicated actors, I am convinced that this beloved trilogy can be brought to the screen. Not only that, it can be presented in a way that will earn money, win awards, and become a screen classic. Even more important, the actors involved just might regain lost prestige and garner justifiable praise for a job well done! Sadly, I see a downside that mimics the extinction of the dinosaur. After all, we just might witness the trashing of a literary masterpiece along with positive evidence that actors are no longer required to make a movie, any movie. Pax vobiscum.
Harry Gutterman on Jan 5, 2010
Dear all, Dear Harry Gutterman, I carefully read your previous comment. And i totally agree with you and your analysis of this great movie project. Roland Emmerich has been interviewed few weeks ago (In french: http://www.fondation-lefilm.com/news/robert-rodat-avance-sur-le-script). The main points he focused on were: 1: The rewriting of the story (working on it with Robert Rodat) in order to give coherence to the trilogy. 2: Empowering this coherence by strengthening the characters. Long Life to Earth!
Fondation film on Jan 12, 2010
Oh yeah. Roland Emmerich's whole cinematic history is about strong characters and coherent stories!
Feo Amante on Jan 15, 2010
Feo Amante, I do not say coherent stories are the main focus of Emmerich. I say he thinks this is the best way to deal with this difficult story. By the way, it's what he tolds...
Fondation film on Jan 29, 2010
As I said before, Foundation is a challenge. Can everyone sense the problem already? Robert Rodat is helping to "rewrite" the story "in order to give coherence to the trilogy." That's like trying to rewrite Einstein's equations to make them understandable to the man in the street. Laughable. Bridges and smooth transitions are required, not rewrites. Foundation to F&E to SE; bridges and transitions. Rewrites will likely give all stomach gas.
Harry Gutterman on Jan 29, 2010
I've no doubt that Rodat can pull it off. The thing is, Robert has to write a story that is coherent to Roland Emmerich. Roland has a proven, unbroken track record, of not understanding coherent story structure, plot, or even characterization. He's like Michael Bay only without logic. Emmerich only understands the KA-BOOM and doesn't know or understand what leads up to that KA-BOOM. You only have to watch any of Roland's movies to understand this. Flash bright colors and noise in Roland's face and he'll be msemerized. My friend, Kelly Parks, enjoys INDEPENDENCE DAY for what he calls "Stupid Fun", yet even as a fan of that specific movie, he sees all of its flaws that make it worse when it could have been better. Roland got lucky for having Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in his picture. Will and Jeff largely made fun of all of their lines - even the serious moments were mocked. Otherwise, the best part of every Emmerich film is the part he doesn't direct, and that's the SFX. The SFX department doesn't need Roland, but he is entirely dependent upon them.
Feo Amante on Jan 31, 2010
Roland Emmerich is incapable if making films that have anything other than !!!EXPLOSIONS!!! happening every 3 minutes. Columbia has their collective heads up their wazzoos if they think this endeavour is headed anywhere other than the slag heap of every other bad film idea that some yotz gave the green light to. The Foundation Trilogy could conceivably work as a mini-series, with a script by someone who would know how to honor the source material (like, say, Harlan Ellison...) but as it spans hundreds of years of time, with no single character to hold things together for the attention-deficit crowd, this Emmerich mutation is going nowhere but to the straight- to- DVD market, if at all. It'll be all KA-BOOM, no ideas. Where the hell is an up and coming Stanley Kubrick when you need him?
Severian on Feb 16, 2010
The Foundation series could be presented on screen much like DUNE. A mini series with extended nights then brought together on DVD as a single movie. Dune also had an extremely large scope but, had much more action and visul aspects to it. Foundation and subsequent novels are more about plot and counter plots than action. Obviously action can be built into a movie at certain points but Foundation reads like history and plays as such.
ibdjoker on May 14, 2010
wow, the next three years are full of a bunch of hack big budget directors ruining all the great sci-fi fantasy dynasties that made people love the genre. PLEASE PLEASE do not watch this movie. you will just be encouraging them (and by popularizing their work, turning future generations off to great novels.)
nomennescio on Jun 4, 2010
It's Harry Gutterman, just back from Trantor. After my posts last year I decided to escape the foggy land of Emmerich. I wanted to visit with other Asimov zealots who were angered when the master of the Foundation trilogy decided to reopen the story and merge it with the robot series. Certainly, his literary ploy deserves applause, but I didn't like the sleight-of-hand. Of course, the merge might give Emmerich an idea to exploit Foundation's Edge, Prelude To Foundation, and Forward The Foundation. In that regard, we might be rescued by a screen rights legality. Then again, as I suggested last year, good actors working with an excellent screenplay might save us from Roland "The Mule" Emmerich. Good actors? Sadly, I offer no candidates. Most of my actor heroes are in a parallel universe, still learning Shakespeare. Wow! I appreciated Severian's wisdom about Harlan Ellison. Okay, so I still have hope. Can anyone counsel on the screen rights matter for the three Foundation supplements?
Harry Gutterman on Feb 26, 2011
Two words: Battlefield Earth.
BrianC on Mar 19, 2011
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