5 Movies Due For a Remake

What keeps any story or idea relevant is continuous adaptation. The blanket statement that “remakes suck” discounts a lot of great remakes and ignores the fact that mankind has been retelling and remixing stories forever. A good example of reinvention is Batman, who will see his 4th cinematic incarnation and is popular worldwide and across all ages. Buck Rogers on the other hand hasn’t had a new movie since 1939 and grows more irrelevant with each passing year.

All five movies that I think are due for a remake are 15 years or older. Four of these are adaptations from other media. For each movie I break down their faults or misfortunes, the opportunity in the source material or potential in a remake, how a remake makes fiscal sense, its current and past remake status, and finally a bit of fanboy wishful thinking.

Wild Wild West (1999)

Why It's Due for a Remake

The 1965 Wild Wild West TV show, with its mix of spycraft, the old west, alternate history, and friendship was never truly adapted to screen. Instead, the 1999 film was filled with bad jokes and a rivalry dynamic between James West and Artemus Gordon that was non-existent in the TV show.

Wild Wild West is credited with being a visible origin of the steampunk subculture. Steampunk done well could add an extra layer of visual sophistication. The 1999 film had a steampunk spider, but its poor design and execution were detrimental to the film.

Of the 10 highest grossing westerns ever made, 5 were made in the last 5 years. A few high budgeted flops have “poisoned the well” a bit. But modestly budgeted films like True Grit and Django Unchained are #2 and #3 on the list of highest grossing westerns.

In 2010, Naren Shankar and Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer Ronald D. Moore were tapped by CBS to reboot Wild Wild West for TV. Moore instead went on to develop the book series Outlander into a TV show for Starz.

Who Should Be Involved

Director — Ronald D. Moore
James West — Clive Owen
Artemus Gordon — Karl Urban
Remake Budget — $70 million

Ronald D. Moore is not only well suited to the task, he’s a big fan of the original TV series. While the TV series reboot he developed didn’t become a reality, he has lots of great ideas for Wild Wild West just waiting to be made. James West is basically James Bond as a cowboy, so why not cast a great actor who almost was Bond? Clive Owen has the stature, charm, and intelligent grittiness that would make the character believable and dangerous. Artemus Gordon is basically Sherlock Holmes as a cowboy. He’s a master of disguise, gadgetry, and deduction. Karl Urban transforms in each role he’s played but always retains a cool witted toughness.

Spawn (1997)

Why It's Due for a Remake

Spawn, the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil so that he can have his revenge, never really made sense as a PG-13 movie, other than fiscally. The effects, even in its time, didn’t look that great and look even worse now. The comic book was full of mature material that was either washed over or excised by the film. Spawn’s iconic cape was used sparingly due to budget and technical constraints. It was like a Spider-Man movie without web swinging.

Modern visual effects can finally bring Todd McFarlane’s art to the big screen. Making the movie a hard R would make the fans of the comic very happy. Making the movie more violent, scary, and gory should also bring in the horror movie crowd.

R rated films based off comic books get a smaller budget than their PG-13 brothers, but have proven to be bankable films in the hands of the right creative team. Worldwide gross examples: 300 - $456 million, Sin City - $158 million, Blade - $131 million.

McFarlane himself has said he’s been developing a script that turns the focus on other characters making Spawn into a sparingly seen presence. This could be cool for a Spawn TV show, but as a fan of the comics, I want a movie that focuses on Spawn.

Who Should Be Involved

Director — Robert Rodriguez
Al Simmons / Spawn — Jamie Foxx
Remake Budget — $85 million

Robert Rodriguez’s respect for source material and his ability to deliver visually stunning movies on a budget make him a perfect fit. Jamie Foxx has proven himself to be a badass thanks to Django Unchained, he’s an Oscar winner, and happily endured hours of daily makeup to be a comic book villain. Foxx has the name recognition that studios want to see. He’s even actively campaigning for the role. 

The Rocketeer (1991)

Why It's Due for a Remake

The Rocketeer is set in pre World War II Los Angeles and tells the story of a stunt pilot who comes into possession of a mysterious rocket pack. The film was mis-marketed and didn’t really find an audience until it hit home video and is now a cult classic. The movie is 23 years old and anyone younger than 18 likely hasn’t seen it — there are exceptions obviously.

The effects still look amazing and the story is well told. The “remake” could be a sequel of sorts like The Incredible Hulk and Superman Returns. But enough time might have passed that a full remake is deemed necessary. With elements of Indiana Jones and advanced tech via Howard Hughes, the opportunity for a great adventure story is massive.

Recent period comic book movie worldwide grosses: Captain America: The First Avenger - $370 and X-Men: First Class - $353.

In 2012 Disney said they were developing a remake and James Wan talked about directing it, but in the last 2 years we’ve heard nothing supporting that.

Who Should Be Involved

Director — Jon Favreau
Cliff Secord / The Rocketeer — Matt Bomer
Remake Budget — $110 million

Jon Favreau has proven himself as a great storyteller capable of working in lots of different genres. Comic book movies can easily turn cartoonish if mishandled. Favreau’s realistic take on Iron Man made all the action and characters believable, and it set the tone for the Marvel cinematic universe. Matt Bomer was almost Superman in a live action movie. I’m surprised that Marvel or DC have yet to snap him up for another character. Bomer not only looks like he’s from a different era but is charismatic with a smart edge to his presence.

Highlander (1986)

Why It's Due for a Remake

Highlander is about an immortal named Connor MacLeod who battles other immortals for the ultimate prize (maybe). After a terrible sequel and bit of retcon, the idea of an immortal Highland Scotsman was turned into a successful TV show with a new character, Duncan MacLeod. A third movie was made that retconned things again, followed by three more sloppy films and more retconning. The franchise has died so many deaths, but somehow keeps coming back to life.

The tale of an immortal battling other immortals is still interesting, but needs a singular vision and a real end game to the larger story. They also need to keep the films rated R, which might mean a lower budget, but Highlander without beheadings would just be wrong.

There is not a strong argument fiscally for this remake, which might be one the of reasons we’ve had 7 years without a Highlander movie. Ryan Reynolds has picked up and dropped the project a few times. With directors continually in flux, you can’t really blame him.

Who Should Be Involved

Director — Gareth Evans
Connor MacLeod — Ryan Reynolds
Remake Budget — $30 million

Gareth Evans created two crazy over-the-top action films on super small budgets, The Raid for $1.1 million and The Raid 2 for only $4.5 million. Even with a modest budget by Hollywood standards, Evans could create the most action filled Highlander film to ever exist. Ryan Reynolds needs a hit film badly. After Green Lantern and R.I.P.D. he looks like box office poison, which I think is very far from true. He’s great in indie films and rom-coms but has yet to star in a solid action franchise. Reynolds has shown he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make a good movie, and pairing him with the inventive Evans could be a winning combo.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

Why It's Due for a Remake

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a story about man versus nature, revenge, and freedom. Set in 1866, the submarine Nautilus is helmed by Captain Nemo who begins attacking American and European ships. Because the Nautilus is the first of its kind, people mistake it for a monster. 20,000 Leagues does not exist on blu-ray and was last released on DVD in 2003 — Disney has a history of permanently shelving movies that have aged badly. The movie's effects and take feel very dated by today's standards.

The source material is a classic book with themes that are still relevant today. The video game Bioshock showed what's possible with a steampunk/hydropunk aesthetic. Modern visual effects can finally realize the book's grand scope of adventures aboard the Nautilus.

Submarine movies don’t make that much money, but fantasy films rake in the box office cash. While 20,000 Leagues and Pirates of the Caribbean are very different, they do share some similar traits, and Pirates grossed $654 million worldwide.

In 2009, McG was attached to a remake envisioned as a Captain Nemo origin story with Will Smith as Nemo. In 2010 David Fincher picked up the project only to drop it in 2013 after unsuccessfully wooing Brad Pitt as Ned Land to the project. 20,000 Leagues was also made into a 1997 TV movie and a couple of un-noteworthy animated films (2000 and 2003).

Who Should Be Involved

Director — Duncan Jones
Captain Nemo — Chiwetel Ejiofor
Remake Budget — $160 million

Duncan Jones has made two solid films set in the near future and is currently in production on an epic fantasy film. He’s the perfect guy to adapt a nearly 150 year old book that's equal parts science fiction and hydropunk fantasy. Captain Nemo in the books is an Indian prince, but on film he’s usually an older European. Ignoring all that and looking purely at Captain Nemo’s characteristics as a brilliant scientist, engineer, and commander with a healthy dash of revenge fueled madness, Chiwetel Ejiofor's strong performances in both 12 Years a Slave and Serenity show he’s an actor more than worthy of the role.

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