Remake? Reboot? Reimagining? Hollywood’s obsession with recycling old properties into modern-day multiplex fodder shows no signs of abating. Many are gutless cash-ins seeking the largest possible audience, using the classic status of their source material to lure in curious cinema-goers. That said, some remakes are brilliant: A Fistful of Dollars, The Departed, True Grit, Heat, Scarface… Sometimes a film can adapt a dated or flawed original – even cult classics – with reverence, affection and a determination to improve. Let’s pretend that this can still happen, and look at ten films that deserve to be remade:
10. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
A bartender looks to claim the reward offered by a drug lord to whoever (literally) brings him the head of the man who impregnated his daughter. Events become increasingly morbid and tense, entering into an eerie insanity… A tiny budget and Sam Peckinpah’s failing health meant this isn’t his best work, despite the film’s cult status. However, the black humour, eccentric characters, violence and desert road-trip format could make this ripe for a Coen Brothers remake…
9. The Monuments Men
An incredible story and central theme, concerning the value of art compared to a human life – Clooney and co-writer/producer Grant Heslov had it all in the pages of history, plus an A-list cast, to boot. Too bad they booted it all off a cliff and created a monumental mess. Had the project been scripted by a talented writer and Clooney taken the backseat as producer in favour of Ben Affleck directing, this could have been a fitting follow-up to Argo; suitably retro in style and dramatically engaging.
8. The Devil Rides Out
Arguably the greatest of Hammer’s horror films, this is a cult classic that depicts an upper-class family’s struggle against a satanic cult that sends a host of horrific visitations to their country house. Despite its brilliance – scripted by Richard Matheson, directed by Terence Fisher, starring Christopher Lee (in a rare heroic role) and Charles Grey – the film’s impact has lessened due to the dated effects. In his autobiography, Lee cites this as one of his favourite films, but also believes it should be remade – on condition that he play the same role again. While this may sadly be a struggle, Ian McKellen or Patrick Stewart could make a fitting replacement, while James Watkins would be a strong choice of director after his work on The Woman in Black.
7. The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy thrilled readers and theatregoers, but back in 2007 cinema audiences were left bored by the first installment of the potential franchise. The reason lay in studio fears over upsetting Christian audiences in the US, so Pullman’s thought-provoking text was diluted to the extreme. To truly realise Pullman’s vision, a braver studio and distributor is needed, and realistically that will mean a smaller budget. As such, perhaps Guillermo Del Toro could bring his inventiveness and love of practical effects to make this tale of a heroine in a magical world as bewitching as Pan’s Labyrinth?
6. All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy adaptations have abounded recently with No Country For Old Men, The Road, The Counselor and the upcoming Child of God. Back in 2000, Billy Bob Thornton directed Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz in the first of McCarthy’s Border Trilogy: coming-of-age stories set in a harsh yet beautiful landscape, profound, moving, and rich in incidental detail. Sadly Thornton’s film – possibly due to studio interference – misses the subtlety and beauty of the novel in favour of a bland adventure story. If the Coens are busy with Alfredo Garcia, maybe Andrew Dominik could bring the melancholy tone of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to this?
Despite their breathtaking CGI spectacle, Michael Bay’s blockbuster adaptations of the Transformers franchise struggle to even be a guilty pleasure for some. However, the rich history of the Transformers’ evolution, their culture, civil war, and the destruction of their home planet could have made an epic sci-fi film with mass appeal in the right hands. Spielberg’s involvement is evident in the E.T.-like tale of boy-meets-alien, but all charm and wonder was eclipsed by Bay’s leering, adolescent eye; in the hands of J.J. Abrams or even James Cameron this might have been great, but their stargazing eyes were looking elsewhere…
4. Raid on Entebbe
A little-seen TV movie, the film recounts the events of Operation Entebbe in 1976 (glimpsed briefly in The Last King of Scotland), when Palestinians hijacked a plane bound for Israel. Landing in Idi Amin’s Uganda, the tension builds until Israeli commandos launch an assault to take back the hostages. The original is solid, but in the hands of Paul Greengrass this could blow Captain Phillips out of the water; a top quality political action-thriller.
3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Alan Moore has never been a fan of the film adaptations of his novels, but most could see why after this. There is so much potential in the idea of combining the most iconic gothic and fantasy characters of the Victorian era (Captain Nemo, The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll, et al.), to fight a common enemy (Fu Manchu, Moriarty). The source intertwines the events of Dracula, The War of the Worlds and many other classics, and is horrifically dark: violence, rape and torture feature – much of which is perpetrated by its cast of antiheroes. Realising this on screen would be an immense challenge: if only a studio could, say, “assemble” a great cast and “avenge” the travesty of the first film, with a witty script featuring great interplay between the larger-than-life characters… Joss Whedon, are you listening?
2. The Robe/Demetrius and the Gladiators
The film that launched CinemaScope, and its lesser-known sequel, are classic examples of the ancient historical epic, but not the best in the genre (for that, see Spartacus). With the recent return of the biblical epic, including Aronofsky’s Noah and Scott’s Exodus, a revisit to these films could prove timely. The first follows an alcoholic Roman tribune sent to Jerusalem and charged with overseeing the crucifixion of Jesus, while the sequel follows the tribune’s Christian slave as he is forced into the arena. While overlong, a strong rewrite could combine both stories into a thrilling spectacular worthy of Scott’s Gladiator.
A futuristic theme park becomes a nightmarish fight for survival after a fault turns the inhabitants on the guests. Sound familiar? From Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton comes this story of three conjoined theme parks, ‘Westworld’, ‘Roman World’, and ‘Medieval World’, where guests can live out their fantasies amidst a cast of human-looking robots. In the original, Yul Brynner became the forerunner of The Terminator as his cyborg gunslinger hunts James Brolin (yes, Josh’s dad). Rumours abound that Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams are remaking Westworld as a miniseries with HBO… fingers crossed nothing can possibly go wrong… Go wrong… gO wRoNng…
What films do you think should be remade? What’s your favourite remake? Let us know below…