This summer, like every summer, movie theatres are crowded with sequels, remakes, revisions, re-imaginings, and all other euphemistically described films that are glorified recycled stories. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen the Ninja Turtles return to the screen alongside Point Break, Evil Dead, Godzilla, Terminator, and many other films of the 80s and 90s.
This summer we’re getting Ghostbusters, which is already being chastised, and the years to come will bring It, Jumanji, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mortal Kombat, and much more. Some make sense; others not so much. But with so much content out there, we’ve all surely moved on from the belief that, without exception, sequels and remakes somehow tarnish the original.
Jurassic Park, Jaws, The Manchurian Candidate, and so many other great films that spawned derivatives are still great, regardless of what has joined their lineage. And some are actually good, offering a refreshing vision in disparate socio-political times for a new, changing audience. The Evil Dead remake in 2014 was decidedly different from the original; darker, bloodier, and filled with practical special effects and an affinity for the classic. Both can coexist, both and be regarded alone and together, but one does not take away from the other.
So this is in part a defense of remakes, with their innovative technologies and engaged audiences. And of a film industry that has the means and platforms to realize content, allowing new visions to be welcome and successful. So while there are plenty of remakes in the works over the next few years, there are some select films that haven’t received the do-over treatment and definitely deserve it. (Side note: I’m happy to see that upon research, two films I was going to include in here are actually being remade: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Spawn. Yay!)
Starship Troopers (1997)
To start with, it should be noted that Starship Troopers is a fantastically fun and absurd movie. It’s dumb and action-packed, featuring killer insects of all shapes and sizes, blood, guts, nudity, and sex, as well as the finest acting of Casper van Dien, Denise Richards, and Neil Patrick Harris. Paul Verhoeven’s creation of a futuristic world where alien bugs attack Earth—and we fight back!—plays as a silly military recruitment video as well as a gory action fest. It’s bonkers.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t and shouldn’t be revisited. Verhoeven’s vision is distinct, offbeat, and ludicrous, but this story is also ripe for a more serious take — or at least a different one. The film is based on Robert A. Heinlein’s award-winning book of the same name (first published in 1959) and has strong opinions about society, duty, and armed combat. Verhoeven used satire to condemn militarism; there are plenty of other ways to tackle a futuristic story that dabbles in social and political ideas.
This 1984 film was later followed by a television miniseries, and while each has their own strengths and moments, there has been no version yet able to come close to realizing the scope, grandeur, and brilliance of the extensive universe created by Frank Herbert. David Lynch made a valiant effort, but the resources, the backing, and the audience just weren’t there at the time.
Today we have incredibly specific sci-fi and fantasy franchises, stories that go several films deep, and a great many technical competencies to make alternate worlds come to life on the big screen. From Peter Jackson’s six forays into Middle Earth or the Marvel Cinematic Universe somehow convincing audiences that Ant-Man totally makes sense, studio and audiences are ready to commit to the weird, the lengthy, and the imaginative. The fact is, Dune is a masterwork of a science fiction story and there has to be a director and crew capable of translating it to screen. Plus, giant sand worms!
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
One of the best stories of the many great ones penned by fantasy writer Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes was an unspectacular live action Disney film from 1983 that couldn’t figure out the right tone for this darkly fantastic young adult story. It didn’t work then but could absolutely today, especially with a growing catalog of films geared towards teenagers that also draw in adults. The story follows two thirteen-year-old boys who get wrapped up in the devilish doings of a traveling carnival led by a man named Mr. Dark. Someone like Guillermo del Toro would be adept at translating the visionary Bradbury to the screen, but even so, this story wouldn’t necessarily need to be live action. Over the last decade, Laika Studios has produced a trio of fantastic and unnerving stop-motion animated tales in Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls; they are weird, imaginative, dark, and appeal to most ages.
The Mysterious Island (1961)
As mentioned, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne looks to make it to theatres in 2017 in an adaptation directed by Bryan Singer. Another Verne novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, came out a few years ago on screen as a family adventure (it wasn’t bad) and could also stand to be remade. But there is one more to look at: The Mysterious Island. Omar Sharif starred in a film version in 1973 and a B-movie adaptation was made in 2012, but if Leagues is going to be made, this is the natural evolution. This less-familiar Verne story follows five prisoners of the Civil War as they hijack a balloon, flee the mainland, get caught up in a storm, and wind up somewhere in the Pacific. Drama and weirdness ensue, and a film adaptation would be perfect with a strong cast (we should throw some women in there and not have it just be five men) and an inventive director that can blend interpersonal drama with mysticism and adventure.
We’ve a movie on this list whose setting is dominated by sand, so why not one by water? Waterworld is a great bad movie, so absurd and ridiculous — the height of 1990s cheesy, self-serious cinema. It became infamous for its overblown budget and Kevin Costner’s excessively stern portrayal of a mariner, and at the time was derided by critics and fans as exceedingly stupid. It can definitely be redone, and while yes, so many movies are going the darker route, maybe a future were the oceans have risen and millions have died off as a result of climate change may be something that can be tackled with a grittier tone, though still with action and adventure. James Cameron loves water; maybe he can do it if he’s not busy making eighteen Avatar sequels. Nonetheless, making a sci-fi action adventure film with a social lens on it surely can find an audience. Plus, Christoph Waltz can assume the villain role from Dennis Hopper — done!