Will Asimov’s Foundation saga be Lord of the Rings in space?

New Line founders Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne are developing an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s 1951 novel Foundation, the first in Asimov’s classic space opera saga. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Shaye said, “our idea is to renew the worldwide audience’s appetite for the story” but he added that it is a complex novel, “this is not a script you can knock out in six months.” Shaye and Lynne plan to adapt the first book, but if the first Foundation movie is successful, aim to create an entire new Foundation movie trilogy just as New Line did with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation series
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series

Despite having edited or written more than 500 books, it’s surprising how little of Isaac Asimov’s work has made it to the big screen. Previous adaptations include the misguided Will Smith feature I, Robot, the lame Bicentennial Man with Robin Williams, two B-grade adaptations of Nightfall and the recently announced The End of Eternity. This is a disappointing collection considering the amount of great science fiction material Asimov created.

“Isaac Asimov had writer’s block once,” fellow science fiction writer Harlan Ellison said, referring to Asimov’s impressive output. “It was the worst ten minutes of his life.”

Asimov’s Foundation tells the story Hari Seldon, a scientist who has figured out how to predict the future based on a branch of mathematics he developed called psychohistory. The behaviour of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large. The larger the mass (in this case galactic populations), the more predictable the future.

Using psychohistory Seldon foresees the fall of the Galactic Empire and a Dark Age lasting thirty thousand years before a second great empire arises. To shorten this Dark Age, he creates two Foundations on opposite ends of the galaxy, each Foundation designed to keep scientific knowledge alive. Most of the events in the Foundation novels revolve around the first Foundation on a planet called Terminus. The Foundation saga is set so far into the future that Earth is nothing but a memory.

I’m a big fan of Asimov’s work, even the later Foundation novels which became longer and longer and it seemed were edited less and less, such as Foundation and Earth and Foundations Edge.

The original three books that made up the Foundation trilogy, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation, won the one off Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966. They also produced two of my favourite Asimov quotes:“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right” and “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”.

The possibilities for sequels and further tie in movies are numerous. The Foundation books alone are enough for another twelve movies and are set in the same fictional universe (but in a later time period) as Asimov’s Robot Series. What about a robot trilogy based on Asimov’s robot novels The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn? If you’re a film producer, I encourage you to look into it!