I’ve been waiting for this to happen since I was 8, and now I find myself wishing I could go on waiting. Variety says a digital studio called Worldwide Biggies has acquired the rights to the classic series of “Tom Swift” adventure books with the intention of turning them into movies using either motion-capture CGI or a live-action CGI combo.
If you missed out on reading “Swift” as a youngster, then you have my pity. Tom Swift books have been around since the early 1900s, and have seen several different incarnations. They’re probably best compared to “The Hardy Boys”, except more imaginative, more interesting, and usually better written. The versions which captured my imagination as a kid were the 80s “Tom Swift” written by the great Victor Appleton, which had Tom Swift as a teenage astronaut in a not too distant future where man has begun to conquer the stars. Earlier versions read more like Jules Verne, and had Swift as one of a family of inventors. I’ve since gone back and read those, and while they’re great, the 80s space-faring Swift is still lightyears above. My tattered, over-used, out of print copies still hold a place of honor on my bookshelves, and every now and then, even as an adult, I go back, read, and enjoy them. Tom Swift was and is brilliant young adult literature.
So now they’re turning Tom Swift into a movie, which should be good news. Worldwide Biggies head Albie Hecht seems like he might know what he’s doing with them, claiming that he “grew up basically reading comicbooks and Tom Swift.” That should mean he has the same reverence I and everyone else who’s ever read Swift has for him. Except apparently not so much. Rather than doing a proper update on them, he’s updating them and turning Tom Swift’s family into the owners of a “green technology” company.
That’s right, this isn’t a movie. It’s another opportunity for Hollywood to shove more “green” propaganda down our throats. I used to be all for taking care of the environment, but with way the entertainment industry is shoving the term “green” into just about everything lately, I may start polluting out of spite. Scuse me while I go upend my recyclables bin on the lawn.
Granted, the old 50s and 60s versions of Tom Swift are now dated. They have Swift as an inventor coming up with cool new toys, a lot of which we now actually have. So that doesn’t quite work as a modern movie. I get it. But if they want an updated version, then use the 1980s Tom Swift books written by Victor Appleton. They’re already updated. There’s no reason to go off half-cocked and come up with some politicized, “O.C.” version of Swift. Appleton’s versions are set in a future where man has begun to solve most of the problems plaguing the Earth and moved out into the universe. You get your bright, shiny, better future and you get a genuine, great Tom Swift story to boot. Appleton’s novels incorporate a lot of the great themes present in some of the best Sci Fi, like Star Trek, presenting a hopeful future where the human race has bettered itself, without turning preachy with it. I have no interest in a heavy handed movie where we watch Tom Swift fight loggers. Depressing.
Listen up Hecht! Give us Victor Appleton’s amazing vision! Give us Tom Swift, Anita Thorwald, Benjamin Franklin Walking Eagle, and their robot Aristotle in space! Give us Tom Swift in “The City in the Stars” or Tom Swift in “The Alien Probe”, not Tom Swift in “Adventure of the Environmentally Friendly Fuel Alternatives”. I’m begging you Hecht. They’re brilliant, overlooked pieces of young adult literature with lightyears of potential, and bringing them to the screen properly could re-invigorate the science fiction genre for younger moviegoers in the way no science fiction property has since Star Wars or Star Trek. This could be Sci-Fi’s Harry Potter. Don’t pass up a huge opportunity like this, just so you can engage in heavy-handed preaching to kids about the environment. We have more than enough of that.
On a side note, for any of you who were as into the 80s Tom Swift III versions of the character, only 11 books of the 13 books written for the series were ever released. I don't know about you, but I spent a large portion of my childhood staring at the names of those last two books listed in the back of book 11, Tom Swift's "Planet of Nightmares", wishing I could read them. Well, now you can. Tom Swift series III's books 12 and 13, titled "Chaos on Earth" and "The Microworld" are available for free online by joining the Tom Swift discussion group on Yahoo right here. Once you join, look for a zip file in the group's "Files" section.