Thursday, May 27, 2010

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU: Hollywood’s Next Science Fiction Romance Film

Hot on the heels of AVATAR comes THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (September 2010), Hollywood’s next big budget science fiction romance. Adapted from the 1954 short story Adjustment Team by renowned author Philip K. Dick, the forthcoming film, which stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, is about an “…affair between a politician and a ballerina [that] is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.

Here’s the trailer:

Does the trailer promise a heckuva science fiction romance film, or what?! When I looked it up at Wikipedia, the entry even described it as “an upcoming science fiction romance film”! Fingers crossed it has a happily ever after (and knowing how much Hollywood studios love an upbeat ending, I’m feeling pretty darn optimistic). Methinks that if you’re a fan of DARK CITY, you will enjoy THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.

Now here’s the veeeerrry interesting part: In Dick Does Chick Flick, SF Signal staff blogger JP Frantz bemoans the fact that the original story had been tweaked in the process of adapting it for the big screen. Here are his feelings in his own words:

Is this some sort of mad attempt by the writers to cram a romance storyline into a PKD novel?

I’m sorry—what what what? “Mad” attempt?! Writers are insane for wanting to include a romance in a science fiction story? One might think them’s fightin’ words. Here’s my response to Mr. Frantz’s statement:

Not that there's anything wrong with a little romance, right?! *kiss kiss*

I just re-watched BLADE RUNNER a few weeks ago (many years since my first viewing), and loved revisiting the romantic subplot just as much as the other elements. It supplemented the main plot quite nicely. It's all in the execution.

And besides, at the risk of splitting hairs, the writers would be including a romance in the movie, not the novel. So it'd be more like an alternate universe (albeit by way of Hollywood marketing departments) version of the original story. Hey, it worked for AVATAR, right? Besides, it might attract more women to the movie, and by extension, SF. Let's just hope the writers included a romance that feels organic to the story. If it's not, then we can chalk it up to another #Hollywoodfail.

I will definitely watch this move and if the romance has a happy ending it will make for a good blog post. On my science fiction *romance* blog.


Unfortunately, Mr. Frantz isn’t alone in his distaste for the inclusion of a romance. An io9 article about the film expresses the sentiment that “…scribe George Nolfi is taking a lot of liberties with the story. Instead of being married, Damon's character [is] single — until he meets a lovely ballerina, played by Blunt.”

Ding ding ding! But wait! Another contender has just entered the ring:

The io9 article included a quote by actor Emily Blunt, who had this to say about the film: “…the focus of the story is not so much on Damon discovering that his world is a lie, or figuring out why everything is fabricated, but on the dark forces keeping the couple apart, and their will-they-or-won't-they romance.”

Regardless of what the naysayers are saying, count me in for THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. I'll even pony up the cash to see it in the theater.

What are your thoughts about screenwriters adding a romance when adapting SF stories for film? Are they doing it simply to exploit romance—and by extension, the wallets of female moviegoers? Or could they be tapping into romantic elements already present in the source material, and simply expanding upon those in order to enhance the original story?

On a related note, given that folks are consistently describing this film as "science fiction romance," do you think there’s a takeaway lesson for book publishers who release such books?

Joyfully yours,