I write a lot about Hollywood's obsession with remakes because I'm a movie buff, first and foremost, and because as a "writer" it's easy to milk an announcement of the latest atrocity from Platinum Dunes for 750 indignant words regarding the creative demise of Hollywood and why Michael Bay is a toolbag.
But something's changed in recent months. Armchair psychiatrists would recognize it as an abbreviated version of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' grief model. Over the past few years, I've gone through denial ("They wouldn't dare remake RoboCop") and anger (hurling a shoe at my TV during the Dawn of the Dead trailer), skipped bargaining and depression, and settled firmly (and inevitably) into acceptance.
Remakes aren't going away people (though RoboCop isn't happening, for now). And while my last column on the subject addressed those movies least likely to be...updated, there are still literally hundreds of properties just waiting for a little reimagination. Rather than rend my garment over every one of them, I've decided to conserve energy by placing a number of upcoming remakes into categories based on their capacity for offensiveness. We'll start off easy.
Category 1 -- May Actually Be Good It's a short list, to be sure, but a handful of coming re-attractions have the potential to not suck. For example, if you can get over the initial conceit of redoing a perfectly good Swedish thriller for no reason, then the idea of an American The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- helmed by David Fincher, who at least is a good bet not to fuck it up -- almost sounds promising. In a similar vein (heh) the trailer for Let Me In (originally Let The Right One In) doesn't look half bad.
Beyond that, a Coen Brothers-directed True Grit remake starring Jeff Bridges actually (dare I say it) strikes me as pretty cool. There also seems to be a lot of positive buzz around the fact that the Dark Knight team of David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan are taking over the Superman franchise. Because when I think "dark" and "gritty," I think the Man of Steel.
Category 2 - Couldn't Be Worse Than The Originals We should all probably own up to the fact that nostalgia has colored out perception of the movies of our youth. A lot of them really weren't that good (those who don't believe me are welcome to rewatch The Goonies sometime). Once we do that, it's not hard to acknowledge that the upcoming reboots of Arthur (with Russell Brand and Helen Mirren), Drop Dead Fred (Brand again), Endless Love, and Highlander (decent initial offering followed by several abysmal sequels) don't signal the End Times, and actually have a decent shot of improving on their antecedents.
Likewise, several remakes of recent properties can't help but be better than the originals. I'm looking at you, Fantastic Four (Bruce Willis as The Thing?). Planet of the Apes, and Jack Ryan (Chris Pine? Really? Can't we just make No Remorse and be done with it?).
Category 3 - Who Cares? Not only are the majority of older movies decidedly not classics, most people have no desire to see them again. How then do we explain why studios are seriously considering remakes of, among others, Cliffhanger (so much for that Into Thin Air pic), Overboard (proving decisively that Bogart/Bacall and Hepburn/Tracy were the only real life couples anybody wants to see together onscreen), and a slew of properties already rendered irrelevant by lame sequels (Police Academy, The Crow, Romancing the Stone). About the fiercest reaction one can muster to any of these is a disinterested shrug.
Category 4 - WTF? It isn't that I'm annoyed by the fact that there's a remake of the Kenny Rogers stock car/birth control epic Six Pack on the way, I'm just astounded that anybody thought this was a good idea.
Then there's the do-over of The Neverending Story (complete with CG luckdragons, no doubt), Dune (which, after a previous major motion picture release and a TV miniseries, they still haven't managed to get right), and not one but two David Cronenberg flicks: The Brood and Videodrome. The latter will be written by Ehren Kruger once he wraps up the script for the third Transformers movie. Nothing to worry about there.
Category 5 - It's An Outrage! Of course, there are still those affronts to cinematic dignity that make our blood boil like J.F. Sebastian's potatoes. Just as Brad Pitt supports the death penalty for BP, so do I encourage the harshest of punishments for these offenses against moviedom.
The Crime: The Creature From the Black Lagoon. The Perpetrator: Gary Ross (whose previous credits include such sinister fare as Big, Mr. Baseball, and the animated mouse movie Tale of Despereaux. The Punishment: Ross is forced to battle Amazon crocodiles in Ricou Browning's original Gill-Man suit.
The Crime: An "updated" Monster Squad. The Perpetrator(s): xXx director Rob Cohen, with an assist from Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production company. The Punishment: Kicked in the nards by the Wolf Man. Repeatedly.
The Crime: A prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing (itself a remake, in all fairness). The Perpetrator(s): Universal Studios The Punishment: Locked in an Antarctic shed for a week with Wilford Brimley.
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The Crime: Flash Gordon and Escape From New York The Perpetrator: Both will be helmed by noted cineaste Breck Eisner, who has stated he wants to "play down the camp" of the original Flash. The Punishment: Wait a minute..."play down" the camp? Yeah, that'll work. And hey, maybe for Escape from New York you could make the Duke of New York a stockbroker and give Snake Plissken an abusive childhood to explain his anger issues.
Where was I?
The Crime: The Warriors The Perpetrator: Tony Scott, beloved for the subtle and understated directing technique on display in Domino and Man On Fire. The Punishment: None, I just hope it's as inspired and original as his version of The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.