Article on film adaptations of space books, short stories, poems and plays

It’s World Space Week right now, so we’re turning our Streaming Spotlight on classic tales that have been adapted into great space movies – some of them more than once. Together they talk about the dream of reaching beyond this fragile planet to explore new frontiers and secure the future of humanity, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe or that the humanity itself will not be profoundly changed in the process. Action, adventure and a measure of hard science sit alongside philosophy and reflection on the human condition, and if you live in the UK, all of these films are available for you to stream now.


dune – Sky Go, Now TV, Virgin TV Go

Few people have ever looked as far into the future as Frank Herbert, without tackling such a wide range of issues. Widely celebrated but also often misunderstood, Dune is the story of a young man pushed by circumstances and centuries of planning into a position of power he recognizes as destructive and dangerous, confronting him with a moral dilemma that he will end by fleeing. It’s a story about the dangers of charismatic rulers that also explores ecological issues, corporatism, religion and more as different factions vie for control of space travel – but if that sounds difficult, don’t worry. no, there are also giant monsters. Denis Villeneuve is currently filming the second half of this adaptation. You can also find David Lynch’s version on Netflix, watch the miniseries on Amazon FreeVee, or tune into Rakuten TV to find out what Jodorowsky’s Dune might have looked like.



Solaris – Filmbox, Amazon, Chilli

While British and American writers dominated science fiction in the West throughout the 20th century, a separate tradition developed in Eastern Europe, with different concerns. It gave way to a host of great films, only a handful of which made it to the international market. Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky, adapted from the book by Stanislaw Lem, was one of them. Following a psychiatrist who travels to a space station orbiting a newly discovered planet to find out what happened to his crew, it introduces one of the cleverest conceptions of extraterrestrial intelligence to this world. day and has even more to say about human beings. It’s a demanding film that will require your full attention – if you want a stripped-down version that’s still a decent watch, check out Stephen Soderbergh’s take, which is currently showing on Disney Plus and Virgin TV Go – but it’s well worth it. . . It will stimulate your intellect, break your heart and linger in your dreams.



2001: A Space Odyssey – Virgin TV Go, Amazon, Apple TV

Arthur C Clarke was a writer concerned with the greatest themes of science fiction, but not always the most distant. He was interested in how we go from here to there. Closer to home than some of the other films discussed here, 2001, adapted by Stanley Kubrick from Clarke’s 1948 short story The Sentinel, is about a group of astronauts searching for the discovery of a mysterious black obelisk on the Moon. it explores ideas around guided evolution and the relationship between humans and computers (with Douglas Rain providing the voice of the iconic HAL 9000 supercomputer), and its stunning visual realization of space in an era long before CGI make it the model for a generation of filmmakers, its influence still resonates today. The cold beauty of Kubrick’s style perfectly suits the romanticism of the void and the questions around the relationship between the intellectual leaps made in our distant past and the challenges that await us in the future.

The Martian

The Martian

The Martian – Disney Plus, Virgin TV Go

One of the few strong sci-fi films adapted from later work, Ridley Scott’s story of a stranded astronaut surviving thanks to a combination of potatoes and Abba began life as a a book by Andy Weir, who, like Clarke before him, is interested in transition. between life on Earth and a possible future among the stars. Because it was published just over a decade ago, the science it describes is still very close to our own, and it’s informed by an understanding of conditions on the Martian surface that wasn’t all simply not available to previous authors. Matt Damon makes a kind track that most viewers will enjoy as he uses every bit of hardware at his disposal to earn a living, while back on Earth, his colleagues hatch a rescue plan that will take months to implement and might not work. . By showing us all of this, Weir and Scott make two clear points: that the environment on Mars is very harsh and can be controlled.


Aniara Photo: Courtesy of EIF

Aniara – BFI Player, Virgin TV Go, Arrow

In 1956, Harry Martinson, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote an epic poem on the subject of generation ships – those ships which one day might be expected to carry mankind to other worlds while passengers individuals die of old age along the way, their descendants being the ones who will eventually arrive. In this case, the ship is not designed as such – it just goes to Mars, but is knocked over by a minor impact and flies into the interstellar void. it’s a ship designed to sustain its crew and passengers indefinitely, but with no jobs to keep them occupied and no hope of falling to the planet for thousands of years, what will become of them? Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja bring it to the screen in a carefully prosaic form, presenting an environment that we can all recognize, a spaceship that seems to have been designed by IKEA, part hotel and part shopping center, in complete contradiction to the deep pressures. Time and social crisis. Martinson’s poem has also inspired operas, and it’s a small film with a big vision.

forbidden planet

forbidden planet

forbidden planet -Virgin TV Go, Amazon, Google Play

For the first known literary work taking place in space, we must go back to Lucian of Samosata in the middle of the 2nd century. Between yesterday and today, other works have reflected on this, even if they did not always bear it directly. With its themes of isolation, colonization and meeting new explorers, Shakespeare’s The Tempest provided perfect material for adaptation in science fiction form in Fred Wilcox’s 1956 classic. Walter Pidgeon takes on the role of the magician, his intelligence enhanced by what he found on a planet whose only other surviving occupant is his daughter (Ann Francis, a naive and often objectified but willful view of Miranda). Leslie Nielsen, in pre-Plane! days, it’s the captain who steals his heart after his ship lands there and has to make repairs – but something kills his crew. Bard themes are given new life thanks to Robby the robot as clumsy Ariel and, in place of Caliban, monsters from the id.

Ender's game

Ender’s game

Ender’s game – Netflix, Amazon Prime, SkyGo

One of the hallmarks of early 20th century science fiction was its close relationship to colonialism. Worlds were there to be conquered, their native inhabitants to become trading partners at best, more often grateful subjects. Those who resisted were enemies to be swept away. in the second half of the century this gradually began to change, as authors became increasingly aware that outsiders could have their own rights. Orson Scott Card’s young adult novel, Ender’s Game, played an important role in this change. Brought to the screen by Gavin Hood, it features Asa Butterfield as a boy recruited into the military because of his gambling abilities and trained as a strategic asset – taking some time to realize that’s no longer a game he plays and that real creatures are killed. Thematically similar to Starship Troopers, which was adapted from Robert Heinlein’s Farmer In The Sky and is currently streaming on Disney Plus and Virgin TV Go), it ditches direct satire in favor of a sensitive but still adventurous take that will appeal to the most youth. public.

About Herbert L. Leonard

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