Foundation Isaac Asimov

Right. So let’s lay it out here. I love Asimov. I’ve written graduate papers on ‘I, Robot’, and accomplished my senior dissertation by focusing on International Politics on the ‘Foundation’ trilogy. In short, I’m probably the first to fangirl over a ‘Foundation’ movie, and the last one to finish. But, when it was announced four years ago that a movie may be made, and then hinted at two years later, I knew that the inevitable silence that followed was… well.. inevitable.

The thing is with a lot of Asimov’s books, and case in point ‘I, Robot’, is that as fantastic as they are, they don’t translate well to movies. After all, if you get right down to it, ‘I, Robot’ is basically a series of short stories about robots who accidentally “malfunction” and how they get fixed. It’s essentially, a lot of talk about the ethics of AI and a not a very veiled metaphor for the Hegelian dialectic. Okay, that last part might just be me.

And what is ‘Foundation‘? An amazing series about… well, it’s hard to say. It’s about creating a civilization on the corner of a dying empire by using advanced mathematics, probabilities, and science in order to create a better, more perfect society, which is better for humanity. Well, really, it’s using all these things to predict the future by a made-up discipline called Psychohistory. If you haven’t read it, trust me when I say, it’s a book you do not put down. It’s a book you curse yourself for only buying the first one because now you have to wait until you can get the second and third.

But as a movie? Impossible.

I think there is a reason why books like ‘Cloud Atlas‘ don’t translate well to movies, and that is time jumps are not conducive for a two-hour cinema format. Especially, when the climax occurs within each short time line. There is, essentially, no such thing as an overarching plot that merits the dramatic closure that the medium of a movie demands.

It seems, then, that Roland Emmerich, who is perhaps more famous for his over-the-top action films like ‘2012’, ‘Independence Day’, and ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, agrees. In an interview with Empire Online, the director talked about his approach to ‘Foundation’ and about having second thoughts about making a big screen feature and adapting it into a mini-series instead:

“We’re trying to do it as a big mini-series, but even there you would have to change the story itself and set it in a time when the galaxy has fallen apart — and then you’re pretty much making a TV show with all these characters and playing all the scenes out. You can (do that) and we’ll see what happens. We tried so hard (to make it into a movie), honestly, because it’s one of my most favorite books. I just love it.”

I, of course, whole-heartedly agree. Though, even then, I think this may be to grand of a vision. Personally, however, I think ‘Foundation’ is more likely to fit a series of mini-series rather than one grand one. After all, what does the antagonistic “The Mule” have to do with the trials and tribulations of setting up “Foundation”? Each book is important in it’s own right, and only tangentially related to the other in the grand scheme of Psychohistory.

Now, I understand I sound very vague there. What I mean to say is that there are entire sets of characters who never know the other. Ever. It’s hard to have dramatic intrigue across one mini-series if you’re going to try to make it feel cohesive.

In short, I’m excited to see if ‘Foundation’ will ever come to fruition (thought it seems even Emmerich is doubtful), and I think the mini-series is a perfect way to tackle it. I, however, am slightly dubious that they won’t make the same mistakes with the mini-series that they would in a movie.