A while back (2008 to be exact) I started a series called Top Ten Movies I Think Would Make Kick Ass Remakes. Well a few things got in the way since I wrote that first one and by now I think a 10-week series might be just a bit of overkill. However I still like the idea, especially with as much grumbling as I do over Hollywood remakes. My knee jerk reaction to everything being remade is the same as yours “Why remake it”?
Most of the movies being remade (or rebooted or whatever you want to call it) have either stood the test of time or they are so good a remake would kill them. Take Zombie’s Halloween or the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, both of those sucked. I was high atop my soap box when a friend kicked it out from under me by pointing out that Hollywood was going to keep doing remakes, no matter what so rather than bitching about it how about coming up with some movies that could actually make good remakes. Films that seem dated or that weren’t really so good the first time around that a remake would hurt their legacy.
As I pondered the idea I decided not only to list them but give my reason why and even some casting suggestions. Listing ten movies is easy but if I wanted to really throw my two cents in there I figured I should write something with a little more meat to it. Some will balk that I was the guy who wrote “A Year Without Reboots, Remakes, Sequels or Based On’s” and those people would be correct. I look at this as a list for Hollywood to check out after that year, when remakes are back on the table and hopefully everybody has learned a few lessons about content. I know that sounds horribly pretentious, but it’s true, plus I thought this would be a lot of fun to write. So, without further ado, here we go…
10. KRULL (1983)
Krull tells the story of Prince Colwyn whose home planet of Krull is invaded by The Beast and his mindless humanoid soldiers. The Beast kidnaps Princess Lyssa and takes her back to the Black Fortress. Colwyn and a rag tag group of space misfits must find the five-bladed weapon known as The Glaive in order to defeat The Beast and take back his kingdom.
First and foremost this movie is ripe for a remake because the original one is a perfect example of a solid idea with lousy execution. It also came out during the Star Wars craze (Return Of The Jedi) so as a Sci-fi movie it was pretty much out of luck. The effects weren’t very good but the concepts were there so infused with a little digital magic The Beast might not look like a garbage bag with teeth and the other effects could be watchable. I think the idea of the Glaive is a solid one but man did it look hokey when Colwyn used it. Colwyn’s team of Shapeshifter Ergo, the Cyclops Rell and Torquil and his band of escaped criminals could use not only a costume and effects boost but also some massive recasting (though one of the thugs was Liam Neeson).
If Hollywood kept the brutal nature of the movie but tightened up the story and wrote in dialog that didn’t make you want to laugh until you puked, it could create a great new film, maybe even a franchise. What Hollywood shouldn’t do is try to improve the concept because that works on its own, just take the cheap look and the bad acting away and look out because it’s Krull T-shirts for everybody.
As for casting I’d want as much difference between the new Prince Colwyn and the old one as I could get so I’d cast Cliff Curtis who currently stars in the show Trauma. He has a totally different look and yet still is able to carry himself in a very regal manner; in short you’d buy him as prince. For Princess Lyssa we’d need eye candy that can act so I’m thinking Bryce Dallas Howard but she’d need to bring back the red hair. For the cowardly Ergo I’d pick Kevin J O’Conner (Dr. Mindbender/GI JOE) because nobody plays charmingly cowardly like that guy. The Cyclops Rell could be totally CGI and if you have Gerard Butler (300) do the voice you have one awesomely powerful character. For Torquil I’d go for an unknown mainly because the character isn’t a main one and also we don’t want it to become to star studded.
09. ANGEL (1984)
During the 1980s there was a rush of weirdly exploitive films that dealt with sex but in either a comedic way e.g. Joysticks, Private Lessons or with heightened reality such as Angel. The film centers around a girl named Molly Stuart who is a straight "A" student at a posh school by day and a hooker named Angel by night. The kids at school figure out she’s a hooker right about the time a necrophile serial killer targets Angel who witnesses his crime. A good cop as well as her makeshift street freak family protects Angel.
This one is screaming for a remake because the original just lightly dabbles in the fact that Angel’s parents abandoned her as well as why she became a hooker. Looking past the obvious exploitive nature of the movie it has a lot of subtext that happened largely by accident so it’s never explored. Angel’s connection to her lesbian landlord, transvestite friend Mae and Cowboy Kit Carson would make for great cinema as would the entire back story of the parents. If Hollywood took out the cheap thrills of the serial killer and added real tension and fear this remake could become a gritty indie style hit.
Casting wise I think Dakota Fanning could handle both Molly & Angel with equal depth and she’s been trying hard to break out of the kid roles that made her famous. If done well this could be a film that helps with that. Woody Harrelson is a no brainer for Kit Carson and the foul-mouthed lesbian landlord would kick ass if played by Carrie Fisher. As for the transvestite this could be an awesome return for either Meatloaf or Wesley Snipes depending on how the director wanted to go. The tough cop would be a great film leap for Thomas Gibson who exudes tough guy calm on Criminal Minds.
08. THE EXTERMINATOR (1980)
The Exterminator was a classic eighties action movie, back when bad movies were still kind of good. Two Vietnam Vet buddies John Eastland and Michael Jefferson run afoul of a street gang called the Ghetto Ghouls. Jefferson is left paralyzed and Eastland decides to wage a one-man war on crime that gets really brutal. As always in these movies a tough cop who feels for Eastland but still must bring him in pursues him.
Again this is a good idea that was shot quickly and cheaply to make some fast cash from the Saturday afternoon teenager movie crowd. Take this movie and heighten the budget, keep the violence and throw in some high octane fist fights and you’ve got an action winner on your hands. Instead of the Vietnam War make the two heroes Iraq War survivors suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You’d also have to change the name of the street gang to something less lame, though I’d change the entire thing to being low-level enforcers for the mob. The street gang vibe as it was in New York is too seventies. I’d also bring back the original ending where Eastman dies instead of leaving it open for a sequel.
Casting is easy, this remake screams for Jason Statham (Transporter 1-3) as John Eastman, I can’t even think of a person better suited for the role. Michael Jefferson would be the harder of the two to cast because he’s the catalyst for the movie; he’s why it happens. You’d need somebody that audience connects with but could be believed as the more passive character. I’d say Mos Def or Jamie Foxx could nail this part easily. For the cop I’d love to see Hugh Jackman step up and do something besides adventurers and Wolverine.
07. MANIAC COP (1988)
In Maniac Cop people are being murdered by a uniformed police officer that has completely snapped. A grizzled New York police detective named Frank McCrae is put on the case, which leads to a young cop named Jack Forrest quickly becoming the prime suspect. McCrae doesn’t believe Forrest did it so they team up along with Forrest’s girlfriend Theresa to try and stop the maniac cop and clear Forrest’s name.
What you have with Maniac Cop is a horror movie that can play off of the public’s continued mistrust of cops, a feeling that’s worse today with all of the taser videos and police brutality clips on line. If the new version delved a little deeper into what made the Maniac Cop go off the deep end as well as maybe adding an element where the cop is smart and crazy not just a behemoth that kills people you’d have much more interesting film. The other perfect thing here is that Bruce Campbell played the young cop in the original but is now perfect to play the older Detective Frank McCrae. I’d throw Channing Tatum (GI Joe) in as the young cop and Gilmore Girl Rory Bledel as Theresa.
For the Maniac Cop himself I’d want somebody like The Rock to play him simply because it would reinvent the character and it’d be nice to see The Rock play somebody purely evil. The new maniac cop would be a normal police office with some horrific back-story that leads him to go on a rampage. There could even be a tense scene where Tatum’s character and The Rock square off with The Rock provoking Tatum to prove he’s the killer. Keep the brutality and blood, raise the acting profile and reinvent the maniac cop and you’re looking at kick ass summer horror/action fare.
06. CONDORMAN (1981)
Not a lot of people know about this Disney superhero film but I feel they should. Yes it was panned and called ridiculous by critics but the idea is solid. A cartoonist named Woody who writes and draws a comic book hero named Condorman gets involved in the real world of spy vs. spy thanks to some bizarre circumstances. In the end he actually gets to be Condorman and rescue his new Russian love interest from the clutches of evildoers. No it’s not the Dark Knight but it could be a lot of fun to do, especially if it has a bit of a send up of other superhero movies.
Keep Condorman a comedy but play it off of how everybody is pretending to be so into comics right now and Woody wants to keeps his creation pure. When Woody’s CIA friend accidentally gets him involved Woody should really believe that Condorman could save the day. The movie should definitely have slapstick in it but the themes should be more adult, having more in common with Superbad than Dark Knight.
Condorman/Woody would have to be Steve Carrell (The Office) simply because he’s goofy and likeable but can also do action in a believable style. Woody’s CIA buddy who gets him into the mess would be awesome played by Zach Galifinakis (The Hangover) especially if he’s a little more twisted than the original and the part is expanded. As for the spy-turned-love-interest Natasha I’d re-name her character and switch her nationality. I think Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai would be perfect for the role and that alone would help worldwide distribution. Rai is a good actress, hot as the sun and this could be her break into American films if she wanted that.
05. PETE’S DRAGON (1977)
This would be a tough one to execute but if done properly could be a kid’s hit that adults love too, much like the film Enchanted. In the original movie Pete is an orphaned boy living with an abusive family named the Gogans. Pete’s only friend is a giant green and purple dragon named Elliott and the two flee the Gogans for the charming fishing town of Passamaquoddy where the lighthouse keepers’ daughter Nora befriends them. By the end of the movie Nora’s lost-at-sea husband has returned (thanks to Elliott), the townsfolk love Elliott, the plotting Doc Terminus has been chased away and Pete has escaped the Gogans and has a new family consisting of Nora and her husband.
Though really a kids film Pete’s Dragon could be ramped up to be a real tearjerker as well as a comedy for everyone. I’d seriously use the template of Enchanted to blend the musical elements of Pete’s Dragon with the straightforward story. I’d also toughen up Elliott’s look just a little. I wouldn’t make him a fire breathing hellspawn but maybe not so much of a cartoon. Kids today would think he was goofy looking so give him the look of a more realistic dragon. It would also be more believable when people see him and are scared if Elliott didn’t look like Eyore The Dragon.
Casting wise I’d have to go with a total unknown as Pete surrounded by big names for the supporting cast. For Nora the kindly daughter I’d go with Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line) because she can act and she can sing. For Doc Terminus I’d go with Neil Patrick Harris simply because he can sing, he’s funny and he can play a dirt bag but make him likeable enough for a comedy. Nora’s father Lampie is the town drunk and the comic relief for most of the movie so you’d need somebody who can play that part without being too silly. For me Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) would be the perfect Lampie and as for the evil Gogan mother originally played by Shelley Winters I’d hands down give it to Jane Lynch (Glee, Role Models).
04. THE BLACK HOLE (1979)
This was another Sci-Fi movie that suffered from bad writing and from the post Star Wars craze. The film centers on a ship called the Palomino which, when returning from a deep space mission, encounters a lifeless ship called the Cygnus. When the crew of the Palomino enters the ship they meet Doctor Hans Reinhardt a former Earth scientist who abandoned his home planet and is now fixated on flying through a Black Hole to see what’s on the other side. Protecting Reinhardt is a giant red robot named Maximillian. The Palomino crew tries to thwart the plan and all hell breaks loose as the Cygnus enters the Black Hole.
Like Krull, The Black Hole is built on a great premise but executed horribly. Bad dialog, bad effects, and an ending that is too ridiculous to be believed turned what could have been an awesome Sci-Fi classic into a big mess. If Hollywood remade the film, streamlined the plot, added good dialog and came up with a great ending this would be a sure fire summer blockbuster. There would also be a playground for effects masters. The digital age would make the entire ending of the journey into the Black Hole look incredible It would also help to add some depth to the R2-D2 rip off robot V.I.N.C.E.N.T.
Casting would be fairly simple as most of the characters are stereotypes even if they are ones that work. The Palomino crew has a very clichéd crew featuring the do-gooder Captain Dan Holland; brave first Officer Charlie Pizer, journalist Harry Booth, ESP sensitive Dr. Kate McCrae, creepy Dr. Alex Durant and then a voice for V.I.N.C.E.N.T. . You would also need an awesome actor to play the completely villainous Doctor Hans Reinhardt. For the brave Captain Dan Holland I’d go with Dennis Quaid and for first office Charlie Pizer I’d pick Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). For Dr. Kate McCrae I’d use Cate Blanchett and I’d do away entirely with Harry Booth, he’s unnecessary. For the creepy Dr. Alex Durant I’d pick Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Nightmare On Elm Street remake) and as the super evil Dr. Hans Reinhardt it’s be awesome to get Christian Bale with full British accent. As for the voice of V.I.N.C.E.N.T. I’d be amped if Mark Hamill stepped up to the plate.
03. FLASH GORDON (1980)
We all remember the Flash Gordon movie from the eighties with the Queen soundtrack, Max Von Sydow as Ming The Merciless and that weird football fight scene. True the film had its cool moments but overall it was pretty horrible. However it does leave Flash Gordon open for a remake since nobody has dared to touch the property (save for TV) thanks to the awful reception the original movie received. Flash Gordon told the story of how the Jets quarterback saved the world of Mongo and possibly the entire Universe from the clutches of Ming the Merciless.
The problem with the original was that the story and the dialog seemed better suited for dinner theater than motion pictures. The first thing a remake would have to do is drop back to the original characters created by Alex Raymond in 1934. Forget the whole Jets quarterback aspect and allow Flash to be a rich polo player, maybe even make him kind of a jerk. In the original film Flash Gordon is already a super do-gooder. Even the lyric from the Queen song which goes “Savior of the Universe” sets Flash up as a superhero before he even has to be. That removes any and all ability for Flash to grow as a character. Keep him as physically powerful and athletic but aloof or uncaring; have him learn to care for others through his adventures.
Hollywood would also have to let Dale Arden be a little more kick ass and independent than the doe eyed girl cheering on the sides while Flash uses football moves to defeat the bad guys. In the eighties film Dale Arden did nothing but cry and yell, by the end of the film you kind of hoped she would die. Same with Dr. Hans Zarkov who was a little too nutty and woo-hoo kooky to believe he was brilliant. Zarkov can be off but he need to be brilliant as well. The film itself can keep the same basic plot but the script should be gritty and the bright disco color scheme should be muted.
Casting wise I would really push the limits of hope and give the part to Tom Welling of Smallville. I think he can act if pushed and he completely has the look for it, much more all American than a Ryan Reynolds or even Hugh Jackman. If not Welling then I’d go with Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in the last Star Trek movie) or on the outside Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard from Dollhouse). For Dale Arden Hollywood could walk the line between cheesecake and actress, maybe Megan Fox or even better Kristin Bell. For Dr. Zarkov the only person I’d want would be John Noble (Dr. Bishop on Dollhouse) or ironically Leonard Nimoy. As for Ming the Merciless I’m all for Hugh Laurie (House) letting loose and going completely evil.
02. DEATH DRUG (1978)
I’ve found maybe twenty people on Earth who have ever seen this movie but trust me it is ripe for a remake mainly because it could become incredibly high concept. You have to understand that Death Drug is the best worst movie you will ever see in your lifetime. Let me amend that because it’s beyond awful, it’s so bad it transcends genre and actually becomes a genre within itself. I am being one hundred percent honest when I say that the film actually bends the space-time continuum by its end.
Miami Vice over-actor extraordinaire Philip Michael Thomas (Tubbs) plays Jesse Thomas a young up and coming singer that gets hooked on PCP (which is referred to as “wack” in the movie) and loses everything. The best part is that the movie is bookended by Thomas, in his Miami Vice heyday, introducing the film and talking about how he had to “dig deep” to make the character of Jessie Thomas come alive. Death Drug is such an unintentional comic farce that at the end you’re life will be slightly different because you’ve viewed it. I know it sounds like a bold statement but trust me it’s the truth.
My concept would be to get Don Cheadle to play a famous actor who gets into trouble with the law and is forced to do public service as his punishment. Cheadle decides to dig up this PCP movie he did long ago and just release it as an anti-drug message. Cheadle’s character is so egotistical that he finds the movie to be brilliant but lacking a modern touch so he decides to fund a shot for shot remake. Each time the movie starts to be changed or altered so it won’t suck he freaks out and forces them to stick to the script. We’d get a full shot for shot remake of Death Drug as well as another film within it to tie it together. Go find Death Drug and watch it, then you’ll understand why this is so rich.
Casting is hard to say because most aren’t familiar with the movie. Suffice it to say that a shot for shot remake of Death Drug would be able to involve Will Ferrell, Kevin James, Ludacris, Snoop Dog, Ben Stiller, Samuel L. Jackson and several other stars who would be perfect fits to do a terrible job in an awful movie. This could be the comedy property of the century if handled correctly.
01. STAR WARS EPISODE I-III
OK let’s stop screwing around and all admit to ourselves and our fellow nerds that George Lucas blew it with the most recent Star Wars series. There is no amount of comic books, animated TV shows or novels that will explain away how badly Lucas botched the story of the fall of the Jedi and the turn of Anakin Skywalker to the darkside. The movies were badly written, badly thought out and directed with a real high school talent show vibe to them. They were so bad that this lifelong Star Wars fan has turned his back on all the movies; it’s just too painful to watch.
Imagine though, just imagine if Lucas called a press conference and apologized for those movies and said he was going to redo them and try to save the saga for the fans and himself. First the movies would have to be totally changed concept wise. I think we’d all agree that Lucas can oversee the production but the writing of the scripts and direction of the films would need to be handed over to real filmmakers. The movies would have to torn to shreds and totally reconstructed as something entirely new. Nothing of the old movies could remain except the idea that the Jedi’s fall and Anakin turns.
I would start Episode I with Anakin already a teenager and already Obi Wan’s Padewan. Allow the opening scroll and the dialog to fill in where Anakin came from and how he misses his mother who died at the hands of slave traders. This would eliminate the entire first movie, as we know it, which would take care of the unnecessary character Qui Gon Jinn and the pod races and the Gungans. Oh yeah, JarJar would either need to become a different character to eliminated altogether. The first film could be about the Emperor rising to power, him becoming friends with Anakin and end with the start of the Clone Wars.
With the second movie the characters are deep in the Clone Wars and we get to see how Anakin’s anger is dangerous but also a real asset in winning battles. Becoming a hero Jedi and a leader against the enemy makes Anakin cocky, as does his relationship with the Emperor. Anakin can also start to become annoyed with the bureaucratic status of the Jedis and how they refuse to see how power can win battles and establish order. At the end of the movie when Palpatine is shown as the man behind the Clone Wars have Anakin agree with his ideals if not his methods and refuse to stand against him. In fact Anakin decides that for his wife and unborn child he will stand against the Jedi instead helping the new Empire to drive the Jedi into hiding.
The final movie should be about the hunting and elimination of the Jedi and how slowly Anakin’s anger and lust for power is turning him. When he discovers his wife Padme is secretly helping the Jedi form a rebellion against the Empire he loses it and nearly kills her thwarted only by Obi Wan who Anakin swears to destroy. At this point Anakin decides to use the moniker of Darth Vader to totally separate from the Jedi ideals.
At the end he confronts Obi Wan and Padme at the new Rebel Base where he learns she has given birth to his twin children. Obi Wan refuses to let Anakin see his children, which leads to a chase and battle with starships and then a fight on the volcano planet and the massive scarring of Anakin. At the end have Padme decide with a broken heart to allow Obi Wan go away with Luke and she will stay with Leia and Bail Organa on Alderaan. This would make what Leia says about her mother in Return Of The Jedi actually make sense and it would add some emotional impact to the movies.
I’m not saying this is the perfect way but at least it’d be a place to start scratching out the memory of the most recent films. Casting wise as long as Lucas stays out of it things should be okay. Anakin should be a complete unknown with a well-known supporting cast that doesn’t include Samuel L. Jackson or even Ewan McGregor. McGregor was great as Obi Wan but in order to make a clean break from the older films he’d have to be removed as well. Just think of the excitement as we all got to actually enjoy the new films as opposed to getting douche chills every time they were mentioned.
Ah to dream.
So those are the ten movies I think would make kick ass remakes. You might agree, you might not but either way hopefully this will get you talking. That’s what makes great movies, even great remakes, open dialog and the exchanging of ideas.