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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top Five Movies That Need to Be Remade

These days you can't get ten feet out of your driveway with running into a movie remake, either one in progress or one that's already released. On the day that every single movie in a cineplex is an original film, not based on anything, not a sequel or a remake, I will futterwacken... vigorously.

But while people talk about the influx of remakes and crap films based on movies or TV series that were popular in the 1980's (I know there's a Munsters movie someone's thinking about somewhere), fewer people remember the movies that deserve to be remade. Movies that had great, original concepts, but fizzled due to ignorant directors, money-grubbing producers, or clueless writers. And hell, the Best Boy could have had something to do with it too. Just what's so "best" about him anyway? So here are my top five movies that should get rebooted with a clean slate and a better crew.


Westworld (1973)

Summary: Vacationers at a amusement park in the future (divided into Western world, Middle Ages World, and Ancient Greece World (i.e., Constant Orgy World) ) get more than they bargained for when the robot actors find the "Destroy All Humans" switch. Starring Yul Brynner as a Terminator prototype. John Carpenter directed and Michael Crichton wrote.

This idea is full of potential--high concept and great for a thriller, especially pertinent today. You think the world's great, you can escape into this world, and enjoy everything. You can even shoot people and not have consequences. Then BLAM--the world turns against you. It's like Dawn of the Dead. Combining apocalypse with Mallrats. Awesome.

Except that in 75% of the movie, nothing happens. You spend most of your time with these two guys vacationing in Westworld, as they do "Western things", like gamble with robot cowboys, partake of robot hookers, and shoot this robot "Black Hat" who keeps reappearing to get shot. Then we get some scenes of other vacationers in the other worlds, like the computer programmer with a paunch who hoists a giant sword to defend milady's honor. And then you see the guys behind the scenes, pressing blinking buttons and spouting meaningless technobabble.

At no time is there any conflict. There is no problem. There is nothing the characters want. There are no obstacles. No one changes. Nothing goes wrong until the last 25% of the movie. Then the robots all blow up or kill everyone, including themselves. One of the west world guys has to run away from Yul Brynner through the different worlds until he successfully terminates him. The Simpsons parody was better executed. I don't know how you went wrong with Michael Crichton as the writer, but you did.

But the idea is sound, and it's especially relevant as technology gets more powerful. When you've the characters at Disney World start moving their mouths, how can you not think about one of them short circuiting and taking a bite out of you? It's the new "horror movie at a circus". If you can give this movie an upgrade in both writing and technology, then you've got a winning combination.


Highlander (1986)

Summary: A Scottish swordsman discovers he's immortal and must survive through the centuries as other immortals fight to be the last, including the barbarian who killed his mentor. Whoever's the last one gets a "prize" (yes, that's what they call it).

This movie probably started a lot of urban fantasy seeds. It's got great genre mixing. Swords plus a city plus a symphonic rock soundtrack plus lots of lightning. The problem was that the story-to-film conversion was horrible. The constant flashbacks become the real story, and ignore the present where all the cool stuff is happening. There is no character development except the main guy--supporting characters appear in one scene and get killed in the very next (the black guy).

But the main problem is that there are so many things left unexplained. Why are these people immortal? What is the Quickening and what does it do? Why swords? Why not an axe, like a proper executioner? Why is decapitation the only way? Why does the Kurgan want to kill McLeod in the first battle? Why are they fighting? How do you know you can suddenly grow old and have children? How do other immortals sense each other? What's the deal with the gathering? Why do cartoon skeleton dragons come out of you?

Besides the parts that concern the Highlander, the supporting characters act like clowns. The police scenes are ridiculous. No cop would lose his temper and start making homo insults. You get sued for that nowadays. The leading lady trying to solve the mysterious case of the murder in the garage is laughable at best. April O'Neil would have done a better job of investigation, and she's not even a cop.

The sword-fighting is absolutely horrible. It looks like two five-year-olds playing with toys. These guys lived for five hundred years, you think they would have spent some of that time learning martial arts. I mean, yeah, stabbing does nothing, but at least you could learn to disable your opponent so you can get the decap in? Or at least carry a stun gun with you? And these days you got sword-fighting scenes like in Batman and Star Wars, you could do some cool shit with immortals.

It could be a great action film for not a lot of budget, if you get some skilled fight coordinators. Don't spend so much time on romance and cityscapes that go nowhere. If you're going to do flashbacks, do them more like that scene where McLeod keeps getting stabbed in the duel and keeps getting up, laughing. Show the consequences of being an immortal.



Summary: The Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students, takes them to an island, and forces them to kill each other to the last, a la "The Most Dangerous Game".

I think it'd be awful hard to get this movie an American remake, due to everyone's uppity-ness about student violence. But with The Hunger Games blowing up the bookstore, maybe there's a chance. You'd think it was just another gory Asian kill-fest, just from hearing the movie's concept. But it's actually got a lot of heart. It's dramatic, well-thought, and well-written. It's not just a dirty kill-fest. You have to watch what these people do when they're forced to kill their friends, or get killed themselves.

My only problem with the original was the principal. It would be awesome if the inciting incident is that he's sick of his delinquent class and takes them all to an island to kill each other. How that's going to work, I don't know? It's a pretty implausible concept for America. In Asia, they have a lot better suspension of disbelief. But my wife's a teacher, so I know there's a dedicated audience already.

Basically, all you need to do is make the actors American, and clean up some of the sentimentality with the principal. The rest writes itself. It's an action epic as 40 high school students fight to survive, all using different tactics based on their stereotypes. We got the techie guys who try to jerry-rig a device to break their prison collars. You've got friendly girls who try to get everyone to get along. They broadcast their location and immediately get killed. The suicides. The loners. And then there's the people who surprise you. Focus on the action on the island, and less on the regret and maudlin side, and you've got a movie.


WarGames (1983)

Summary: A hacker kid accidentally hacks into a military central computer via a video game. The game might actually start World War III, unless he can find the game's disgruntled creator before the government kidnaps him. Starring Ferris Bueller. Directed by the guy who did Short Circuit.

I watched this movie a while ago, and the biggest problem was that it was slow. It's more about the government than it is about the kid, and it's more about the kid than any cool Artificial Intelligence taking over. Again, a topical movie that would mean a lot more if it was made today. True, this movie was preying on the Cold War scare, so that would have to change. And I wouldn't want to make it as simple as a robot takes over all the computers. The scary part was that the computer didn't know what it was doing. It was just being a computer. It doesn't get happy, it doesn't get sad, it just runs programs.

Plus, I think the story about the computer programmer who makes a doomsday device because of his dead son is heart-breaking. And when you combine it with the punk hacker kid, governmental pursuit, and a ticking clock, it makes an awesome moving plot. The best part is that you can keep the idea of the kid outwitting the government. The old people are still clueless (it's a series of tubes!), so it still makes sense.

I know it's hard to make an exciting movie about hackers. No one wants to see someone typing at a keyboard for the climax. But it's time for movie makers to realize their potential, In 1983, computers were boxes of blinking lights. They were a mystery, and hackers were just kids trading information. Security was non-existent. Now the computers have changed. Now people live in video games. How scary would it be to have a video game that might not know it is one?



Summary: Mr. Miyagi, everyone's favorite real life Yoda, takes a troubled teenage girl under her wing. He teaches her to control her anger through karate. Meanwhile, she must fend off the advances of the school's "security team" and take care of a hawk. Starring Hilary Swank.

You'd think this sort of movie would be popular--it's the Karate Kid with a hot girl! Think of the what could happen. In reality, the gender switch comes off as lame. Even though the scene where she rejects the wax-on, wax-off bit for some real training, along with Miyagi walking in while she puts on her bra are somewhat amusing, they don't exploit the comedic potential. They were filmed for the trailer. The other scenes like the babysitting and all the dancing are just horrible.

I wanted this movie to be about girl power, but it's about her prom date and taking care of pets. The antagonist, the school security team (a quasi-military club on campus) is so ridiculously, comically portrayed that they can't be taken seriously. She doesn't fight most of the time, she runs. She never gets into a real Karate fight until the end, when her boyfriend has just had his car exploded and had the shit kicked out of him. For no reason. And then no one wants to fight a girl, so she gets like three kicks in and then it's over. And THEN, the final battle isn't with Hilary Swank, it's Miyagi vs. the security team's leader. Miyagi doesn't fight! Whover wrote this movie must have thought "Hey, let's make Daniel-san a girl, and hilarity will ensue".

You want to see a good girlfight movie, see Girlfight (intuitive, I know). That's a movie that has a real fighter who's a female, not a girl concerned with prom and boys. It's not like a girl in a boy's role. There are consequences because she's a girl (she has to fight the boy she likes). This is what The Next Karate Kid should have been. A movie where the girl is strong, like Buffy. Not just a man with girl parts. Not a female trying to play with man toys. A girl who uses martial arts to grow confidence and become self-actualized, validated without needing a boy or a beauty crown.
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