J. Michael Straczynski is best known to sci-fi fans for his epic television series Babylon 5 but what you may not be aware of is that he is presently developing a new and massive sci-fi film titled Lensman.
Lensman is based on a series of science fiction stories by famed author Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith (1890 – 1965). The stories follow a struggle between two powerful races that came to our universe billions of years ago from outside of our time-space continuum – one to rule the emerging life in our universe and one attempting to protect it. A breeding program is instigated upon multiple planets (including Earth) by those trying to protect the universe. In time, a number of beings from these programs are selected to become guardians of the universe. In what might be paralleled (in concept at least) to the Green Lantern, these chosen few wear a ‘lens’ , a life-force power created by an elder race of our universe that gives the wearer a variety of super abilities. This group becomes a type of galactic police force, entrusted with the task of battling to save, well, everything.
It is no exaggeration to say that Smith’s stories are so epic they are difficult to summarise without going into great length and that my summary above hardly does the story justice at all. If you want to learn more about the story, Wikipedia currently has quite a detailed run down. In any case, suffice it to say that the film offers nothing short of mega-potential and may be a film of such grand scale that, even in consideration of James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar, has the potential to be one of the biggest sci-fi films of all time.
Recently J. Michael Straczynski appeared on the Babylon Podcast and gave an update on the progress of the new film (amongst other things). You can listen to the podcast here – he begins talking about Lensman roughly 8 minutes into the audio.
Here is a brief transcript of some key comments he makes:
Q: What do I have to do to get you to drop everything you are doing and get the Lensman screenplay finished?
JMS: Well, the second draft is in. Everyone is very happy with it, and we’ll now see where that goes. But I’m very pleased with it, I think it really does create that world and what’s cool about it is all the character stuff that’s in there now. It’s just the sheer scope and scale of it, which is what the Doc Smith books were always about to me to a large extent; the scale was insane. We found ways to really dramatize that.
Case in point, this is a very small example from the script, take this as being emblematic of the scale of the whole thing: you’ve got these two fleets battling it out, you’ve seen it a hundred times before. But now, within that massive fleet battle you have two ships locked on with gravity (lances?) firing at each other, they’re linked together like scorpions in a bottle tied with a string, by the gravity beams. Inside that, you have the crew of one ship in EVA suits with armor coming out to try and board the other ship. They send their people out to stop them, so we have hand-to-hand combat between two…
Q: Space-axes and all that? Oh wow.
JMS: Yeah, it’s just friggin’ huge. We’re looking to do new things with effects, and of course with Ron Howard involved it’s always going to be character-oriented, so we combine what you can do with effects these days with a really strong character story. I think it’s pretty cool.
Listen to the podcast for more (which includes a lot of chat about Babylon 5).
Lensman is currently slated for a 2011 release by Universal Pictures, although I wouldn’t be surprised if this date gets pushed out.