Libertarian classic getting movie adaption

Fans of big budget, science fiction action films with a libertarian theme cheered at the announcement that Robert Heinlein’s classic The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is going to be turned into a big budget movie. The film will be directed by Bryan Singer, whose  X-Men movies won praise from several libertarians (including me) for incorporating pro-liberty themes.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress tells the tale of a libertarian revolt on the moon against a tyrannical government. The rebel's motto is TANSTAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch).

Brian Doherty at Reason magazine talked to the movie's producer, who is determined to not make a "message" movie:

 Message movies," film producer Thor Halvorssen says, "are didactic, trying to educate about an ideology, a philosophy, instead of telling a story about characters and their struggles." Halvorssen is talking to me about a film he’s producing based on Robert Heinlein’s classic 1966 novel of a libertarian revolt on the moon, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. (It's the book that popularized the libertarian catch phrase "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch," or TANSTAAFL, as a slogan for its revolutionaries.) "If what you are looking for is a message movie, you will be disappointed. This is an amazing story of struggle against government tyranny by a group of people who want freedom and the right to determine their own futures. You can call that ideological if you want, but I just call it a great, great movie.


Halvorssen realizes his filmmaking team has to walk a fine line adopting this most libertarian of Heinlein works; libertarianism so-called (he stresses "libertarian" is not how he self-identifies, preferring "classical liberal" or "anti-fascist") is not Hollywood’s favorite ideology. Still, he is sure that his Fox/Singer team is on board with what’s really key to the Moon story.

Still, "anyone expecting quotations from political tracts in this movie will be sorely disappointed," he says. Even though one of the book’s central characters, Bernardo de la Paz, does have a tendency toward political lectures in defense of "rational anarchy," I ask?


Halvorssen detects I’m trying to get him to get specific about what elements of the novel will or won’t be in the finished product. But its screenplay, being written by Marc Guggenheim (currently an executive producer on the CW show Arrow, the writer of the Green Lantern movie, and someone who, Halvorssen says, "has a perfect understanding of what the book is and he is a brilliant writer") is still being perfected, Halvorssen says.

Such questions, he warns me, are a "non-starter" at this stage. (The film does not yet have a set date to start shooting.) "What will, what won’t happen, what’s in, who's out, what we are redacting" are things he’s not going to discuss now. He doesn’t want to worry about fans out there starting to take notes on, "Oh my, they eliminated the plot element of sexual liberation which in the 1950s might have been an amazing plot point but nowadays would be, yawn….that sort of thing is not the issue, the issue is capturing the essence of the story."

Halvorssen is thrilled to have Bryan Singer on board. "He could have just been a producer, so that he chose to direct too is huge. This is his next movie after the next X-Men movie." (His 2014 X-Men film was number 6 for the year in worldwide gross.) "Getting him was like throwing a dart and hitting bull’s-eye the first time. His guys are like warriors of story, obsessively focused on story, story, character development, character development. I don’t think there has been a single discussion on politics in the entire time I have been on calls with them, which has been dozens of hours.


Is a movie about fighting tyranny conservative or liberal or libertarian?" Halvorssen asks. "It’s quintessentially American, that’s what it is. This is not going to be a film about politics. This is going to be a great big entertaining movie about the struggle for freedom on the moon by a group of devoted idealists who have an amazing story fighting against tyranny.”

Read the whole thing here.

The producer's sympathy for the ideas of liberty give cause for hope that the movie will not completely ignore the book's libertarian themes. I do agree that the focus should be on making an entertaining movie not  making  a political statement. A libertarian-themed movie that fails to also tell a compelling story  will have limited appeal, thus it will not serve as an effective outreach tool and it will likely crash at the box office,  making it unlikely that future movies with libertarian themes will be produced by the major Hollywood studios.

In any case, I don't know how one can tell a story about fighting tyranny that does not have at least some libertarian ideas in it. Hopefully, this film will serve as a tool that liberty activists can use to help introduce some of their friends to our ideas and maybe even get them active in the liberty movement.

The forthcoming film adaption of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is not the only libertarian-themed science fiction movie liberty lovers have to look forward to. The Las Vegas Weekly has a story about J. Neil Schulman's film adoption of his classic Alongside Night, which will soon be available on Blue-Ray, DVD, as well as on-demand video streaming and (hopefully) will soon be coming to a theater near you.

Alongside Night features cameos by a number of liberty movement leaders, including Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul.


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