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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
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Thursday, August 14, 2003

Rumor has it that Martin Scorsese is preparing to direct a trilogy of films based on the justly famous Hyperion novels of Dan Simmons. I looked around a bit on the web for further details, but found nothing not derivative from the original story linked here.

This is both a fascinating prospect and a daunting challenge. The Hyperion saga consists of four volumes; the first two and the last two each form a single story. The stories are set about 250 years apart and closely interlinked; each of the four volumes runs around 500 pages or more. The stories include crises of galactic scope and events set on scores of different planets, but Hyperion is far more than a straight space opera. It's also one of the most ambitious and complex epics of science fiction.

The first, Hyperion, is the most unfilmable. It is modeled on the Canterbury Tales: a story of seven pilgrims seeking a creature of vast but uncertain powers and entirely unknown objectives known as the Shrike. The Shrike resides in or near the Time Tombs, a mysterious group of artifacts on the backwards planet Hyperion which appear to be moving backwards in time. Simultaneously, Hyperion seems about to become the central battlefield of a galactic war between the mysterious Ousters and the Hegemony. Starting appropriately with a poet, six of the seven pilgrims tell stories of how they came to be on the Pilgrimage and what they seek to gain from the Shrike. Each story is narrated in a different style; each raises questions about the nature of the Shrike and the Time Tombs, as well as broader questions about faith, art, and life. Each tale could potentially make a full movie; how all could be crammed into one, which would also tell the broader story of the pilgrimmage, is hard to imagine. Hyperion ends as the pilgrims approach the Time Tombs; their confrontation with the Shrike and the fate of the Hegemony are covered in the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion.

Taking place centuries later, the sequels Endymion and The Rise of Enymion tell the story of Raul, a native of Hyperion, and Aenea, the daughter of one of the original pilgrims, as they seek to escape and ultimately overthrow the Pax, a theocracy established by Father Lenar Hoyt, another one of the pilgrims. Hoyt has now become Pope of an all-powerful reborn Catholic Church, whose power is based on the sacrament of resurrection, allowing its members to escape death. This story is far more amenable to cinematic treatment, but by itself, lacking the connections to the earlier saga, would be vastly less interesting and meaningful.

According to the reports, an earlier script which tried to adhere closely to the novels has been rejected. Simmons himself has written a new treatment which radically reimagines the story, placing Raul and Aenea, who in the novels hadn't yet been born, on the original Shrike pilgrimmage. Raul is reportedly going to be played by Leonard DiCaprio; no actress has been chosen for Aenea.