Here’s my thing with remakes: I actually don’t mind them. There are plenty of movies I didn’t see the first time around and, if you’ve ever taken a freshman creative writing class, you know there are only a few dozen story tropes that exist in the world. Many “original” films are just older stories with a new coat of paint.
The Fast and the Furious is just Point Break with cars instead of surfing. Avatar is Dances with Wolves with giant Smurfs instead of Native Americans, etc. My only real beef with remakes is that, more often than not, Hollywood chooses to remake an already well executed film (Psycho, The Thing) or one that is such a product of its own time (Red Dawn, War Games) that a remake hardly makes any sense other than the use of nostalgia to relieve you of money. I’m all for a movie mulligan, but I want to see a studio take a chance on a film that was flawed in execution but had a premise that deserves to be done justice, a story that fell through the cracks and is waiting to be found.
Below are a few films that are either currently being remade or in development. I’ve offered up some possible alternative films that may prove more deserving. Let me know if you agree.
1. Red Dawn (1984). The wolverines were back this past November. There was only one problem—the cold war didn’t come back with them. An evil army managing to invade a small town in Washington just doesn’t hold up today. Zombies, maybe. Commies? No. Even young audiences would roll their eyes at this dusty premise…and then probably pull out their phone and tweet, “@RedDawn #lol.”
Alternative: The Outsiders (1983). While some regard this film as a classic, many critics felt this adaptation of S.E Hinton’s novel failed to capture the grittiness of the book. Both Red Dawn and The Outsiders are essentially about a group of kids losing their innocence as they are prematurely thrust into adulthood. What makes The Outsiders a superior candidate for a remake is its theme of classism, which would perhaps resonate even more today than it did when it was first released.
2. Robocop (1987). With filming underway, young audiences will soon be introduced to Alex Murphy, a cop who was blown to bits by hooligans only to be put back together with GM parts and transformed into Detroit’s best cop who keeps his gun in his leg. Though I poke fun at it, Robocop was a well executed and fully realized vision of a dystopian future that only someone like Paul Verhoeven can deliver. Which begs the question: what was missing in the original that a remake could improve on? Hollywood already tried remaking Verhoeven’s Total Recall. Did you see that? Okay, then.
Alternative: Seconds (1966). While nowhere in the same neighborhood as robot cops, this creepy sci-fi thriller was onto something with a man undergoing drastic surgery in order to adopt a new identity courtesy of a company that has a less than desirable repayment plan. A meandering script and underdeveloped plot kept this good idea from being a good film, but with a more focused story and the right actor, Seconds is ripe for a makeover.
3. Romancing the Stone (1984). This is yet another successful 80’s film that is currently toiling in the development jungle. My thoughts are the same: what was missing from this one? It was a pretty huge hit. They made a sequel (that was not.) This one feels like nothing more than a nostalgia-fueled cash grab. “Hey remember this movie? Sure ya do. That’ll be ten dollars.” I’m on to you, Hollywood. I’m on to you.
Alternative: Jake Speed (1986). Do you remember this one? Congrats on being in your thirties and watching too much HBO when you were a kid. Jake Speed was a really fun adventure film - a little bit Romancing the Stone, a little bit Indiana Jones - that didn’t work, well, at all. Poor writing and worse acting kept this movie securely in the straight-to-video category, but the idea is the perfect example of a diamond in the cinematic rough. Give this B movie an A-list polish and you just might have a hit.
4. An American Werewolf in London (1981). Ah, werewolf movies: the less-cool cousin of vampire movies. While this horror comedy certainly shows its age, it still stands as a groundbreaking moment in makeup effects. Unless Edgar Wright is doing this with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, then I say we all just sit down and watch the easily forgotten sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, and then talk about whether or not this remake is a good idea.
Alternative: Wolf (1994). Though Jack Nicolson made this plodding and fright-less thriller watchable, it fell short of its potential to be a gritty, urban update of the werewolf story. With a more brisk pace that leads to a more heart pumping ending, Wolf could be ready to come out of the woods.
5. The Crow (1994). Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I always thought The Crow was an overrated film that got a huge assist by Brandon Lee’s untimely death and the fact that “Goth” was whining its way into the mainstream at that very moment. Like Red Dawn, this is another product of its time. A dude in Crow makeup is always the lamest guy at the Halloween party. This will feel like a remake of a fad, rather than a film.
Alternative: The Changeling (1980). This is a ways away from the premise of The Crow, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This creepy, atmospheric tale of a recent widower moving into a countryside estate only to discover he’s now roommates with a supernatural presence is a story that doesn’t go out of style. While the original only narrowly missed its mark due, in part, to a subdued performance by George C. Scott, there is enough room for improvement that a respectful remake can easily take advantage of. While Goth may be stuck in the 90’s, a good old fashioned ghost story is always trendy.
Remakes aren’t always a bad thing. I’ve seen just as many original films that were as bad, or worse, as some failed remakes. The good ideas are out there, Hollywood just needs to dig a little deeper to find them. I’m sure I’m like the 800th person to make that statement so consider this last paragraph a reboot of whoever said that last.
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