Hollywood’s growing reliance on brand recognition has film fans at boiling point. Every week, studios befuddle and enrage us with their plans to remake, reboot, reimagine or re-whatever one of pop culture’s most cherished films. Such growing disdain is understandable after countless remakes have deflated, disappointed and disgusted hoards of critics and moviegoers.
Ultimately, however, it’s an unfair stigma. Adaptation is an age-old concept, and in terms of cinema, a special handful of remakes arguably surpass their predecessors. We forget that a different angle, a distinct style or a new theme can propel a remake into the archives of cinema greatness.
Here is a cherry-picked selection of projects that show promise of abiding by the said rules. They can potentially offer up something lost on modern Hollywood: something new.
8. Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon is no stranger to adaptation. Since its inception in the 30s as a newspaper comic strip, there have been film serials, cartoons and TV shows. In his day, he was almost as popular as Superman.
To a modern audience though, Flash is exclusively famous for the campy (but self-aware) cult classic. Since then, bar a forgettable 2007 TV show, the property hasn’t been something that studios are overly desperate to milk.
After a popular cameo appearance in Ted 2, Sam Jones reiterated an admirable desire to see a follow-up to his 80s movie. Belated sequels are undoubtedly all the rage these days, but whether the original film is widely loved enough to pull back a mainstream crowd (or will go the way of TRON: Legacy) is anyone’s guess. Rebooting is actually a safer gamble this time.
With promising names attached like screenwriter Mark Protosevich and director Matthew Vaughn, the project has routinely gained and lost steam. More recently, however, director Julius Avery has been confirmed to take the helm, but hopefully won’t bring Overlord‘s dark subject matter with him.
A light tone, bright production and a great ensemble cast could make this something to look forward to.
7. Masters Of The Universe
On the subject of blond muscle men, He-Man has yet to make a memorable impression on the silver screen. The popular toy line and cartoon spawned a misguided Masters of the Universe in 1987, which, with its slashed budget and barely intelligible Dolf Lundgren, savaged the idea of a franchise right out of the gate. Since then, we haven’t seen anything of Eternia, but we’re always on its border.
Warner and Sony have each subsequently owned the film rights and have enlisted numerous names to help craft what will likely be the origin story of Prince Adam. McG and David S. Goyer are previous frontrunners to direct, and a hoard of writers have taken a whack at the script.
After several false starts over the last decade, Sony have finally given the project direction, with Noah Centineo cast as He-Man. Current screenwriters Art Marcum and Matt Holloway have a mixed track record, but until there’s a director firmly in place, all we can do is speculate on the scope and tone of the film.
Sony – the king of franchise disasters thanks to Ghostbusters and The Amazing Spider-Man – has recently found success with Jumanji, but whether they can kick He-Man out of his 30-year slumber and rival Marvel’s formula for an origin tale remains to be seen.
There hasn’t been a striking interpretation of Dracula since Coppola’s effort almost 30 years ago, so a brand new version certainly wouldn’t go a miss. It just might come in the form of a redo of Murnau‘s 1922 silent classic.
Expertly updated by Werner Herzog in 1979, cinephiles might argue that another attempt would be all but fruitless. However, under the direction of promising newcomer Robert Eggers, horror fans will no doubt be keen to observe its development. Interestingly, Eggers cited directing his high school play on Nosferatu as the inspiration to start making his own films.
Rather than come full circle with a remake though, he course-corrected to pursue his own project – The Lighthouse – and left Nosferatu‘s future sadly hazy. Leading lady Anya Taylor-Joy stressed that the film was still on Eggers’ agenda, but it tops no-one’s list of priorities.
Hopefully it will indeed rise from the grave. Eggers’ simple reliance on dread and atmosphere makes him a stand-out figure in the current horror landscape. He could work some much-needed wonders for the vampire sub-genre, especially after the public have been subjected to countless Twilight films.
Dracula is thirsty for some more screen time. The sooner the better please, Mr. Eggers.
5. Fantastic Voyage
Although not hard science fiction, 1966’s Fantastic Voyage arguably helped kick off the more straight-faced sci-fi of the late 60s and early 70s, which included Planet of the Apes, 2001, The Andromeda Strain and The Omega Man.
The special-effects-fused tale of a team of miniaturised scientists exploring a human body has unsurprisingly been on Fox’s remake list for decades; elaborate CGI and a Cold War-less plot are obvious but sufficient ways to update the outlandish but distinctive story. After an initial nod towards James Cameron in the late 90s, Guillermo Del Toro is the latest name attached.
All’s been silent for a long time; the film isn’t listed as in development, although there’s been no official word on a cancellation. In a recent series of tweets, Del Toro listed Fantastic Voyage as just one of the many scripts on his desk, and lamented that, if un-produced, it was a year of his work wasted.
That’s a good enough reason for Fox to green-light the movie, but the prospect of a remake from an original and unique mind – one that’s unlikely to outright repeat the original – is certainly not something to be squandered.
4. Forbidden Planet
Take all of the iconography of 50s sci-fi, put it in an big budget A-picture, and the result is Forbidden Planet. Inspired by Shakespeare‘s The Tempest, incorporating lavish Technicolor visuals and the very first electronic score, it was an incredibly innovative and sophisticated film for its time.
The remake has darted about from studio to studio, under the care of filmmakers like Irvin Kershner and James Cameron, but has nonetheless never come close to being green-lit. The last word came in 2009 from writer J. Michael Straczynski, who claimed that the script needed rewrites after his initial ideas leaked out online.
A decade later and… there’s still no sign of a movie. We can guess that it has either been cancelled or buried until another high-profile filmmaker expresses interest. A shame, as the various pieces of concept art released over the years suggests that each director involved envisioned a broad and bizarrely distinctive redo.
This is one with huge potential. We’ll just have to wait and see…
3. Alien Nation
A mildly popular sci-fi franchise that spawned a mildly popular 80s flick and TV series, studio execs are now hoping that Alien Nation has the potential to become a money spinner. Part Lethal Weapon and part RoboCop (but only half as good as either), the original tale infused themes of drug addiction and racial prejudice into an ultra-violent buddy cop movie. The lacklustre script was elevated by sincere performances from James Caan and Mandy Patinkin.
Netflix‘s critical failure Bright boasted a similar plot, so formulating an entirely new setup would not only be wise, but a wholly vital endeavour for a reboot. Otherwise the story is sure to feel derivative and stale.
Fittingly then, director Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special) recently gave a lengthy description of an apparently “epic” script that will have “nothing to do with the original” and instead focus on the aliens’ early days on Earth.
Nichols has a final draft in the pipeline but is rightly worried that a recent change in Fox’s management could cut his plans short. Disney have a grand scheme in the works, and an R-rated Alien Nation film probably isn’t part of it. Understandably, Nichols fears that his project could be hindered or “blown away” completely.
2. Starship Troopers
Love it or hate it, Paul Verhoeven‘s 1997 film is unique in that it not only adapts a beloved novel, but also venomously satirises it. An ironic take on the implicit fascism of Heinlein‘s novel, it oddly satisfied few upon release, but a loyal cult following has lead to five direct-to-DVD sequels.
Rumours of a remake have circled for almost a decade, and all have promised to somehow remain truthful to the book, but all have failed to materialise. Sony recruited Freddy Vs Jason screenwriters Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, but no word has come through since their work began three years ago.
Earlier this year, an idea of a sequel TV show starring the original cast was mooted by original screenwriter Ed Neumeier. However, this has seemingly vanished into thin air (much like Neumeier’s RoboCop Returns).
So maybe this is another lost cause. Fans of Robert Heinlein’s novel would understandably love a faithful version of the science fiction classic, but it would take a mind of Verhoeven-like intelligence to cautiously and tastefully adapt its themes and ideas.
We just want to see the Powered Armour on screen.
With Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 under his belt, director Denis Villeneuve is clearly a man who wants to make science fiction films, and has an enormous respect for the genre to boot. Equal to Lord of the Rings in its scope, this momentous and iconic novel was previously adapted by David Lynch in 1984. Although not without merit, Lynch’s version made a pittance at the box office and died a terrible death shortly after release.
Two lacklustre Syfy miniseries’ followed in the early 2000s, so fans of Frank Herbert‘s mind-bending novel have naturally been clamouring for a big-budget redo. Villeneuve and co. have wisely split the original novel into two parts, with the first film eyeing release in late 2020.
Shooting for planet Arrakis takes place in Jordan, and the project has drafted acting talent such as Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Dave Butista, Javier Bardem, Timothée Chalamet and Stellan Skarsgard.
Despite two movies to shoot and some infamously complex source material, film fans seem to have unanimous faith that it is an epic masterpiece in the making.
The spice will indeed flow…