Missing in Action

Nov 9, 22:40 by IROSF
Thread for the discussion of Military SF in film, or MaryAnn Johanson's essay.

The article is here.
Nov 10, 11:57 by Denny Nelson
I agree that there is not really a genre for military Science Fiction in film. I'm not really sure I'd appreciate
one in theater films. It would take something along the lines of Peter Jackson's LOTR to film something like Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg and the 42nd or Spaceship for the King. There are too many plot twists and threads. The big screen has to limit the time involved for a two or three hour film. I shudder to think of the cuts in a great piece of literature just to keep it short enough for a two hour feature. It wouldn't surprise me to find out the author's themselves were reluctant to place their stories out there for a director to chop up under studio pressure. The only stories I can think of which could possibly work would be segments of David Drake's, Hammer's Slammers novels, or some of Christopher Anvil's Short stories.
DVD's on the other hand can handle hours of plot development, and can add additional discs as necessary. Look at the 4 1/2 hour Dune, or the extended versions that come out on the DVD. Most of the military SF that I know of goes on for at least two novels, and some go on for several, Miles Vorkosigan is a prime example. Could you imagine the out of control style of Miles lasting into a box office movie. I would like to, but I doubt it will happen.
I think that there is plenty of directing talent out there to do the genre justice, if pressure was kept off of them for length involved. I'd love to see the director of Tears of the Sun Antoine Fuqua, direct Ian Douglas's The Legacy Trilogy
Nov 10, 12:09 by Randy Ernst-Meyer
You seem to have forgotten Forbidden Planet the film that arguably forms the basis for Star Trek and clearly demonstrates what a military/peace keeping force (at least by 1950's standards) was all about.
This was no slam BTW. Your article is quite astute. It is very odd that an industry that can turn out megabuck schloc like the Star Wars six has not produced The Mote in God's Eye yet. Military SF has been a staple of the TV market for more than forty years. Twilight Zone, Outer Limits heck even Doctor Who have done many episodes about future soldiers and their armies. Stargate SG1 is one of the most successful SF shows out there and Battlestar Galactica is not only popular but a critical success as well. It is a little odd that the movie industry will film almost every other imaginable military story with the exception of SF.
Nov 10, 14:09 by Scott Parrish
In my mind there are several general types of stories in Military fiction/media. All examples are generalizations and I know that there can be more than one type

The first is the Historical: Stories like the Longest Day, Midway, and Gettysburg. I would also include These are stories in which the larger contect is geneally assumed to be known and which the dramatic conflict is provided by the battle(s) itself. This type is very hard to do in SF simply because of how much context much be given. Aliens is a SF example here, though the battle is a very small engagement.

The next is the Contextual. Stories in which the context of the war provides the settings and much of the overall plot but the stories themselves tend to be about the indivuals reacting to the situations. Band of Brothers, Aubrey/Maturin, Horatio Hornblower. The stories tend to be how the war/battle is affecting the character and how the character affects the war/battle. This is my personal favorite and is the hardest to do. To do it correctly needs time and pacing which movies dont' have. I think Battlestar Galactica falls here, As do the Honor Harrington Novels.

The third type is the Incidental, which stories set in a military and even in wartime, but the stories tend to be more about external or internal factors than the conflict itself. Bye-Bye Blacksheep, Big Red One. SF examples would include Star Wars, Lord of the Rings.

The Last type is the Coincidental where the Setting might provide Ranks and Uniforms, but the stories really have nothing at all to do with the military. Kelly's Heroes, and Apocolypse Now. In SF Most of Star Trek falls here.
Nov 10, 14:17 by travitt hamilton
I agree with elements of both the previous posts. It's almost counterintuitive in some ways, but it seems obvious that the best medium for long form SF and military SF in particular is TV/DVD. On the other hand, it doesn't seem a surprise to me that theatrical film has not met these needs. See the David Lynch Dune. It's sort of interesting in its own right, but it isn't successful SF by a long shot.

The advent and popularity of large format widescreen TVs means that there isn't even a huge image quality loss by filmakers shifting their attention to the formerly less prestigious medium. Also, TV has been known for decades as a writers' medium.

Battlestar Galactica, by the way, is outstanding SF, I think. Whereas Star Wars is often grouped with SF, it strikes me as having more fanatasy elements. It gets thrown in with SF because of the spaceships.
Nov 11, 23:30 by Matthew Rees
Maybe Star Wars doesn't fit the military SF mold, but one could make a case that the latter part of Return of the Jedi qualifies, between the Rebel Commandos' assault on the shield bunker on Endor, and the fleet's assault on the Death Star. For that matter, Revenge of the Sith has its share of military action.

If you include small-screen SF as well, many episodes of Babylon 5 would qualify, and of course there's Space: Above & Beyond.

And if The Siege qualifies as military SF because of its speculative political events, then Crimson Tide should certainly qualify as well.
Nov 12, 09:09 by Denny Nelson
Any or all of the above could, under the proper cicumstances be considered military SF. However all of them lumped together, not even considering good or bad, do not make up a hundreth of the other drivel out there. I'm only counting the B movies which have little going for them aside from an actor's name. The reason for this, in my eyes, is that there are so few of us who enjoy good Science Fiction, let alone the military type which takes a particularly bent view point. One, I am proud to say I posses. Whether it be ship to ship combat of Honor Harrington, or the desperate foot sloggers of John Ringo, I like them all. I'm sure that in the middle of a Con with someone's elbow in your eye, that it doesn't seem like there are that few of us. (I haven't been to one so I'm conjecturing.) but place the total attendance of a Con next to the total attendance, televised as well as in person, of a football game.
Ain't no comparison Jack. We are definitly out numbered. We don't even get stats.


If there were a way to convince one (1) studio to put out one or two well written short story movies, (Big screen, or DVD I think you would see at least a short period of interest. But there are so many other distractions which are taking everyones attention, and rightfully so. The War, Terrorists, The political fisticuffs between the liberals, and the conservatives (always bares carefull attention). (Kinda like the Terrorists....Sorry ....not), Making ends meet with the energy prices up. Jobs, kids, and repairs etc... I use to read a book a week. Now I'm lucky to read one a month. (Currently The Sharp End by David Drake.) Not complaining, just adapting. I would love to see a good SF movie. Military or otherwise.

The small screen has done a lot. Babylon 5, Firefly, The various Trek's, SG-1 and sequels, and Battlestar Galactica. Most of these are from the Sci-Fi channel or other cable networks. The regular networks would rather chase each other with their reality crap, or sitcoms which even a beer drinking couch potato can figure out by the first station break. News shows, oh lord don't let me forget the ever depressing, liberal news programs. Two or three time a night on all broadcast channels. Here let us show you how bad the government really is, if it isn't liberal.

Sorry, I digress. Science Fiction has always been the red headed step child in the Media, and only over the last thirty years or so has it been actually acknowledged as a viable medium. Can anyone remember what happened to the first Battlestar Galactica. Constantly pre-empted, or time changes with out notification. Anyone besides me think that was a little odd. (It's not paranoia, they really are out to get us.) Only last year was a fantasy awarded several well diserved Oscars. This is thanks greatly to the small screen, Star Trek, and to the large screen Star Wars. Any one remember the problems both Roddenberry, and Lucas had to get these projects started. Since these we have picked up a few good series and one or two good movies, and a lot of pablum (Battle between the stars, and Lost in Space).

I have no idea how to interest any studio into making what we like when there are so few of us. If anyone has ideas let's hear them cause I'm fresh out at the moment.
Nov 14, 12:20 by Grant Coble
You may have hit on it in referring to the episodic nature of military stories. In television, film and literature, these stories do tend toward the episodic, detailing the day-to-day routines of the characters, punctuated by moments of extreme violence. The exceptions are stories which focus on a single battle - but even these will spend the first two acts involved with the lives and backgrounds of the characters, and then devote the final act to the battle.

A prime example in SF - and I'm surprised you didn't mention it - was the short-lived Fox series from 1995, Space: Above and Beyond.
Nov 15, 06:39 by Denny Nelson
I didn't get to see very much of that particular show. I was on swing shift at the time. I only saw, I think, two on the Sci-Fi channel a few years back. One of those was in a combat situation on a planet, and looked pretty good. (I don't recall much of it.) In the other they were pilots???? I know Marines are good but Geeeeez, what happened to specialization.

I can see where the show would be excellent if it could be done as Band of Brothers, Tears of the Sun, or Saving Private Ryan were done. With the special effects currently available, it could be a awsomly, intensive series, or mini-series. I don't know what the budget was on B.O.B. but I rather think that a network would balk at such expense. Especially for such a limited audience. You would have to manage to interest HBO, Showtime, or one of the major film studios to pull it off. (Could you imagine HBO doing a series like Rome, or Deadwood on something from Jerry Pournelle, or David Weber.
My mind tries to boogle at the thought.)
Nov 15, 13:30 by Jennifer Adams
I heard they are doing "Ender's Game". That could be a very nice addition.
   

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