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, like “The Evil Dead”, which unfortunately was a huge disappointment. (http://exm.nr/ZHmSQX) Even “Carrie” has been remade, due in October, starring Chloe Grace Moretz. Heck, even early 90’s bombast like “Point Break”, the bromance surfer thriller starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, is getting an update. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to see a new version of that one.
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 them properly? Maybe that’s why Baz Luhrmann is doing another Gatsby. The 1974 version left a lot to be desired. There are films like that which deserve a second shot. Here are 10 that I think could stand to have a better version made to delight the moviegoing public.
Let’s give Batman’s favorite femme fatale a better solo vehicle than the god-awful 2004 Halle Berry debacle. A great starring vehicle for Selina Kyle/Catwoman 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 having aced her turn in “The Dark Knight Rises”(http://exm.nr/QucHeW), 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 bite get watered down by a constantly rewritten script striving for political correctness. “Bonfire” is still timely with its takedown of Wall Street greed, self-serving politics and the sensationalistic press. I think Ben Stiller would be perfect to direct it with his sharp dark comedy sensibilities.
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.
“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 at the turn of the century, but on film it was an utter fiasco with rambling set pieces, actors chewing the scenery, and confused storytelling. Redo it, but adapt it for the small screen. A 12-hour season should capture its complex narrative faithfully. The folks over at AMC should take a crack at it. After all, they have adapted “The Walking Dead” brilliantly.
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. 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 knows sci-fi (“The Fountain”) and he’s gotten great genre performances from Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” and Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”. Imagine what he could do with fire.
This 1978 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 the film’s mediocre budget robbed the action scenes of their true potential. In fact, the whole thing looked like a cheap 1970’s made-for-TV movie. So give this material an A+ budget with great production values and I believe it would yield a blockbuster.
One of my favorite films from the 70’s could do with a little modernizing too. Writer/director Michael Crichton created this 1973 thriller about a theme park where the audio-animatronic robots rebel, including the terrifying gunslinger Yul Brynner, spoofing his character from “The Magnificent Seven”. They start killing the guests and it’s fun and scary as hell. In fact, it still gets under my skin (http://bit.ly/10yB3fy), And I think there’s a way to make it even scarier for today’s modern audiences. Call it “Movieworld” and have the foils in the remake 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 too.
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”, “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) whiffed the romance. 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. 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 screwed up the end too. So do one that’s truer to Dame Agatha’s worldwide bestseller and maintain the original, uncompromising ending. That version would instantly become the definitive one.
So, if I was a studio executive, those are the 10 remakes I would greenlight. What would you remake? And no matter what, let’s hope that Baz Luhrmann does Gatsby proud.