5 classic H.G. Wells stories that need to be made into movies ASAP

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Nov 2, 2017

There is little disputing that that the influence of English author H.G. Wells is still keenly felt in modern sci-fi.

Often called the Father of Science Fiction (though it's a title also often bestowed upon Journey to the Center of the Earth author Jules Verne), in the late-nineteenth and early-20th centuries, Wells was among the first to bring now-established sci-fi concepts like time travel and Martian invaders to the public consciousness.

But while the works that spawned these ideas – namely The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine – have come to define the author and inspire numerous adaptations, Wells' vast body of work contains some lesser-known gems that deserve their own modern spotlight.

Wells was at his heart a futurist, and his stories often cast an eye to vividly realized worlds that he imagined might eventually supersede his own. These weren't always accurate, of course, but a modern reader will find that when grappling with the bigger themes of future societies, he comes close to the truth remarkably often.

As such, here are five titles from Wells' catalog that are ripe for screen adaptations in 2017 and beyond.

The Sleeper Awakes (1910)

The Sleeper Awakes centers around Graham, a man living in Victorian London, who falls into a coma in 1897 and doesn't awaken until the year 2100.
 
He emerges to find himself the world's richest person after accruing 200 years' worth of interest on his holdings, and the unwitting head of a council that rules economically over a world in which “the ancient antithesis of luxury, waste and sensuality on the one hand and abject poverty on the other, still prevailed.”
 
This inequality is vividly explored, along with the arbitrary nature of Graham's position at the top. It is described as a world in which “the competition for attention is so keen, and people simply haven't the leisure to attend to their souls,” where workers are distracted from their thankless toil by the alternating propaganda and nonsense of so-called "Babble Machines," while those who profit from them bathe in the luxuries of "Pleasure Cities."
 
It hardly requires a great leap to find the parallels between this and the world of 2017, and it would be fascinating to see a modern director bring Wells' vision of 2100 to life.

 

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)

Actually one of Wells' better-known novels, The Island of Doctor Moreau has been the subject of a few adaptations – the most recent being in the 1996 Marlon Brando film. However, in this case, that's all the more reason we need another one; something to help erase the memory of that failure of farcical proportions.

Dr. Moreau is a rogue vivisectionist holed up on an island in the Pacific Ocean, where he conducts horrific experiments to turn animals into the semi-human Beast Folk. The novel is told from the perspective of Edward Prendick, an Englishman who finds himself shipwrecked and forced to live among the human-like animal hybrids.

Its central thrust, just as relevant in 2017, is to illuminate how fine a line it is that we all tread between humanity and animalism. “I feel as though the animal was surging up through them,” Prendick narrates, “that presently the degradation of the Islanders will be played over and over again on a larger scale.”

This, adapted properly, particularly with the Beast Folk realized using modern effects, would be something to behold.

The Shape of Things to Come (1933)

Though by no means a new concept, there appears to be a renewed interest in counter-factual histories with the likes of The Man in the High Castle and the upcoming HBO controversy Confederate. The Shape of Things to Come was actually written at the time as a series of Wells' predictions for the future, framed as a history book written in the far future, and laying out the major events from 1933 to 2106.

However, this means that a 2017 adaptation could straddle alternate history (Wells' vision of 1933 to present day) and futuristic sci-fi (the next 100 years).

There's plenty here that one can imagine intriguing modern audiences: from a World War II where the U.S. is locked in a stalemate with Japan and the United Kingdom remains neutral, to the eventual collapse of several nations and the establishment of a religion-free global dictatorship.

1936 brought the film adaptation Things to Come (pictured), but this is one that deserves to be in front of modern audiences.

The Haunted Ceiling (written mid-1890s, published 2016)

While the ghost story is not something you'd typically associate with Wells – aside from the dripping-with-atmosphere The Red Room – this one's fascinating.
 
Thought to have been written in the mid-1890s but only uncovered and published last year, this is a cosy English ghost story in the Victorian tradition, best accompanied by a gloomy night and a roaring fire.
 
It's an understated chiller, in which two male friends begin to see the face of a woman in a discolored patch on the ceiling, and like The Red Room, it's as psychological as it is supernatural.
 
The Haunted Ceiling would be the ideal subject of a short, moody film to complete its propulsion from Wells' dusty archives to the audience it deserves.

The Star (1897)

Another short story, this time in Wells' classic sci-fi mode. It begins when one of Neptune's stars somehow breaks loose of its orbit and begins to hurtle towards Earth.
 
While obviously not Wells' intention, to a modern reader, the clear parallel with our own world is the threat of ecological disaster through climate change.
 
Indeed, the nearing star brings with it city-drowning floods, intense heat, and melting ice caps. But most prescient of all is a worrying lack of public panic, in spite of the warnings of scientists.
 
“Nine human beings out of ten were still busy at their common occupations,” writes Wells, “…thieves lurked and fled, politicians planned their schemes. The presses of the newspapers roared through the night, and many a priest of this church and that would not open his holy building to further what he considered a foolish panic.”
 
This is certainly something that rings true with the environmental threats we all face today, and how easily we ignore or flat-out deny them. An adaptation that played to this would certainly make for arresting viewing.