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Top 4 Remakes that need to happen

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Remakes are happening all the time, ladies and gentlemen. And people complain about it too. It’s the same complaint. “oh, man, Hollywood is running out of ideas, ‘cause all they’re doing is remaking the old stuff.” They say it just like that, too. As if Hollywood is one giant amorphous entity. While that cannot be further from the truth, they kinda sorta have a valid point in that sometimes, remakes just aren’t a good idea. The 1960 science fiction film The Time Machine, and the book it is based on, is essentially a really scary “what if.” If you had the power to travel through time, it wouldn’t really be a glamorous adventure, as the protagonist discovers. And while there is a slight hint of a happy ending in that film, it more or less retains its status as the ominous cerebral flick that it kept throughout the movie. Cut forward to 2002, and we now have kinda sorta the same movie, with Guy Pearce as the traveler. This kinda sorta takes the bare bones outline of the original movie (and book) and turns it into much more of an action film. This isn’t the character piece of a man who is horrified by what the future holds in store for earth, and sacrifices his life in the past to hopefully prevent it from happening…I mean, all that stuff kinda sorta happens, but it’s all through the lens of an action film with big budget and huge special effects. It’s not really a character piece. It does the same stuff that the first movie does, but since it’s being made in 2002, it’s doing the stuff that a movie from 2002 would likely do…

The Karate Kid. Copyright © Columbia Pictures

So yeah, I’d say there’s some merit to the idea that remakes can be bad ideas. But when is it a great idea? When it is of a movie that sucked the first time around. This never EVER happens, much to my chagrin. If Planet of the Apes did billions when it came out in 1968, then surely it can’t possibly be a bad idea to do it again in 2001, right? And that’s why people hate the idea of remakes. It’s not that they dislike the lack of originality, whatever that means. It’s that they don’t like the possibility of a sacred cow of theirs being defiled, even if it might turn out to be better (My dad, a John Wayne fan, actually liked the Jeff Bridges True Grit movie more than the original). So if the idea of a remake is not in itself a bad idea, and there is a shocking lack of remakes of awful movies, then what needs to happen? You guessed it…and therein lies the topic of this article. The top 4 (after roughly an hour of me thinking about this, I could not think of another movie to make this list top off at 5) movies that sucked hard the first time, and need to be remade now…enjoy the little explanations for why I feel these movies might work under different circumstances. Remember that these are listed in no particular order, so don’t take it as “this movie was worse, and therefore needs to be remade more immediately than this other one.”

The first one I want to talk about is the 1983 science fantasy film Krull. This movie is on this list not because it’s bad, but because it’s bland. This tastes like it has no flavor at all…it’s just there…not aggressively good or sucking out loud like some of the other films on this list. And being bland isn’t easy to do when your story involves cyclopses, evil shapeshifters, magic blades, and high adventure like this movie does. It’s like it had to work hard to be this boring. If I had to level a complaint against the film other than that, it’s that Krull doesn’t even feel like someone who is familiar with how narrative even works did this movie. This feels like a group of executives who have a vague grasp of what sells (you know how Star Wars was frickin’ enormous 6 years earlier? Well this movie seemingly follows the bare bones of New Hope. A princess is in danger, the whiny no good kid goes to save her, the old man who spurns him into action is actually more competent than the kid…it’s all there, but it doesn’t know what to do with this type of set up, whereas Star Wars knew exactly what it was doing with a smaller cast and moving the conflict when it needed to be moved, and focusing on what needed to be focused on.) put together the plot for this story, and then found an obedient director and screen writer to execute their vision. All the stuff you learn in the very basics of creative writing, it’s all absent from this movie. No discernable protagonist, the villain’s motivations aren’t clear, the focus is spread out too thin, to the point where I cannot care about any one thing that happens in this movie, because even the most interesting things in this movie (read, not a lot) are fighting for their lives to have screen time over everything else in this movie that sucks or is just boring. This movie is so scatterbrained, that it even has a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance from Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane. What do they do in this movie? I don’t know. Gun at my head, I would say that they serve no purpose in this film at all.

So that’s what didn’t work with the movie. What needs to happen if someone decided to remake it? For one, I would remove all the focus on the old man and the prince who is supposedly the protagonist. There is no depth there, and what little you might be able to see if you squint is just lifted straight from Star Wars, like I mentioned earlier. You can still keep those characters in the movie, but as background characters. After all, everyone already knows this story, again, from Star Wars. So who becomes the protagonist in this remake? The one character who made this movie bearable for me…the shapeshifter who is traveling with the group almost from the beginning. I was actually surprised by how well this character was done, especially considering the rest of the movie. He starts off as a coward who is portrayed as being scared of nearly everything that moves, and by the end of the movie, he’s willing to risk his life to save a child who is traveling with them. You won’t see that kind of heroism from the actual main character. So this remake would need to start from the eyes of the shapeshifter…instead of having him live near the lake and just kinda bump into the old man and the prince, have him live in the kingdom and maybe even witness the bad guys kidnapping the princess. From there, you more or less follow the exact plot of the movie, but keeping the focus on our coward/hero in the making. Another small change would be that we don’t need 15 useless characters like the ones that were portrayed by Liam and Robbie. I truly feel like this would be a greater film if these small steps were taken to try and make it less like Star Wars, and more its own animal. Heck, you might even be able to make it good enough to warrant a sequel, which could work really well or not at all, since this world felt very much like it had more stories to tell, but it’s hard to imagine what else could be done with the characters after the rescue of the princess…maybe the corruption of the Prince by the magical weapon that he’s used in the first movie? Something to think about, for sure.

The next film is also a fantasy movie. This one is much more a fantasy story than a blending of two genres like Krull. Have you ever seen Hawk the Slayer? If the answer is no, chances are the answer is actually yes, and you just forgot watching it. Where Krull just felt boring, this movie actually toes the line of really bad. Like Krull, the characters have no personality, and there is no comic relief character to secretly steal the spotlight. The movie unfortunately feels like an exercise in special effects…except the problem is, when the special effects are from 1981, it doesn’t hold up as very impressive at all today, unless there’s an actual story there to make us forget about the special effects. Again, let’s look at Star Wars Episode IV. The special effects? Not fantastic. I’m sure they changed hearts and minds in 1977, but we don’t ever talk about them now, when we discuss the movie. It’s the story from that movie that holds up, and is the reason that that franchise makes Lucas billions of dollars. Hawk the Slayer has a fairly mundane conflict in the background between the hero and the villain that has really no relation to the conflict happening in the rest of the movie. As it turns out, the two characters are brothers (the alarmingly old Jack Pallance is somehow the older brother of Christian Shephard from LOST, even though there’s some 25 years of difference in their age.) who are both in love with the same girl. Jack Palance eventually kills the girl and then in the future, wants to steal some magic rock that really has no bearing on the plot, but is just an excuse to get Jack Shephard involved in the story. Jack Shephard gets a rag tag band of adventurers who certainly feel like prototypal Lord of the Rings cast, without the personality. They stop Jack Palance, but there seems to be a promise of a sequel, when, I guess, the devil brings Palance back to life…

Like I said, the problem with this movie is that the story is so formulaic that it cannot exist once the special effects are outdated. It takes much too long to introduce characters that really only exist as archetypes, and therefore, do not need even a 30 second introduction. It never bothers to give the characters, good or bad, much of a personality beyond their archetypes. Hawk is the square jawed hero, and other than losing his girlfriend to his older brother’s cruelty, that’s all we know about him. Jack Palance is evil just ‘cause, and we don’t really get to see why, nor do I imagine the explanation would really enthrall us if it did show up in this movie. So my fix for this film lies in keeping all the conflict centered around Hawk and his older brother when the girl was still alive. The movie we got missed a golden opportunity to have Jack Palance be only kinda evil in the flashbacks, and then be tremendously evil in the present day. That would have at least shown us a character arc (the kind of thing that I hear movies are supposed to be built around), but no. So, since the movie didn’t bother with that, let’s just stay in the past. Hawk is engaged to the girl, his brother is evil, probably not trusted by Hawk or his father, and the girl thinks that he still has some good in him. The girl dies, Hawk will then transform from the kind noble square jaw to the blood-thirsty revenge seeker who gathers his friends (the same crew we had in the actual movie) and then they go after Jack Palance. I said that the conflict in the flashback (who gets to have the chick) was mundane, but that’s only because nothing interesting is done with it, just like nothing interesting is done with the rest of the movie. But a creative writing professor told me once that an interesting story can be written about a character who has a splinter and can’t get it out. While I disagree with that particular example, the spirit behind it is true, I think. We can get a far more interesting protagonist in a situation that stems from the girlfriend dying than protecting a monastery and a magic rock years after the death of the girlfriend. You might think that removing entire chunks of the movie and just having the whole thing set in the past would be far to removed from the actual movie, and might even verge into prequel…but I kid you not when I say that the special effects was really the only thing holding this movie together, even then. If you remove all the expensive sword fights and such, it’s just people sitting in a monastery, and then doing stuff to kill time until the big fight at the end. So why not do all of that with a conflict that’s more interesting than the one we spent most of the time focusing on in the movie? You can have flashbacks showing Hawk remembering his girlfriend, and maybe even more flashbacks showing that Jack Palance wasn’t always so evil (that was a missed opportunity that would enrichen the movie experience, I think).

Before Marvel Studios started their enormous plan for a 55 movie franchise of interlocking smaller franchises, all culminating and extending past the superhero team The Avengers, there was another team by the same name. Originating from a live action black and white television series from Great Britain, this spy series actually predates the comic book superheroes by 2 years. For those who aren’t aware, it involves 2 spies who are always encountering somewhat fantastical situations that they have to deal with in their own groovy pre-psychedelic way. A movie was made in 1998, starring Uma Thurman, Ralph Fiennes and Sean Connery. But it isn’t fondly remembered today. And rightly so. The movie has this weird sexual/romantic storyline that is trying to happen between the two leads, even though they only just met in the course of the movie (my problem with virtually every superhero movie is that the two romantic leads don’t have enough time to believably fall in love while the hero has to do heroy stuff also). Thurman and Fiennes are both good actors, but even they can’t portray “falling in love 12 minutes after meeting you,” which the script has them doing. Other than that bizarre element to this seemingly adrenalin fueled action flick, there’s also the dialogue that virtually every character has, which feels awkward, to put it politely.

So how does this get fixed? Well, first and foremost, this movie needs to be taken back to the 1960s. I don’t think putting the 1998 film in the modern day is what hurt it, but this franchise is one of the very few that I do not feel needs to be brought out of the era that it was born in. The 1960s had a plethora of this science fiction spy thriller type stuff going on. The Man from U.N.C.L.E., James Bond, and then this series. Heck, look at the old Nick Fury stories from Marvel Comics, and then look at all of these tv shows, and you can see where his genesis came from. It’d be nice to capitalize on this era by having the characters use technology that doesn’t even exist now, like weather control devices or whatever, but place them beside cars that were around in the early 60s, the fashion of the early 60s, and maybe even mention a couple of the more famous politicians of the early 60s. Another major change I would institute would be to begin the movie with Peel and Steed already partnered together. This way, you can say that they’ve been working together for a year or two, and if and when John falls in love with Emma, it doesn’t feel awkward and unbelievable. Maybe he already knows it at the beginning of the movie, but does not want to believe it, or maybe he only slowly begins to realize that he’s been in love with her this whole time. But the love element isn’t something I would get rid of completely. It was kinda a long running slow building plot of the old series, the change of the relationship between these two. Kinda a pre-Mulder/Skully thing. (Little known fact, though, there were actually a couple of other people who worked with Steed over the course of the series, but it was Peel who is the most fondly remembered) It was just badly handled in this movie. As for the villain, played horribly by Sean Connery, you could either scrap everything that his character brought to the film (a man steals a weather control device and blackmails the world with it) and bring in some brand new doomsday machine that the villain uses, or stick with what was in the movie. Honestly, the villain’s scheme was pretty workable, and could easily be done in a good movie. But at the same time, there’s a wealth of source material for this franchise (9 years of television, plus the novels and comics that attempted to expand this world after the series was long over). There’s really any number of characters you could pull to make a good villain. And the final change, to make this hopefully a really awesome movie? I’d connect the villain to Steed. He no doubt had other partners before working with Peel, and if you were to make this a type of homage to the TV series, you could play this up as one of the cast changes the series went through, though have it be part of the plot. Having the villain be a former agent doesn’t have to be overly complex. It gives Steed an emotional connection to the conflict, instead of being cold and detached like Fiennes played him. Other than that, I feel like the only major problem the 1998 movie faced that would need to be tackled in this remake is that the world needs to feel believable, even when it’s clearly not. The super science, the pumped up style, we need to look at this film for 3 minutes and instinctively know that it is not the real world, but regardless, it needs to feel like it when we hear characters talk and see them react to the world around them. That, I feel was problematic with the delivery in the 1998 movie.

The other spy series of the 1960s, The Wild Wild West, also had a movie made in the late 90s, just one year after The Avengers. And boy, this one is remembered even less fondly than The Avengers. The less said about this film, the better, I feel. But like all the others, I will try to briefly discuss what did not work about this film. First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough, this movie did not take the source material seriously enough. No, this isn’t “Driving Miss Daisy,” but that is not an excuse to say “ah, it’s science fiction, what can ya do?” Watching just one episode of the 1965 series shows that the people involved with this show were not under the impression that it was all just some joke. Sure, there was camp, but that’s to be expected when the thing was made in the 1960s. Not only does this film play jokes with the Spy/Western genre that it is trying to bring to the big screen, but it also, oddly enough, tries to have its cake and eat it to, in regards to Will Smith being a black man. On the one hand, this movie is set in 1869, a time when racism was far more prevalent than it is now. And yet, the movie’s protagonist is a black secret agent, which one would think, at the time, would not be an easy career to procure, regardless of how good of an agent you are (as it happens, it’s stated that he’s one of the best, but that would make no difference to the racists in this world, I would think, as it would only emphasize that his skill matters not in his getting the job, but it’s his color that prevents him from getting it, or whatever). Ok, so maybe this is the kind of movie that asks me to forget all about what happened in the real world, and just watch the movie and pretend like there is no such thing as racism. Sorta like a more actiony Blazing Saddles…but wait, no. The villain of the piece, Doctor Loveless, actually mentions that Jim West is black. Ok, what is going on now? Is this movie going to ignore the color of everybody’s skin and just do a steampunk western? Or are we going to only ignore it and draw attention to it as needed? But enough of that. This movie also suffered from a problem that Hawk The Slayer suffered from, though it’s much less noticeable, since it’s much more recent in our memories. This film tries to rely too much on the special effects (it’s common knowledge that the producer Jon Peters wanted to use a large mechanical Spider in an unmade Superman movie that Kevin Smith was involved with. It just seems crass that this movie is only a vehicle so that Peters’ spider can finally show up on the big screen). The special effects certainly need to be utilized in a film that gives us technology that could never exist in the old west, and probably couldn’t even exist now (the mechanical spider is an example of that). But does anyone actually remember the story to this movie? To be fair, I guess one could argue that all of the episodes of the television show that used Doctor Loveless were basically the same. Doctor Loveless has a crazy wild plan, Jim and Artemis stop him. And that’s the very basic formula that’s used in the movie.

Ultimately, I feel like this movie doesn’t have very far to travel to be good. As long as everyone involved isn’t treating this as a vehicle to show how good they are at making special effects, and as long as everyone takes it seriously, while not forgetting to have fun with it, then I think it could be a fantastic film. Maybe have 3 or 4 of the minor villains that showed up in the series and use them in some complex world shattering scheme that ultimately leads to Doctor Loveless (who could even be a secret villain up until that point. Maybe he’s working with the heroes up until the point when they discover his villainy? As far as how to play Loveless, his first appearance had him trying to recapture land that his family lost when America obtained California. I would go for something along those lines, so he isn’t just a psycho villain who is hilarious but has no real depth. Maybe not the exact same motivation, but something in that ballpark. The only other thing I could think of is to load this sucker up with lots and lots of fan service items. Don’t make it obvious, because then anyone who was not a fan of the original series wouldn’t get it, and they’d be taken out of the movie when it shows up. But if you have a room full of trinkets that West and Artemis use, then maybe have these trinkets be things that were used on the series. And then the villains who are working for Loveless, they would of course be villains that showed up a few times in the series, and they would also be fan service, in a way. The only other thing I can think of that might need to be different is the way the two protagonists were handled in the film. The movie played them up as rivals who reluctantly worked together to stop the bad guy, and to what end? Is there an arc or a believable building of their friendship? Why, no, of course not. Now at the risk of making this sound too much like the remake of The Avengers that should happen, this could feasibly go the route of having the two agents already working together before the movie even begins, and then you could just play their relationship exactly as it was on the television series. But, I actually think that in this case, it’d be better to pair them up early in the movie. Unlike with the Avengers, you’re not dealing with a romance angle. A friendship would be much easier to build during a 2 hour movie than a convincing romance. I think the idea behind having Jim and Artemis meet in the movie and sorta be rivals is not a bad one, but the movie just handled it wrong. Likewise, putting two great secret agents together during the movie would only remind us of how dire the situation would be, as opposed to “it’s just another thing these guys do.”

Those are my 4 movies that need to be remade, stat. There are plenty of other movies where I was not happy with what we had, and would love to see future installments, but in those cases, I am much more interested in an entirely different story, instead of remaking the existing story. Movies like Buckaroo Banzai, Willow, Superman, Fantastic Four, these franchises need to have more movies, but I don’t feel like the movies that exist need to be remade, for whatever reason (in the case of the comic book based films, I don’t have to see the exact same story again, and would love to see something totally different, and in the case of the others, I just want to see more great stories set in those worlds, respectively). Then you have movies like Conan, Spiderman, and even Superman, which are getting new movies, but are not going to be remakes, really. New plot, new story, new everything. In any case, what are some movies you’d like to see remade? What are your thoughts on remakes, as a rule? I’d love to see your comments on my article, because that’s how I can improve the writing!

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 February 2012 04:06 )  
Author Profile: RJD

RJD has written fan letters, reviews, and examinations of various qualities, mostly on the Tavern.

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Words and Sequential

Adam Chrimes is the writer of The Apathetic Dead and co-creator of Bloodworks. His other webcomics include Woodwose and the upcoming Capefall.

Thoughts From a Yodeling Goat Herder

Vicky Locey is the writer of Kricket & Kat and co-creator of Criss/Cross and Zita. Vicki also writes the Original Fiction: Sons of War.

Pop Culture This!

Pop Culture This! Author of Hollyweird Living and DCnU Reviews. Joshua McConnaughey also contributes analytical articles in regards the comic industry here.

Master's Degree Crap

Master's Degree Crap Blog run by OTM Kingpins, MasterFlossin and Ross Rivers. Ross is co-founder of 2Truecomics and he also contributes articles on EWC.