For a few years now there has been talk about doing a movie adaptation of the popular 1970’s science fiction series ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, which starred Lee Majors in what would become his most career defining role.
Based on the short novel ‘Cyborg’ by Martin Caidin and developed for television initially as a movie of the week with two follow up films by Glen A. Larson. The television series was developed by Harve Bennett, who would later go onto make ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan’ and a number of other ‘Star Trek’ movies.
The initial television movie would try to convey some of the edginess from the novel ‘Cyborg’, which saw the main character of Steve Austin attempt suicide, but given that television of the time was played more toward a broader audience as opposed to key demographics. They would never have been able to push as far as the books, but perhaps ‘The Six Billion Dollar Man’ movie, which is in development may remedy some of that.
The series from the 70’s is a show I was raised on. And as a kid I always thought it would be cool to be Steve Austin the astronaut who could run at over 60 mile an hour without breaking a sweat and defy physics whenever throwing heavy objects at people. It was pretty much light entertainment and worlds away from the character and themes of the book.
The movie in development for 2017 has Mark Wahlberg attached, which is a choice of actor I’m not to sure of because he has already been involved in a number of high profile projects and I kind of think he’d be wrong for it. If I were casting it. I’d probably go with someone younger who has a bit more of less muscular physic. A younger actor would be a better idea in case the movie became a franchise. Wahlberg whether you like him or loath him isn’t getting any younger.
In terms of the movie itself. I would kind of want it to try and do some of the stuff that they could not do in the original television movie for ‘Six Million Dollar Man’. The TV movie had a scene in which Steve Austin refers to his friend Doctor Rudy Wells as Dr Frankenstein at a point shortly after getting his Bionics. But its some of the darker moments from the original TV movie that ‘The Six Billion Dollar Man’ could well deliver on. Such as the moment where Steve asks Rudy to unplug the life support and let him die or the moment when he first learns of the power of his bionics while saving a young kid from a car wreck, but while rescuing the boy he rips some of his fake skin revealing his bionics to the boy and his mum. The scene ended with Steve looking at his bionic arm with a mix of disgust and horror. The feeling and sense of being looked at as a freak was all to clear. Even with Lee Majors somewhat limited acting range.
Aside from the darker edgier moments. I’d also like the film have a sprinkling of comedy in it to lighten the mood a little, but lets not see another movie like ‘Starsky and Hutch’ where it tries to go the parody route. I’d rather see ‘The Six Billion Dollar Man’ played out as a drama that takes the best parts from the original novel and the TV series and kind of fuses them together, but does so in such a way that it gives a fresher take on the concept.
A few years back Dynamite Comics adapted Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man script into a comic book mini series, which had a lot of great ideas of how a modern day version of the Bionic Man or ‘The Six Billion Dollar Man’ could play out in terms of a modern interpretation.
Smiths script respected the classic series and used some of the best elements of it and also managed to utilize some of the darker elements from the ‘Cyborg’ novel. One of my favorite moments from Smith’s comic is when the head of OSI asks Rudy Wells to install an off switch so she can have Steve turned off or put to sleep when he is not on missions. This kind of mirrored a scene from the original TV movie, but Smiths version took things a little further. In the original TV movie OSI was headed by Oliver Spencer who was played by the late Darren McGavin. This character was less sympathetic and caring than Oscar Goldman and saw Steve as a tool in which to get the job done and didn’t for one moment consider him as another human being. So it was this character that Smith based his head of OSI on.
In the Smith comic book. The USA had already had one attempt at creating a bionic man before Steve Austin. Only the individual they had made bionic was a psychopath and had gone completely off the rails and defected and was basically working for the highest bidder.
There are a lot of possibilities with a ‘Six Billion Dollar Man’ movie and its my hope that the people behind it are able to make something that is respectful of the novel, the television series, but is able to do so while simultaneously being able to stand on its own.
The recent ‘Planet Of The Ape’s’ movies are a great example of this. So if a ‘Six Billion Dollar Man’ film is able to be as good as those films. I think we’d be onto a winner.