Keanu Reeves’ The Day The Earth Stood Still remake got us thinking about other impending re-imaginings of science fiction classics. That in turn got us thinking about “classic” sci-fi films that should never get remade. Which in turn got us thinking about a few that probably should. (That in turn got me thinking about Heather Thomas’ boobies.) This isn’t necessarily a list of untouchable classics. There’s nothing wrong with a remake that can improve on the original in some integral way… if the story can be made stronger, or if the original is no longer relevant to today’s audiences. Some films just can’t be made any better regardless of how much money and CGI is thrown their way, so let’s just all agree that the ten films below should never be remade. Okay Hollywood?
A Clockwork Orange – The message of Stanley Kubrick’s film is as relevant now as it was in 1971. Youth gone wild, the hopeless quest for a Utopian society, and authority figures who prefer blind allegiance over free will and free thought are all around us even today, but a remake couldn’t get the message across any better. In fact, I’d argue they’d fuck it up by toning things down. No studio would bankroll a film where the protagonist partakes of brutal rapes and violence, and no lead actor would take the role. And what song would play over the rape? Is there any contemporary pop song that would muster the same effect as “Singing in the Rain?” I’d vote for The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love”, but a studio would probably go with something less cool like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Soylent Green – Charleton Heston’s third attempt at sci-fi (after the brilliant double-header of The Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man) is remembered solely for the big reveal at the end. But can you recall any of the scenes leading up to that shocking twist? Probably not. The final line has been immortalized in pop culture, but it’s a forgettable film without it.
Blade Runner – Do I really need to explain why Ridley Scott’s classic tale of identity, loneliness, and what it means to be human shouldn’t be remade? It shouldn’t. Period. And that goes for all five of the versions.
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind – Like Blade Runner, this film should also be an obvious candidate for the No Remake list. Steven Spielberg guides a young and curious Richard Dreyfuss through late night UFO fly-bys, marital troubles, and potato mountains, and no actor could capture his transformation from obsession to awareness any better. The effects still stand up today, the musical notes used to communicate between the species are ingrained into the social consciousness, and there’s no geological equivalent to Devil’s Peak that could be recreated on a dinner plate.
Time After Time – Jack the Ripper escapes to modern day America in H.G. Wells’ time machine and the visionary author must follow him through time. Fucking awesome and criminally underrated movie with brilliant performances by a mousy Malcolm McDowell and an evil David Warner, and more suspense and terror than usual for a PG-rated movie. It’s not heavy on the effects, so improvements there wouldn’t matter. The acting by the two leads, the mental and physical duel between them, is where the action and the heart are and it could not be done any better.
War Of The Gargantuas – If Roland Emmerich’s big budget remake of Godzilla taught us anything it’s that Jean Reno will sign on as “the mysterious Frenchman” in any movie. But it also showed us that the original Japanese Godzilla films, all seventy four of them, are more entertaining than any big-budget dud. War of the Gargantuas is a similarly entertaining, old-school, Saturday afternoon, Japanese monster movie. Two giant furry beasts, one brown and one green, knock the piss out of each other and Tokyo. CGI body hair will not be an improvement (I’m looking at you Peter Jackson…)
Runaway - I’m putting this on here in honor of it’s writer and director, Michael Crichton. The man birthed unto the world multiple books and films featuring science pushed to the edge and beyond… worlds filled with fantastic ideas and creations, timeless tales of dinosaurs, medical conspiracies, and aliens, fascinating plots and memorable ‘what if?’ scenarios. Runaway is not one of them.
The Fly – Like The Thing below, David Cronenberg’s film is itself a remake. Also like The Thing below, the performances and practical effects cannot be improved with new actors and CGI. Even with BrundleFly’s antics the movie still stands as Cronenberg’s most human. It’s filled with more emotion than the usual sci-fi fare, and that would be the first thing jettisoned if a remake ever came to fruition.
The Ice Pirates - Robert Urich, Ron Perlman, John Carradine… the ideal cast for a classic mid-eighties space comedy! Throw is some space herpies, a pimp-bot, and castration via an assembly line with metal-jaws designed to bite off a guy’s junk, and you have a fun romp that paradies Star Wars, pirates, and STD’s all at the same time. A funny movie made all the more endearing by it’s incredibly bad effects.
The Thing – Yes, I know, John Carpenter’s The Thing is a remake of Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World. So what. Carpenter’s film is the definitive version. The acting and suspense could not be better. The paranoia and tension could not be more palpable. And no CGI could ever touch Rob Bottin’s classic and visceral practical effects. And yes, I also know the remake is currently in development. Fuckers.
Just as there are movies that shouldn’t be touched, there are just as many films that could actually stand to be remade. The films below just might benefit from better production values and a modern day setting. Here are five that I’d recommend fast-tracking into development.
A Boy And His Dog – A classic Harlan Ellison tale about a boy and his telepathic dog who travel a post-apocalyptic America in search of food and sex. Sometimes they find them both in the same place… Remake this and have the dog actually talk, a la Babe, with Paul Rudd as the wise-ass canine’s voice. Jason Bateman can play the boy, and yes I know he’s a bit too old to play a ‘boy’ but so was Don Johnson. In fact, Rudd and Bateman could actually swap roles and this movie would still be hysterical.
The Final Countdown – This is the Michael Bay movie I’d see in the theater. A modern day aircraft carrier time-warped back to the Pacific Ocean in 1941, just hours before the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor… the effects would be awesome, the battle would be huge, epic, and awesome, and if they succeed in stopping the attack then maybe, just maybe, we’ll forget that Bay’s Pearl Harbor ever existed.
Logan’s Run - A past holocaust has left survivors holed up in a domed city. To keep population and order in check the citizens are implanted with chips that change color when they reach thirty years old. Logan and Francis are Sandmen charged with chasing and killing the runners who try to escape their ordained demise on the Renewal Carousel (run by the main computer that slowly pulls you up into the air before it causes you to explode to the delight of the younger crowd below.) The bare mechanics of the plot are brilliant, and while Jenny Agutter is beautiful in her role as a member of the underground, the movie as a whole looks and behaves incredibly dated. There are more than a few goofy inconsistencies as well. A remake could keep the core story and revamp everything else for the better. And imagine the hot, young stars who could headline!
2001: A Space Odyssey – A fellow FSR writer, an editor actually, insisted that 2001 be included on this list as a film in need of a remake. “I fucking hate that movie!” he said. “That shit sucks!” Some of you may find that opinion to be blasphemy, but you’d be wrong. He’d be right. And I actually agree with him. 2001 is the Citizen Kane of sci-fi movies… blindly revered as a classic simply because the bible says so. Have you actually sat down to watch either of those films lately? All the way through? Be honest… boring as fuck aren’t they? A remake could add improved effects, but maybe they could also add an interesting story and a zippier pace.
Zapped! – You may not consider this classic Scott Baio/Willie Ames comedy to be science fiction, but the kid is zapped by a science experiment gone awry, and that’s a classic sci-fi premise! Baio and Ames were the Michael Cera/Jonah Hill of their day… and this movie about a horny high-schooler who develops telekinesis and uses it to undress ladies is begging for a remake. Now is a perfect time too because crude comedies are making a comeback thanks to uber-producer Judd Apatow and his merry band of perverted actors.
Agree? Disagree? What films do you think should never get remade? What films actually could stand to be remade? Don’t you wish Heather Thomas used her own boobies instead of a stunt chest at the end of Zapped!?