We’re presently drowning in remakes, and some of them are awesome, but most just feel like cheap, soulless cash grabs.
Nostalgia is all the rage right now, and so most of these reboots/sequels/adaptations are aimed right at the kid inside all of us who wishes they could see another Ghostbusters or Jurassic Park. But once the pre-release buzz dies, we realize that we just paid into a system that’s feeding on our nostalgia like some sort of enormous sucking insect.
But those who know me know that I am not 100% opposed to the idea of a remake. I loved Jurassic World and Ghostbusters and am currently addicted to the new Netflix series Stranger Things which taps right into the part of my childhood occupied by films featuring nerdy loyal kids riding their bikes through spooky forests.
And so, I would like to offer up to the gods of Hollywood these five offerings. You may remake these films with my blessing and I promise I won’t be offended. Well, unless you completely ruin them…
1. Flight of the Navigator
This is one of those movies that, every single time, we went to the video store, I would grab the VHS and say, “Can we rent this again!??!!?”
And my mother, patient as she was, would sigh and say, “I suppose, but don’t you want to see something new?”
To which I would reply, “But I love it!”
The Story: David Freeman gets lost in the woods and is knocked unconscious during a fall. But when he wakes up, he quickly realizes that he is now 8 years in the future, his family has declared him dead, and the government is after him. When he is brought back to a government facility for testing, it’s discovered that there is a whole lot more information in his brain than there should be, and a mysterious spaceship of unknown origin seems to hold the key to his missing years.
It’s the best concept ever.
It came out the year I was born and was released by Disney, so basically my obsession with the film was written in the stars.
But anyway, this one could stand either a remake or a sequel. The acting in the original is a bit iffy, and a lot of the cultural references haven’t aged well (at one point David is discussing music with Sarah Jessica Parker’s character and is completely confused when she mentions Twisted Sister, saying, “Never heard of her…”), and so a remake could either ramp up the nostalgia and set it in the same period (1978-1986) or it could set it in the present day and speak to a new generation of kids who wish they could outwit the government in their own shapeshifting spaceship with a wise-cracking robot as a buddy. There’s a lot of opportunities for mind-boggling effects, especially Max (the robot) and his mini-zoo of captured life forms. It’s a feel-good movie that juggles some genuine creepy thrills with the sort of wide-eyed optimism that’s missing from a lot of movies today.
I’d love to either see Max return to find David again, only to be horrified (in a Peter-Pan-esque moment) that he’s grown up, or create a new character, maybe a nerdy girl who has trouble making friends, for Max to whisk away into space and a new adventure.
I love the original because of nostalgia, not because it’s an especially finely-crafted film (though I do love all the false reveals of the spaceship throughout the beginning), and so if Disney wants to re-introduce this story to a new generation, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.
2. Lost in Space
The original TV show is fantastic, but I think not enough people know that it exists. This would be a great opportunity to both appeal to the folks who love the original and create new interest in the original.
The story: In an effort to ease the pressure on a massively overpopulated Earth, the Robinson family set off to establish a colony in the nearby Alpha Centauri system, but their Robot is sabotaged by an enemy spy, Doctor Smith, and the ship is sent way off course. The family and the trapped Doctor Smith, must then travel through uncharted space in an effort to find their way home.
There was a remake of the series released in 1998 that was actually pretty good. The space battles/exterior shots were outstanding, blending CGI and practical models. The creature effects were a bit more iffy due to the newness of CGI at the time, but it still looks great. The thing that hurt the remake was the acting. I think the script was fine, balancing humor, time-travel-y technobabble, and drama pretty well, but the director just wasn’t able to get many believable performances out of the cast, save for Penny (Lacey Chabert) and Doctor Smith (Gary Oldman) who were both absolutely fantastic. (I would like to state for the record, though, that I do genuinely love this movie).
There’s a lot of opportunities for a remake. It could either be a new TV series, or a film, but the focus has to be on the characters. That’s what can make or break a remake with a big cast like this. We have to care about everyone.
Funnily enough, this story is a remake in and of itself, of The Swiss Family Robinson, a 19th century novel about a family that gets marooned on an island and literally shoots every animal they see (seriously! It’s like, “What’s that?? A rare giant iguana? Let’s shoot it!”). Oh, and they also build a super cool tree house and a grotto mansion. Clearly this sort of story is one that has lasting appeal. If the focus is on ingenuity in the face of being stranded, with a great cast and well-written characters, I think this could definitely work well.
3. The Creature from the Black Lagoon
We need a good monster movie. We haven’t had a good one in a long while. The closest we got was the merman in Cabin in the Woods who was so awesome, I was super sad he was just a darkly humorous punchline to a long-running joke as opposed to a main antagonist.
The story: a group of scientists find the Creature, a prehistoric missing link, in the Amazon and capture it for study. The Creature escapes and develops a weird fascination with Kay, fiance to one of the scientists, eventually falling in love with her.
There are two options for contemporary filmmakers, but I feel like only one would really work well. They can play it like a serious monster movie and really make the Creature genuinely scary again (which would be nearly impossible to pull off well because CGI still isn’t good enough to make anything scary, and you know a studio would balk at the idea of a dude in a suit and would instead go for the lazy middle ground of making the Creature more human in an effort to make him a tragic half fish guy). The other option would be to embrace the inherent cheesiness of the whole thing and go for a horror comedy which blends gory violence with a self-aware cheekiness that pokes fun at the whole mid-century B movie phenomenon a la Mars Attacks.
I wish the Creature could be made to be genuinely scary, because I love the idea of it being some sort of evil absolute, a creature who kills for no reason. I know the original Creature is sort of a Frankenstein’s monster type of character, a mysterious beast who is genuinely warm at heart, but I would love to see them take the character in a more sinister direction.
The Dracula Untold multiverse will no doubt feature the Creature at some later date, but I feel like they’ll make it a tragic hero (maybe a guy who is involved in a nuclear accident and is mutated) destined to never be with the woman it loves because of its appearance. I say make the Creature more animalistic and dangerous.
If, by some miracle, someone out there could manage to make the Creature genuinely scary, I say go for it! The original Creature was iconic, and I feel like he needs to come back and scare a new generation.
This is another one I loved as a kid. I’m not sure if anyone WANTS to remake this one because its concept is pretty kooky, but I think there are a lot of directions one could take this.
The story: Ben Crandall, a nerdy genius obsessed with 1950’s alien movies, starts having strange dreams about some sort of blueprint that doesn’t look like anything he’s ever seen. Once he finally tells his friends about it, they realize that it’s the secret to building their own spaceship. Once they get the thing working, they go off into space, searching for the source of Ben’s mysterious dreams.
The original film was directed by Joe Dante who most everyone will know as the guy who gave us Gremlins and a bunch of other 80’s classics. The film was beset by some studio interference, which is why the ending of the film feels so different from the first half, but I think there’s a lot of good stuff here.
The original is incredible for the first half. We’ve got interesting characters, a smart script, and great atmosphere. Things get a bit more kooky once they actually make it into space and meet the alien Wak (played delightfully by Robert Picardo of Star Trek Voyager fame) who is obsessed with Earth culture but is terrified of the alien movies which always show humans fighting and killing aliens. It’s a great concept, but it’s so excessively goofy, especially since Wak talks mostly in sound bytes from films and TV and at one point breaks out into a musical sequence.
The creature design is delightfully weird, but compared to the wonder and atmosphere of the first half, it seems like it belongs in a completely different movie. You’re expecting Close Encounters of the Third Kind and you get Slimy Space Muppets.
If any film deserves a remake, it’s this one. The concept is great, and if a director (I’m thinking Spielberg) could maintain the tone throughout, it could work really well, especially if the characters actually have to do something once they get into space as opposed to standing still and watching a stand up comedy routine.
This film (or at least the first half) fits into the Stranger Things genre, so there’s definitely an audience for this kind of film. It needs to be set in the 80’s, before smartphones and tablets, for the wonder of what they discover in the beginning to really have an impact.
5. The Shadow
This is one of those superheroes that REALLY needs another chance. Hailing from the 1930’s and gaining popularity on a hit radio drama, the character has fallen into obscurity in later years. Alec Baldwin brought the character to life in 1994 and I love the movie a whole bunch, but I’m well aware that it’s super cheesy.
The story: Lamont Cranston has the ability to cloud men’s minds so as to appear invisible, and he uses this ability to fight crime in New York City. In the 1994 film, he has to stop Shiwan Kahn, descendant of the legendary Genghis Kahn, who is holding New York hostage with an atomic bomb.
The character is super cool and the film noir stylings of the Shadow’s New York has a lot of potential (think of Tim Burton’s Gotham City in 1989’s Batman). It would be awesome if a new film could be shot in black and white and really ramp up the atmosphere. We need a good noir throwback to break up all the hyper-saturated colors of the superhero craze.
It would work well as a psychological superhero film, combining a villain who challenges The Shadow at a psychological level with a bunch of super cool skyline-traversing stunts. Atmosphere is what makes this hero work, and I think if studios could find a director who can pull that off, this movie could really work. I think Ang Lee could pull it off. plus it would give him a chance to redeem himself for Hulk.
And remember: the sun is shining…but the ice is slippery…
It would be great if we could get more original films, BUT I’m well aware of how the studio model works. Studios rarely turn profits, and so they sink their investments into films they KNOW already have a built-in fanbase (so as to save money on advertising). There are original films that are released every year, but very few of them are able to gain enough buzz so as to make any money (and let’s be realistic here; movies are about making money). Stuff with wide appeal will always make the most money, but audiences are getting tired of being pandered to, so now is a great time to start making these remakes more cerebral and satisfying, opening up the playing field for more original stories.
Basically, we need more of what made Mad Max: Fury Road so mindblowing. Its a remake/sequel that didn’t underestimate its audience. We need more of that!
So go and remake stuff!
But be smart about it!