Remakes, reboots, re-imaginings-- these sorts of films are no longer just apart of a Hollywood trend. The concept of re-doing iconic films has become a cottage industry within Tinseltown. If it was popular decades ago, maintains a cult appeal, or generated an entire franchise, you can bet there's a studio plotting a new take on it. While the success of movies like The Dark Knight and Rise of the Planet of the Apes has proved some reinterpretations can yield financial and artistic success, we are beginning to question some of the properties currently being developed. For a taste of the most ridiculous re-dos proposed by Hollywood, here are 15 dubious franchises on the verge of being revived.
Though The Dark Knight Rises was a huge success, The Avengers has kind of ruined any chance for Warner Bros to enjoy it. The studio wants desperately to ramp up to a Justice League movie, which will feature such all-stars heroes as Wonder Woman, Superman and, of course, Batman, to compete with Marvel’s mega mash-up. The only problem is that the hyper-realism of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series has given the studio pause as to whether or not the cinematic universe could also contain super powered characters. With the Nolan-produced Man of Steel hitting theaters this summer, there are been new reports coming in every week announcing rumors of further delays, the possibility of Christian Bale returning as Batman or new developments of a Batman reboot intended to establish the character for Justice League. As this hubbub ensues, The Dark Knight Rises has barely had time to gather any dust on our DVD shelf.
The Crow was a massive hit—in 1994. The comic book adaptation succeeded mostly due to to is Goth visual style (that made Tim Burton films seem downright cheery) and the charismatic mystique of lead Brandon Lee (who tragically died during the film’s shooting.) A stream of sequels and spin-offs followed, all failing to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle magic of the original film. Since 2008 Hollywood has been attempting to bring together a remake of the film with stars like Mark Wahlberg, Channing Tatum, Bradley Cooper and James McAvoy circling the lead. As always, the studio financing the project seems to be missing the point—The Crow was never a typical Hollywood movie. Steeped in grunge, Goth and industrial rock counterculture, the film was a surprise hit and a major gamble for Dimension Films. As a product of its time, we can’t believe Hollywood thinks it wise to try to make that sort of impact again.
Photo: Jody Cortes/WENN.com
While most adult Americans surely consider themselves above the childish appeal of watching a guy in a rubber monster suit, the popularity of Hollywood Kaiju (re: Japanese style giant monster movies) is in high dudgeon. The success of Cloverfield and the indie Monsters have built studios up to finance mega-budgeted monster projects like Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (in theaters July 12th) and the upcoming Godzilla remake. Though Monsters director Gareth Edwards has signed on and is promising to bring the iconic lizard back to his more serious roots (the original 1954 film was a response to Hiroshima), those of us who remember Roland Emmerich’s 1998 remake remain somewhat suspect.
Escape From New York
Along with Mad Max, John Carpenter’s Escape From New York mave post-apocalyptic action films a viable subgenre. With Kurt Russell as the film’s one-eyed hero, Snake Plissken, Carpenter was able to take a ridiculous concept—Manhattan transformed into an open maximum security prison by 1997-- and made it thrilling, innovative and financially successful. In 1996, Russell and Carpenter teamed up to try the formula again with Escape From L.A., but fell flat on their faces. Yet that old failure hasn’t stopped one-time Hollywood golden boy Joel Silver from attempting to spearhead a remake. Gerard Butler, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hardy are up for the role of Snake Plissken-- conventional choices that get bandied about when casting most action franchises these days. Even worse than the potential for predictable casting, Silver has made plans to stretch the remake into a trilogy with the first film acting as an origin story. Because that’s the sensible approach to streamlining one of the leanest, most fast paced action films ever made-- stretch it out into three six hour movies. Clearly Peter Jackson and his Hobbit expansion is to blame...
National Lampoon’s Vacation
National Lampoon’s Vacation was a classic John Hughes comedy that catapulted Chevy Chase to super stardom. Sequels like European Vacation and Vegas Vacation were decent entries, while Christmas Vacation took the franchise to its zenith. Now screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (the guys behind Horrible Bosses) have been tapped to write a reboot tentatively titled Theme Park Vacation. Ed Helms is attached to play the adult version of Rusty Griswold (son of Chase’s Clark Griswold) as he embarks with his family on their own nightmarish vacation. While we appreciate the casting of Helms, the entire series hinges on the involvement of Chase, who is not yet signed up. Even if he does, it sounds like they’re relegating Clark to a “passing of the torch” cameo, which seems insulting considering Chase is the glue that binds the series. Oh, and since Randy Quaid has lost the ability to enter the U.S., don’t expect Cousin Eddie to swoop in for some laughs either, which is a shame.
Before she made Academy Award fodder like Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow made Point Break, one of the most ridiculous action movies ever committed to celluloid. The film’s plot, about a college football player turned FBI agent (Keanu Reeves) infiltrating a gang of extreme sports enthusiasts turned bank robbers (lead by Patrick Swayze), has been the model for countless movies including The Fast and the Furious franchise. Yet none of the copycats could capture the sheer goofy excess of the original. It’s a cult classic that’s dynamically directed by Bigelow, though without the script’s unintentionally campy flavor, Point Break would be just another adrenaline-driven 80s action movie. Hollywood action guru Kurt Wimmer is attached to spearhead the reboot and, while certainly talented, his joyless approach to filmmaking (as seen in dreary affairs like Equilibrium and Salt) will likely miss the point of the cult film's appeal.
Akira is an anime classic. The cyberpunk action movie has everything-- psychics, tumorous monsters, teen motorcycle gangs, dystopian government experiments gone awry-- and it is every bit as weird as it sounds. It's the type of film that could only come from Japan, which is why Hollywood’s obsession with turning it into a live action film makes absolutely no sense. Warner Bros has been attempting to make Akira into a live action film for years. Joseph Gordon Levitt, Zac Efron, Justin Timberlake, James Franco, and just about every other Caucasian actor in Hollywood have circled the leads, which happen to be members of a Japanese motorcycle gang. Seriously, the script retained names like “Tetsuo,” “Kaneda,” and “Lady Miyako” but the studio was considering casting non-Asians in the roles. While the film was green lit with Spanish filmmaker Jame Collet-Serra named as director, production, things were shut down again last year. Though the Akira reboot languishes in development hell, expect it to be revived at some point as the original anime grows in popularity.
A Star Is Born
This one may not be too much of a stretch considering its history. A Star Is Born is a classic drama that has been remade twice since its original 1937 release. The first version starred Janet Gaynor and Fedric March and centered on an aging Hollywood star (March) who mentors a struggling actress (Gaynor). Warner Bros remade it again in 1954 and again in 1976 (with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, pictured above). While not a strict remake, the 2011 silent throwback The Artist also basically told the same story. Now Dirty Harry himself, Clint Eastwood, is developing a remake of his own. Though Beyonce Knowles was originally attached, the singer dropped out abruptly due to “scheduling conflicts.” Even stranger, the script is said to have a lead inspired by long-deceased Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, which makes it sound like Eastwood is making something along the lines of A Grunge Rocker Is Born. The whole thing sounds circumspect and with three (or four) versions of the story already filmed, do we need really need a new take on the material?
Highlander (starring Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert, above) is a 1986 film whose success is hard to define. We like to credit the concept—a race of immortals use Earth as their battleground for centuries while struggling for an elusive “prize”—as the key to the franchise, though there has only one successful Highlander property spun off (the TV series of the same name starring Adrien Paul). Every other sequel and spin-off has performed terribly but that hasn't stopped Summit, the studio behind Twilight, from prepping a new version of the series. Ryan Reynolds is attached to play the titular Scottish immortal (because when you think Scottish, the Canadian Reynolds immediately springs to mind). However, all is not well in the land of immortals-- director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo recently left the director’s chair, which was also previously vacated by Fast Five helmer Justin Lin. Though the film will inevitably be made (Hollywood is leaving no franchise stone unturned), the Highlander's current woes can be linked to the fact a high-concept story cannot carry a series on its own.
In 1990 House Party proved to Hollywood a predominately African American cast could lead a mainstream comedy without the star power of someone like Eddie Murphy (say what you will about the combined talents of Kid 'N Play-- they never quite broke out the same way). The film is considered an important contribution to the 90s new wave of black cinema and is a comedy classic of its era. After three less successful sequels (one without Kid ‘n Play), Warner Bros has opted to dust off the franchise and remake House Party as a direct-to-video movie without any of the original cast or crew involved. House Party: Tonight’s the Night is set for release later this year and will follow the formula of the original with all new characters sure to alienate fans of the original franchise. The film will be the last effort of Warner Bros direct-to-video Premiere line, which pulled similar stunts with franchises like The Lost Boys and The Dukes of Hazzard.
Romancing the Stone
Of the Indiana Jones knockoffs that followed Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing the Stone is the best. The swash buckling rom-com had something for everyone, not to mention great chemistry between leads Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. In the past few years, Fox has been toying with a “fresh, new, exciting” take on Stone eying Katherine Heigl as the lead. Heigl, who specializes in playing unlikeable prudes, has little of the charisma Turner used to balance her stuffy character. The Michael Douglas part has had Gerard Butler (Heigl’s The Ugly Truth co-star) and Taylor Kitsch considered as replacements. We're just not sure how recasting the remake with predictable actors is expected to inject new life into the franchise.
Like Point Break, Dirty Dancing is another ridiculous-in-hindsight Patrick Swayze vehicle. Despite being set in 1963, the film played like your typical 1980s teen drama (thanks in part to its admittedly iconic soundtrack). As years have passed the film's cheesiness remains among its strongest attributes (thanks to dialogue like "Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”) Still, the chemistry of Swayze and co-star Jennifer Grey on and off the dance floor made the film a classic of its kind. In 2004, Lionsgate attempted to re-imagine the concept with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Though it featured a cameo by Swayze, the film failed to resonate in terms of box office. Recently, the studio has returned to the well by proposing a full-fledged remake. Though they hired original dance choreographer Kenny Ortega to direct the new version, we don’t imagine the aesthetics of contemporary filmmaking will inform the feature as well as the era of excess did the original. Also, as the most iconic film of Swayze’s career, the idea of replacing the actor seems downright wrong. Development on the film has seemed to slow down since the remake was announced in 2011, which may be for the best.
Most of us remember The Bodyguard as the film that spawned the Whitney Houston single “I Will Always Love You.” Though the film was panned by critics, it was a financial success for both Houston and her co-star Kevin Costner. In 2011 Warner Bros announced their plans for a hi-tech remake that would examine the ease at which sites like Twitter and Google aid celebrity stalkers. The question of finding a replacement for Houston also remains up in the air, though the star’s 2012 death may have stopped the film’s development in its tracks. Warner Bros hasn’t officially declared they have halted the film’s production but are likely trying to get some distance between the new version and the star's demise. Though, if they really respected Houston’s work in the film, they would leave well enough alone.
Child’s Play was a sleeper hit of 1988. Coming on the heels of the dying slasher subgenre, the film made the idea of a living, killer doll scary. That idea was diluted over the course of four sequels (two of which were made as straight-up horror comedies). In 2009 Universal announced they intended to bring Chucky, the series psychotic doll, back to his more serious roots with a reboot. Most recently, the company has fast-tracked a straight-to-DVD sequel, Curse of Chucky, which is set for release this October. Though that film is in post-production, a theatrical remake is also being pursued. Don Mancini, the creator and writer of all six films, remains attached as the director of the remake while voice actor Brad Dourif will continue reprising his role as Chucky. Though the direct-to-video sequel is a wise choice financially and will likely appease fans, its presence could dilute the Chucky brand and makes the notion of restarting the entire franchise a bit nonsensical.
The 1980s were a big time for robots. Somewhere between adult-oriented fare like The Terminator and Robocop came more kid-friendly films like Short Circuit. The film, which feature Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg, centered on a sentient, wisecracking government-funded robot named “Johnny Five.” Thanks to a generation of nostalgic 80s kids, Johnny Five and Short Circuit have attained a certain degree of cult iconography. This is probably why Dimension Films have been developing a remake to be directed by Tim Hill. Fans will likely be pleased to note Five’s appearance will not change from its original iteration. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to bring in audiences if the film is ever put before cameras. Beyond Generation X-ers Short Circuit is a pretty obscure family film and will likely wind up yet another ill-advised remake.