Hollywood have given us so many high budget, spectacular special effects movies recently, it’s almost hard to remember that it wasn’t always like this. Science Fiction movies used to be mostly B grade low budgets specials with maybe a guy in some kind of monster suit and spaceships suspended from visible wires. I recently did some research on movies and found that while there were a lot of bad scifi movies dating back to the twenties, there weren’t that many fantasy movies. I guess the effects were so bad that most producers wouldn’t take a risk on fantasy, or else scifi was just more popular. I think the old movie that really went over the top for me was Forbidden Planet. Made by Disney, it had ground breaking special effects and big name stars. It still took a couple of decades before that became the norm. Now we have Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Star Trek movies. There are even TV shows with great sets and effects, and all the big name actors seem to jump at the chance to get a role in one of these spectaculars. Now there are still a lot of great books out there that have yet to be made into movies, while Hollywood goes through a remake cycle of old movies that can be updated by new effects. It saddens me that they keep ignoring so many good books. Especially the one I really want to see, Larry Niven’s Ringworld.
I would think that most true hard science fiction fans know the work of Niven. His Known Space series is his most famous setting. And Ringworld is the most well known novel within that setting. Now Hollywood likes to wow us with special effects. Death Stars, miles long spaceships, huge asteroids falling from the sky. Ringworld is so big that the crew of the Death Star would die of old age before they caused appreciable damage to it. It would take a thousand Enterprises beaming their entire crews to the surface to explore even a significant fraction of the surface. What could be more spectacular than a ring built around a sun, with thousand kilometer high walls along the edges to keep the air in as it rotates around the central star. Three million times the surface area of the Earth, with tens of thousands of species that evolved from, well, us. With enormous shades orbiting between it and the sun, mimicking the day/night cycle. Huge Bussard Ramjets using the plasma of the sun to keep the ring centered. Even the defense system is huge, magnetic lines on the floor of the world pulling gas from the sun and turning it into a huge gas laser. Sprinkle in advanced technology and aliens; a half ton carnivorous feline (Kzinti), a two headed herbivore (Puppeteers) and the ultimate killing machine which is what we are supposed to become (Pak) and you have one of the greatest cast of characters in scifi history. And the technology is there to make all of this come to life. There have been many rumors through the years that Ringworld was coming to the silver screen. None have materialized. There is a current rumor going around that it will be done, but I will believe it when I see it. Maybe it is that Hollywood can’t come up with a good enough script dumbed down for those who know nothing about science fiction, the oh wow crowd who goes to see mindless action. It is a shame, but I can see a lot of people coming out of the theater shaking their heads and wondering what all that was about. I do know that I will pay to see this movie, probably a couple of times. And then I will buy the blue ray, and then the extended blue ray, and watch it over and over again. Because even though the wow factor is cool, the wow factor combined with love of the material is the ultimate cool.