A few weeks back, the trailer for the upcoming remake of Poltergeist hit the Internet to a mixed response. I for one, am conflicted. While I believe that the original is a masterpiece that has aged well enough to entertain a modern audience, there have been plenty of needless remakes that have made a strong case for their own existence. I’m happy to reserve judgment until after seeing the movie, but I did get to thinking about remakes in general. Nine times out of ten, a remake exists as a cash grab that leans on the notoriety of the original film, but every so often we get what I believe to be the best reason for a remake: the original isn’t very good, but has a great concept (The Blob and The Fly are perhaps my two favorite examples).
I took the liberty of surveying some friends for precisely that: movies that are utterly terrible, but with a little elbow grease and some acknowledgment of what went wrong, could be remade into something great. Here are the five strongest cases:
Drop dead Fred (1991 – dir. Ate de Jong)
I know we all have fond memories of this one, what with it being on TNT all day, everyday in the early nineties, but I urge you to rewatch it. It means so well, but it is utterly repulsive on just about every level. With its vomituous color palette, its unwillingness to commit to either crudeness or family-friendliness, and its offensive thesis on what it means to grow up, Drop Dead Fred is a total mess … but what a great idea!!! The concept of having a real-life, clingy imaginary friend is the perfect device through which to tell a fable about embracing the inevitability of maturity. If a stronger continuity could be grafted to the conceit, a remake could abandon the episodic (and thusly uneven) style of the original without sacrificing humor. I’d love to see Adam McKay take a stab at this, or if the zaniness were to be toned down, perhaps even the Duplass brothers.
Freddy vs Jason (2003 – dir. Ronny Yu)
It took a full decade after the iconic ending of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday to see this ‘slash’ of the Titans come to fruition (I can’t believe I just said that, but I couldn’t not say it once it crossed my mind), and the results were underwhelming. Certainly, we can all appreciate that the existence of Freddy vs Jason merits celebration, but man, it could have been so much better. First off, there’s really no need to have such a heavy human element. These characters exist for one reason only: to be slaughtered. A remake should have no illusions about this. Both Freddy and Jason have enough of a backstory that it shouldn’t be to hard to write them into a conflict. Of course we can’t have it be only about them, which is why I think the human cast should consist of previous survivors of each franchise. The planned-but-never-made sequel, Freddy vs Jason vs Ash makes me wish Sam Raimi would tackle such a project. Nobody else can walk the necessary line between horror and humor that each franchise requires.
Timeline (2003 – dir. Richard Donner)
Time travel is supposed to be fun, not bland. Sure, the movie is based on a novel, which presents its own problems in terms of pacing and choosing what isn’t cinematic enough to transfer to film, but so was Jurassic Park which, despite being ripped from the pages of an equally beefy Crichton book, is an all-time masterpiece. A remake of Timeline would give filmmakers a chance to re-adapt the script. Much like Jurassic Park, Timeline shouldn’t translate to an action movie, but rather an adventure film. The source material does have action beats, but by taking it away from blockbuster trappings, there is an opportunity to genre hop as the story requires. Neil Marshall did a wonderful job at putting sleek, modern day sci-fi against medieval shields-and-swords with Doomsday, and I think he’d be the perfect choice to upgrade Timeline.
Hancock (2008 – dir. Peter Berg)
As far as concepts go, a drunken, lonely, depressed superhero is still relevant, perhaps even more so now than when Hancock was released. Naturally, what with our cinematic landscape being drowned in superheroes, the concept has been loosely explored, but Hancock promised to commit a full story to it. For the first two acts, it is largely successful, but by the third act it devolves into a retread of My Super Ex-Girlfriend. This method didn’t even work for My Super Ex-Girlfriend, so…
First off, if we were to remake Hancock, we’d need to do away with the PG-13 rating. To make the idea of an out of control super-being carry weight, it would have to be dark. Secondly, get rid of Will Smith. I’d rather have an actor that can handle pathos rather than just playing a slightly tweaked version of Will Smith (something the even Will Smith has lost the ability to do effectively). If James Gunn weren’t currently being the best part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’d be the perfect choice to make a version of Hancock that is appropriately dark, but also funny. Heck, why not create a new, Hancock-like Marvel superhero and tie it in to the MCU?
Super Mario Brothers (1993 – dir. Annabel Jankel & Rocky Morton)
I’ll admit that I really do enjoy this movie, albeit for all the wrong reasons. It is fascinatingly terrible, but I don’t get the feeling anyone was phoning it in, and if you’ve read any of my past blog posts, an A for effort goes a long way. Still, what a strange hodgepodge of weirdness this movie is. And outside of simple references and character names, it bears little resemblance to to source material. This is understandable, considering the source material is essentially a cartoon. That being said, the only way to make a successful Super Mario Brothers movie would be to make it a cartoon. After movies like Wreck-it Ralph and The Lego Movie, there is no reason why we couldn’t have a successful adaptation of the one of the longest running video game franchises, and who better than Lego‘s Phil Lord and Chris Miller to do it? I feel like we should get a petition for this one.
With a big year of franchise installments and reboots coming down the pipeline, what are you most excited for? What would you like to see remade, and by whom? Hit up the comments!
Author: Dan Scully
Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.