This is a look behind the Hollywood curtain to see how a movie makes it to the screen, or doesn’t. Most, in part because of the large amounts of money involved, go through long and arduous development processes where stars, directors and other talent come and go. This book focuses on sci-fi movies that didn’t see the light of day.
I don’t wish to be picky, but the title is inaccurate. Most of the films covered, which include Dune, Alien 3, Star Trek, Thunderbirds and John Carter of Mars, did actually get made. What we’re really talking about here are versions of those films that could have been made.
The production team behind many of the films changed numerous times and, it’s generally agreed, there were combinations attached at some point that could have resulted in great movies, or not, because we’ll never know.
In the case of Thunderbirds, practically any version bar the one that got released would have been an improvement, but would Nicholas Cage starring in Superman Lives and directed by Tim Burton have worked? I’m not so sure. And if, like me, you love David Lynch’s Dune, you can’t imagine Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version being an improvement.
The book also documents plenty of examples where you thank the stars that certain versions never saw the light of day and wonder what on Earth everyone involved was thinking. Thankfully saner heads (or studio politics) prevailed.
It’s a great, enthralling look at the Hollywood machine. Not only that, but it details a fair bit of backstory as well, outlining the plots of the novels discussed or the timeline for the comics that provided the source material.
One criticism is that it gets bogged down in that on occasion. The chapter on Star Trek, for instance, doesn’t look at a specific movie but goes through the development process right up to the J. J. Abrams reboot. The chapter on the The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was equally protracted, as were some others.
There’s some overlap with Hughes’ other work, Tales from Development Hell, and it appears I had similar criticism for that. There was enough new stuff to make this worth it though.
Even if you’re don’t love movies, as I do, this is still an enjoyable and fascinating telling of the stories behind what ends up on screen — some of which are better than the finished article.