Hollywood loves remakes. They're redoing practically everything these days. Another version of THE GREAT GATSBY is opening May 10. Just about every successful horror movie from yesteryear is getting redone too, including a big budget CARRIE due in October. Heck, even early 90’s bombast like POINT BREAK, the bromance surfer thriller starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, is getting an update. I know I don’t want to see that one. I could barely watch the first version.
But wouldn't it be better to remake movies that weren't successful? You know, fix those films that took good material and just didn't do 'em the proper justice? Maybe that's why Baz Luhrmann is doing another GATSBY. Heaven knows the 1974 Robert Redford version left a lot to be desired. There are films like that which deserve a second look. CARRIE isn't really one of those that needs a remake, but here are 10 that I think could stand to have a better version.
Let’s give Batman’s favorite femme fatale a better solo vehicle than the god-awful 2004 Halle Berry debacle. When you realize how many good actresses have effectively rendered Catwoman - Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway – it’s a shame that their characterizations were only supporting players. And the one time Catwoman starred, it was in the Berry bust that went wrong from the get-go with that ridiculous costume. A great starring vehicle for Selina Kyle would be an adaptation of the DC graphic novel CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME. In Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s clever caper, she matches wits with the likes of The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, the Italian mob, and, in her fantasies, The Caped Crusader. Hathaway is an obvious choice to star, but maybe the whip could be handed over to someone new to crack it. Rachel McAdams, Amber Heard or Olivia Wilde, prrrrrhaps?
THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES
The 1990 movie version of one of Tom Wolfe’s seminal works made dozens of wrong turns, not just the one that starts the story as an arrogant Wall Street tycoon finds himself driving into a dangerous section of the Big Apple. Stars Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis were all miscast. (Really? Bruce Willis was the pick to play a drunken British tabloid reporter?) And director Brian DePalma made more mistakes from there. He's not exactly anyone’s first choice to helm a glossy social satire, but he never got control of the project, letting all of Wolfe's bile get watered down by a constantly rewritten script striving for political correctness. So with all those mistakes, I'd say that not only is Wolfe's takedown of Wall Street greed, self-serving politics and the sensationalistic press truly ripe for a remake, but it couldn't be more timely either. How about letting someone like Ben Stiller take a crack at directing it? His serio-comic abilities would be perfectly suited for such a dark comedy as this.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
The 2003 movie of this brilliant graphic novel was another total botch that desperately needs a redo, if for nothing more than to restore the good name of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s landmark work. On the comic book page, this was a clever adventure about famous characters from literature solving crimes in the 19th century, but on film it was an utter fiasco with rambling set pieces, actors chewing the scenery, and confused storytelling that made the whole shebang absolutely incoherent. Redo it pronto, only this time do it on the small screen. This complex material demands more than two hours to tell its story. Giving it a 12-hour season and adapting the narrative faithfully would be essential to its success. And by adapting the other two books in the oeuvre, a network like AMC could easily yield five seasons. They've made magic out of THE WALKING DEAD, so I say let them have first crack at this genius comic as well.
In 1966, the estimable Francois Truffaut directed a version of Ray Bradbury’s futuristic tale about book burning, but it veered too far from the author’s sci-fi leanings. While Truffaut brought clever touches galore to the piece, like having the credits spoken instead of read, the inescapable fact is that the script is not a true and faithful adaptation. So why not give this classic of modern literature another shot onscreen? Someone like screenwriter John Logan could do this pulp material proud, having worked similar wonders with GLADIATOR and SKYFALL. And a director like Darren Aronofsky would be perfect to direct it. He showed an intuitive knack for sci-fi elements when he helmed THE FOUNTAIN. And he’s certainly got a knack for getting the most out of stars in genre material. Just look at the award-winning performances he pulled from Mickey Rourke in THE WRESTLER and Natalie Portman in BLACK SWAN. Now imagine what he could do with fire.
This 1977 cult classic about the faking of a NASA mission to Mars was pretty darn nifty to begin with. It had a great paranoid conspiracy theory premise at its center. And it had terrific actors like Elliot Gould, Hal Holbrook and Sam Waterston speaking writer/director Peter Hyams' crackling, cynical dialogue. But some of the acting was rather dismal. (O.J. Simpson proved that he did not have thespian chops.) And the film's mediocre budget robbed the action scenes of their true potential. In fact, the whole thing looked a little cheap, almost like a 1970's made-for-TV movie. So give this material an A+ budget with great production values and I believe it could be a blockbuster.
One of my favorite films from the 70’s could do with a little modernizing too. Writer/director Michael Crichton created a thriller about a theme park where the audio-animatronic robots (like gunslinger Yul Brynner spoofing his character from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) start running amuck and end up killing the guests. Technology gone astray is always a great movie subject, but the production values in the original 1973 film gave it a "B movie" look. So why not remake it with a better budget? Only this time, might I suggest a conceptual rejiggering that would give it even more relevance. Call it MOVIEWORLD and have the foils in the theme park be famous movie villains. Imagine the story's heroes fighting against robot versions of Freddy Kruger, The Terminator and The Wicked Witch of the West. Actually, that's not just a good idea for an updating of this movie, it might be a pretty good one for a real theme park.
There is nothing wrong with this movie that amazing special effects could not better. Made in 1966, the original film doesn’t stand up very well because of its dated visuals. But today, Hollywood magicians can make anything look believable. Imagine what they could do with the rich premise of shrunk-down scientists traveling inside the human body. Battling white blood cells, corroding stomach acid, and all kinds of tissue and nerves could make for one fantastical film fantasy. And while no one could top Raquel Welch's turn as the sexiest of the scientists, wouldn't someone like Rihanna be an interesting choice for this material? She proved she can act in BATTLESHIP. And God knows she could sing the theme song over the end credits.
Despite Seth Macfarlane’s love for this campy 1980 flick starring Sam Jones, FLASH GORDON is not a great rendering of the iconic comic book character. The movie was an utterly silly and cheap looking spectacle that was so cheesy it would make the president of Kraft envious. No, this wonderful character from the 1930’s needs a reboot. It should be done earnestly too, like the first SUPERMAN in 1978 or CAPTAIN AMERICA from two years ago. You can even keep the famous Queen theme song in it, but that's it.
Medieval fare is cinematic gold these days. LORD OF THE RINGS, THE HOBBIT, GAME OF THRONES, you name it - if it has swords and sorcery, audiences will eat it up. Thus, a proper telling of the tale of King Arthur seems to be required. After all, there's never been a truly great version of the tale put onscreen yet. (Maybe EXCALIBUR comes close. Maybe.) The movie version of the musical CAMELOT (1967) was overwrought and laughable. And both FIRST KNIGHT (1995) and KING ARTHUR (2004) were big, expensive busts that showcased little except the lack of chemistry between those cast as Arthur and Guinevere. The big problem with all three of these previous executions is that they malign and emasculate King Arthur far too much. That’s a huge mistake for a film where he's the heroic lead. He is cuckolded yes, but he's a great man with love for his queen and country. Make it a more sympathetic character study, showing the man torn between love and politics, like the story of Ned Stark, and I think King Artie would finally get his due.
TEN LITTLE INDIANS
Agatha Christie’s most popular whodunit got a marvelous big screen treatment directed by Rene Clair in 1945 called AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. It captured the essence of Christie and was a smart and fun thriller. But it also deviated extensively from the source material, particularly at the end. Subsequent versions have fared even worse, with one remake after another missing the flavor of Christie, and screwing up the story about 10 guests being picked off one by one by their unknown host. So why not do one that's truer to Dame Agatha's worldwide bestseller? A new movie would be wise to keep her great dialogue, make the tone darker, and maintain the original, uncompromising ending. That version would instantly become the definitive one. And while Hollywood is at it, fill this film with big stars. An all-star cast is essential for something like this.
So, if I was a studio executive, those are the 10 remakes I would greenlight. What would you remake? And why? Share your thoughts here and let’s keep this conversation going. And let's hope that Baz Luhrmann does Gatsby proud.