In a broadly ambitious move, Syfy has announced plans to adapt Dan Simmons’ influential modern sci-fi novel series, Hyperion, for television. Interestingly enough, the names attached to the project are rather bigger than expected. Oscar nominated actor Bradley Cooper, along with The Hangover director, Todd Phillips and producer Graham King are teaming up as executive producers to bring this imaginative mythology to life for the first time in a live-action capacity.
Adding to Syfy's increasingly large original programming slate, Syfy will see Cooper and company adapt the complex, unconventional exposition of Simmons’ first entry of the book series collectively known as the Hyperion Cantos. It should be well-accommodated in the medium of television. The far-future-set storyline is vastly complex and full of literary parallels and references, notably to John Keats’ famous poem about the fallen titular Titan, “Hyperion.” According to Syfy’s synopsis of the plot:
Set on the eve of Armageddon with the entire galaxy at war, Hyperion is the story of seven pilgrims who set forth on a voyage to seek the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope and a terrible secret -- while one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.
The novel series takes place in the 28th century at a time after the Earth's destruction was caused by a collective of individuated artificial intelligence known as TechnoCore. While humanity survives widespread throughout the galaxy, human society still centers on a government power known as the Hegemony of Man, who, in an odd alliance with Earth’s destructors in TechnoCore, declare dominion over a vast amount of space, due to portal technology allowing instant travel to planets in star systems abroad.
The universe that Simmons shaped back in the first novel in 1989 also eerily predicts mankind's continually increased reliance on shared information technology with the Hegemony’s "WorldWeb" being the integral component to that society’s infrastructure. However, that has led to the odd externality of an apocalyptic cult who worships a creature known as the Shrike, who is said to be destined to deal out retribution to mankind for their sins. The book’s plot involves seven distinct people, each with different motivations, setting out on a pilgrimage to the planet, Hyperion to seek out the frightening, spiky Shrike.(Pictured in book cover art below.)
While fans of sci-fi literature have long-known of the intricately-structured narrative of the Hyperion Cantos for over 25 years, Bradley Cooper, as a fan of the books, has been attempting for several years now to make a live-action adaptation a reality. After rumblings in 2008 at Warner Bros. over a possible film adaptation fell through, Bradley Cooper made serious attempts to revive the project in 2011 and even contemplated co-writing the script. However, the clear structural challenge of a adapting such a storyline were a lot to overcome for a potential pitch. This is especially true considering the Chaucer-esque character-chapter structure of the first book.
Thankfully, the challenges of navigating through Simmons’ labyrinthine lore should be tackled quite competently in the TV pilot. Boardwalk Empire writer Itamar Moses has been brought on board to write the initial script and will also serve as a co-executive producer alongside the trio of Cooper, Phillips and King. While this creative collusion may not seem like an all-star sci-fi team, there does seem to be some passion for the property; especially on the part of Cooper, who, for years, has been fighting tooth and nail to get this adaptation launched in some form or another.
Syfy seems to have quite the assortment of original programming in the works; at least, ones not related to Sharknado or its movies-of-the-week ilk. With a series based on Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy and a 10-part destination series called The Expanse starring Thomas Jane, just to name a scant few, the addition of Hyperion could represent a new crown jewel for Syfy’s increasing relevance in the original content department. We'll let you know if Hyperion moves forward over at Syfy.