09 March 2015

FWS Top Ten: The Missed Opportunities of Military Science Fiction

Originally, this was supposed to be the FWS Armory blog-article on RPGs, Grenade Launchers, and rocket launchers. However, the research phase is taking longer than expected. So, I decided to post this one instead. Throughout the history of military science fiction there have been some missteps with regards to golden opportunities to push this important sub-genre of sci-fi forward to a wider audience or just to deepen the genre as a whole. While some of these opportunities presented here are more personal choices than others, they all represent a chance to fulfill the promise that was, for one reason or another, that went unfulfilled. As always, if I have missed one, please comment below and let me know!

1.The Neill Blomkamp HALO Movie
Just before Bungie dropped HALO 3, they premiered a series of short live-action videos directed by Neill Blomkamp. These were a radical vision of the what the HALO universe would look like in the real-world. I was stunned when I first witness the power of these shorts. These shorts, collective called HALO: Landfall served has a testbed for the upcoming HALO live-action film. That movie  was soon stillborn and the project today is all but dead. If the Neill Blomkamp HALO film had indeed been completed at the apex of the popularity of HALO, it could have been one of the great military science fiction films and reached a vast audience extending the fans of military sci-fi...alas, that did not happen. The really sad part is that the boat for the HALO movie may have been entire missed. HALO is not as popular as it once was and the film we could have gotten in 2009 at the climax of mass appeal and popularity is different than what we will get if the film is made today in terms of budget, talent, and exposure.

2. The Terminator Prequel
Since the heady days of Terminator 2, there has been a theory and rumor by fans that the third film was going be set in the dark future of 2029 and detail Kyle Reese's journey to 1984. However, three more movies since then have been made, and all are shitty without containing long-awaited prequel plot. Yes, I am even calling the new film that is not even out yet shit. Fans like me wanted to see the dark future of the war against the machines, not more fucking time travel stories...Jesus, is that all the Terminator universe is about? The boat was missed by all of fans of military science fiction and Terminator for a third prequel film that had Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese and finally showed us the horror of 2029 and the events prior to the first iconic film. Nice job, Hollywood. This could have been an excellent future gitty future war film.
3.The Star Wars Prequels
This is an easy target, but it needs to be said. While FWS will bag on the prequels more in later Broken Promises blogpost, we are mostly discussing the missed opportunity of the prequels and that cartoon series to show the nearly legendary Clone Wars. These mysterious conflicts were one of those elements to the SW lore that fans of my generation talked about for over two decades, and then we got what we got in those dogshit films and it was not what we were promised. While some elements were cool and well-done, like the Jango Fett being the Daddy of the Republic Army soldiers it was the way the battles were shown and the adversary of the Republic that were the missed opportunities of the prequels.
To be honest, the Sith being the shadow behind the Confederacy of Independent Systems is a good angle, but the Confederacy itself is a collection of dipshit aliens with every more dipshit military elements.While the Grand Army of the Republic is very cool and designed around some reality of real-world combined arms concepts, the army of the Confederacy is lame, half-baked, and would have posed little threat to the Old Republic. The effect that this has on fans like me is an air of complete disbelieve and removing the viewer from the subject. To this day, I've only seen the last two prequels movies once since I watched them in the cinema. The wars that were promised in 1977 with SW:ANH never materialized on-screen, and a grand sci-fi war also never materialized, robbing us of some of that dream we collectively had back in the 1980's. Pity.

4. The Dominion/Federation War on Deep Space 9
War has never been a subject that Star Trek was comfortable showing, and creator Gene Roddenberry often steered the series away from an all-out war waged by the Federation. That was until Deep Space 9 and the emergence of the Dominion from the Gamma Quadrant. These aliens were bent on conquering the Federation and the entire Alpha Quadrant. This conflict along with the rumors of war, and the brief Klingon/Federation War consumed seasons two throughout the end of the series in season seven. While this is likely the longest sci-fi war ever seen on television, it was done with stops-and-starts over the course of 1993-1999, with only a few episodes completely devoted to the Dominion War, and the big fleet battles so craved by fans, the war seemed far off, especially with more episodes between devoted to classical "Star Trek Tropes" than the war. Partly this is due to the objection of war by founder Gene Roddenberry, and how series producers wanted Ron Moore from showing too many "depressing" and "violent". episodes. While Babylon 5 showed their twin wars with more realism (as it applies to a sci-fi series), the production values and writing on DS9 were greater and could add some grandeur if the Dominion War had been handled correctly.

5. The Old Man's War Film
There is little doubt that John Scalzi's Old Man's War and the sequel The Ghost Brigades are two of the finest literary works of military science fiction ever written, and they seemed ripe with adaption into other media potential. It was announced a few years ago that Old Man's War film rights have bought up and we could see an Old Man's War live-action adaption soon....yeah, that didn't happen. Today, it seems that the Old Man's War will translated into a military sci-fi show based around the UCD Special Forces or the "Ghost Brigades". I do believe that the idea of an Old Man's War film should be persuaded along with the Ghost Brigades television show. The original 2005 novel could be turned into a film and the television show would serve as the sequel to the film. This way the Old Man's War universe would hit any likely audience from two fronts. Also, I do believe that the story of John Perry presented in Old Man's War is a rather good introduction to the universe, and is a story that deserves to be told, while the Ghost Brigades is more suited to being a sequel, not an introduction. Also, it would be nice to a really good military sci-fi movie in the theaters. 

6. The Starship Troopers Film 
This is probably the best example of the missed opportunities of military science fiction because the work that the 1997 film is based on is the founding literature classic of military science fiction. What we could have gotten with this 1997 film could bridged the 1959 classic with some new ideas combined with sweet powered armor. This could have been a great ambassador work...but, alas, we didn't get any of that. Instead, military science fiction would get a mess of a film, that while highly enjoyable in parts, was mostly loud, bloody, and too comical to be treated as serious future war fiction. It didn't help matters that director Paul Verhoeven was unwilling to complete his read though of the book. The sad thing is that if  1997's Starship Troopers film had been under a different name and deleted its limited elements to the novel, it would be have been an okay over-the-top MSF film. The real crime of the 1997 film is how it colored and shaped all future SST works to conform to the Verhoeven vision of Robert Heinlein's words. Maybe the reboot will become reality and restore the dignity of the original work and recover the good name of Starship Troopers.

7. ROBOTECH II: The Sentients TV Series
This maybe more personal than some others on this list, but the stillborn sequel to ROBOTECH haunted my childhood, and even to this day, I want to complete this series. As we all know, ROBOTECH was a massive hit when it hit the American airwaves in 1985, and it would be cherry-popper for many of my generation, exposing them to the wonders of anime. ROBOTECH was one of the coolest and most groundbreaking "cartoons" of the 1980's. The success of the series fueled an industry of toys, comics, and books, and laid the ground work for a sequel that, sadly, would never come to reality. ROBOTECH II: The Sentinels would have shown the deeds of the REF and their alien allies combating the Invid out in deep space, but died after just a few episodes were completed and were sold later as an long-play VHS tape.While books and comics would flesh out the mission of the SDF-3, only pieces of the Sentients was seen on film, and to this day, Harmony Gold as stated repeatly that Sentients is DOA. According to Harmony Gold, the Yen/Dollar crash caused the lack of funding along with the pulling out of Matchbox Toys killed the series that would have run 65 episodes. Why is this forgotten cartoon series an important missed opportunity for military sci-fi? The Sentients would have minted new fans to ROBOTECH and the introduced them to military sci-fi, as ROBOTECH did to fans like me. In addition, it was a solid future military adventure story that would have a rare property on American TV. If as popular as the original series, The Sentients would have had untold after effects on the world of military sci-fi, possibly causing more anime military sci-fi series to be created or imported from Japan to the American market.

8. ALIENS: Colonial Marines Video Game 
Just before the release of Gearbox's ALIENS: Colonial Marines, I had high hopes of finally getting that long-waited first-person shooter experience within the dark ALIENS universe as told through the US Colonial Marine Corps. But then it was released, and ever ALIENS fan had a piece of their soul taken from them with this piece of shit along with sixty fucking dollars. What was taken from us was hope...hope that there would be a game based on the iconic space marines of the dark ALIENS universe that made by fans for the fans, and could stand on its own as a good sci-fi shooter game. The failure of Gearbox to put out ALIENS: Colonial Marines as promised was yet another causality to the long list of ALIENS games that failed.

9. Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome
It seemed logically for the new BSG universe to tell the tale of the Cylon Wars after the conclusion of the series in 2009, and it seemed like the SyFy Channel was going to greenlight a new military science fiction series about just that. It was given an ass-kicking title and it was strongly believed by fans that Blood & Chrome was going to be the next great sci-fi TV show...then it was twisted into a limited series that would not be shown on television, but instead on the computer in a streaming series. Only after watching Blood & Chrome, did we seen the real sin: the story. While the series should have been focused around the Galactica, it did not need to be centered around William Adama and some special mission at the end of the war. After a few seasons of showing the Cylon Wars, we could introduced the William Adama character into a new cast of characters, including Starbuck's Marine mother...but we didn't get that or a real series. Fuck you, SyFy Channel.

10. The 2nd Season of SPACE: Above and Beyond
Within all genre of video games, books, TV, and movies, there is an "ambassador" work that allows new fans to enter the genre and fuel their curiosity to explore the genre in more detail. In the world of fantasy, The Hobbit was one, and in the world of military science fiction, 1995-1996's Space: Above and Beyond was another. Much like Firefly, Space: Above and Beyond was cancelled well before its time, and for one single season in 1995-1996, Fox would air one of the most important military science fiction series of all time. Unlike other science fiction television that were on-air at the time, SAAB was a gritty future war epic grounded more in reality.This show altered my POV on science fiction and started my love affair with MSF.  I've always have I felt that one of the missed opportunities of military sci-fi was for there to be a second season of SAAB to allow the show to forge more fans of the genre and give them the curiosity to explore the world of military science fiction, as I did. SAAB could be an one of the great ambassador works of MSF, but it was cut down before its prime, because the show had more to give.

Next Time on FWS...(After the RPG/Grenade Launcher blog article)
They are the military utility vehicle of science fiction, the future of the helicopter and the tilt-rotor: the tactical transport. Throughout science fiction and cross all types of media, the tactical transport has been the mainstay of getting space marines from the void to dirtside with the firepower to support those soldiers on the off-world battlefields. However, the term "tactical transport" has been confused by creators and fans under the title "dropship".


  1. I would not agree with your assessment of Confederation, in many aspects they were the "good guys". Confederation did not born by the machination of Sith but by the great injustice of Old Republic. It was like the laboriously build domino chain that just need to be pushed in the right moment. And hand that did that was indeed the Sith one, but they only start to roll a snowball from the hill full of snow. We only see some major player in Confederation like Techno Union or Trade Federation but the organisation itself contain hundreds of hundreds other system and civilizations that join it by own choice. Tired of corruption, injustice and oppressive Republic they choice to go own patch. No what Old Republic do to stop this, of course they sit and talk... and that was as always in the Senate pointless. Then the Jedi send the secret Army to invade a Confederation system and start to war. In every proof the Old Republic and Jedi are the aggressors and they start the Clone Wars.

    Now, by the machination of Sith not only Old Republic prepared secret army but also Confederation. And they have a little better understanding of Galactic War scale. Space where the fight would be conduct is huge, so they need "cheep" force to send it everywhere and still have the reserve. That's why they choose combat automata, they ware able to manufacture them fast in huge numbers and in many different roles. Not only Clone Army choose combined arms tactic but Droid Army also.

    Confederation loose not because THEY loose, because they were wining on every front with enormous reserves ready to engage Republic. They fight so long and loose because Sith want that, war need to continue to give more power to the future Emperor and to DEMOCRATIC transform Old Republic in to Galactic Empire.

  2. I am just not sure the MPAA is ready for T-bagging in 3D I max high def in a PG13 film.

  3. 'Starship Troopers' was a joke, a twisted and cartoony caricature of Heinlein's book... but I still can't help but defend it! It was a genuinely fun film that didn't take itself too seriously; it had awesome creature designs and great battle sequences. Hell, it even went as far as to be profound in how it approached themes like fascism and nationalism - which were openly embraced in the book. If anything, the best points in the film was when it worked at Heinlein's expense the most. That's not to say it wasn't a flawed film, or even the film adaption that Starship Troopers deserved - but I don't think it was a missed opportunity.

    I agree with you about the canceled Halo film though, it would have been great to see Blomkamp film it. Maybe 343 will be able to hype up future games enough to pump out something half decent, though I haven't been impressed by their latest live action series. And who knows, apparently Blomkamp is working on the next Aliens film - maybe we'll get some of the same magic we got with Halo: Landfall. Assuming it gets made, of course.

    Come to think of it, Starship Troopers (the book) and Halo have a lot in common - and not just because Halo borrows elements from almost every other work of fiction in the same genre. They both glorify protagonists who are nationalistic and serve very fascist and militaristic institutions. I don't know how I would feel about seeing that kind of narrative on the big screen without it being somehow deconstructed or approached in a tongue-in-cheek kind of manner. It could work with Halo too, because it has already worked with the Colonial Marines in Aliens.

  4. That is a fair point about the Confederation. I still cannot compare the Confederation to the Grand Army of the Republic. While the Rebel Alliance and the Imperial Forces were not equal, they were at least similar.
    I've never thought about that connection between the UNSC and the Federation from SST!
    T-bagging in 3D!

    1. In they eye of many Republicans clones were just an organic droids and were treated like them. They did not have any rights, they were expendable... a bio bots if you like. In eyes of the Republic clones were no better then droids.

      You probably can't compare them because we speak about Machines ver. Organics. It's like comparing SkyNet pacification units against Human Resistance. But in some ways, they are similar in the eyes of creators... expendable forces both.

  5. I need to rewatch the prequel films...been too long

  6. I too enjoyed SAAB, and was sad to see it canceled. Maybe not as sad as I was about Firefly, but I still liked the show.

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