Hollywood is already in the business of remaking everything, and most people whine about this blindly. For the record, I’m okay with the rumors about Bradley Cooper as Indiana Jones, provided he stars in new adventures–but if they decide to remake “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” I’ll blow up the whole fucking Disney studio lot (or whine a lot about it on the Internet, one of the two). However, there are some movies out there that I’m not only okay with being remade, but I actually think SHOULD be remade. Sometimes you have a genius idea, script, or property, and sometimes those genius ideas don’t get the movie they deserve, for a variety of reasons. Here’s where I’d start.
1. “Dune” (1984)
Depending on who you ask, David Lynch either didn’t get enough creative freedom from the studio to execute his vision for “Dune,” or the studio gave him too much freedom and he came in with a turd of a movie. I’ve found the answer to that question has a lot to do with whether this hypothetical person thinks David Lynch is a cinematic genius whose films represent a marriage of Stephen King’s macabre sensibility with the visual style of Matisse’s fauvism, or an overrated, self-important cinematographer-disguised-as-a-director who considers himself a visual philosopher, who substitutes dream iconography for actual storytelling. I suppose I’ll let you guess which camp I fall into.
David Lynch circa 1984 was actually a perfect choice on paper for the weird, political, philosophical sci-fi epic novel, “Dune,” which involves space colonization, trade, and crazy, mind-altering substances that allow for the manipulation of space and time. “Eraserhead” had made some waves for its weird, post-industrial visuals and was especially impressive, given its lack of a real budget. Then he was nominated for Best Director for “Elephant Man,” which is a film that angers me to this day, because it proves that Lynch can do great narrative films if he chooses to. So I don’t blame Universal for choosing him. In fact, if I were to draft someone now to do “Dune” all over again, it would probably be either Terry Gilliam, the obvious choice, or Shane Carruth. The problem with Carruth is that he’s certainly influenced by Lynch, and I’m not totally sure if I love him yet. The fact that he’s shown he can handle complex plots involving space and time (“Primer”) and has a gorgeous visual style (“Upstream Color”) I’d give him a shot.
2. “The Last Starfighter” (1984)
The premise is something you’re either going to be on board with from the beginning or immediately know you’ll hate. A teenager who is the highest scoring player in a space-battle video game gets recruited by aliens to help them fight an intergalactic war. The aliens created the video game as a test to help them recruit humans with “the gift.” Awesome, right? If you don’t like it, feel free to go to the next one.
Anyway, the original film isn’t terrible. It’s just super dated. The lightheartedness comes off as corny and the special effects don’t hold up at all. That’s the problem with a lot of sci-fi films from the ‘80s. They were too ambitious for the special effects they actually had at the time. The big battles in “The Last Starfighter” look like Duke Nukem in space–it’s that bad. But the plot is fun, and as long as whoever makes it doesn’t take it so damn seriously (looking at you, Wachowskis) it could be a fun popcorn flick.
3. “Swiss Family Robinson” (1960)
I essentially grew up on Disney’s live action films from the ‘60s and ‘70s, so there’s a special place in my nostalgic heart for “Swiss Family Robinson.” Unfortunately, a lot of it really doesn’t hold up all that well. There are some things that could be truly epic or terrifying that didn’t really come off that way in the original. The storm at the beginning could be crazy huge, the pirates a little less “Treasure Island” and a little more evil, and the anaconda attack could actually look life-threatening. Seriously, go watch the anaconda scene on YouTube. It’s footage of the snake swimming, followed up by what looks less like an attack than an actor jumping up and down in the water with a tame snake while the chick with short hair makes frightened faces on the shoreline. Because that’s what it is. I want less Steve Irwin, and more “Lake Placid,” please.
4. “Waterworld” (1995)
Actually, “Waterworld” is awesome as is. Carry on.
5. “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (2003)
This is probably one of my favorite premises ever: protagonists of Victorian literature are assembled into a superhero-esque team, and they fight literary crime. The movie is pretty mediocre, though. I actually didn’t hate it as much as a lot of people did, but then again, I hadn’t read the graphic novel beforehand. The story of the books is so much bigger in scope, with tons of interesting side characters that a movie can’t really afford to even introduce. Plus, they get involved with a lot more conspiracies and subplots than just “bad man trying to take over the world.” Which is why “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” would work much better as a limited cable series than a new film. I’m talking about “Game of Thrones,” 10 episodes, filmed all at once, like a 10-hour movie style of series. Same number of characters to remember, same amount of batshit craziness going on. If Showtime is serious about taking on HBO, they really ought to do this.
(As this column was about to be posted, I discovered that Fox has, in fact, already ordered a pilot for “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” I’m not sure if it’ll be a good series for the network, but we’ll see. Either way, I was right.)