Oscar chooses ten flicks that really deserve another chance.
Hollywood’s certainly doing a lot of remakes and re-imaginings lately. And, frankly, why they insist on doing-over films that are already bona-fide classics is beyond me! But it’s not a stretch to say that a remake of a bad or financially unsuccessful movie could salvage an interesting concept or character, or even give an interesting story a chance to be better translated. In the spirit of that, I submit to you ten movies that are not established classics but could benefit from more thoughtful storytelling or modern technical expertise.
10. At the Earth’s Core (1976)
This is a somewhat selfish remake as there is nothing necessarily bad about the original Amicus film – it’s an entertaining piece of 70s cinema. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t think its disjointedness, very hokey dinosaur depictions and nonsensical moments took me out of the viewing experience. With that said, I could see a film that channels the awe of Jurassic Park or the over-the top action of Peter Jackson’s King Kong (albeit shorter). The original story by Edgar Rice Burroughs was a strange one featuring living dinosaurs, ice age titans, apemen, telepathic pterodactyls, and gorgeous babes of the jungle in a world deep beneath the Earth’s crust. I’d imagine it as something fun and unpretentious, having a pulpy “what you see is what you get” sincerity about its very 1940s set-up, embracing the weirdness and fantasy of finding a primeval world full of eclectic and bizarre denizens. It takes the no. 10 spot because it’s not too likely to happen unless Jurassic World brings dinosaurs back to life in a big bad way, and the likelihood of finding the right kind of director to reinvigorate dated source material for a modern audience.
9. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
After Tim Burton’s half-assed attempt to ape Spielberg’s Hook, the Alice in Wonderland name has lost some of its lustre over the years, made worse by the fact that a sequel to Burton’s snorefest is in the works by Disney. I personally see a lot of potential if the mysterious, quirky tone and style of Lewis Carroll’s classic is followed in a more faithful iteration sometime in the future. Something in the vein of of Pan’s Labyrinth or the the underrated Return to Oz comes to mind, full of dark scenes, colourful prosthetics and perhaps something more tangible on the screen to work from rather than copious CGI. Even if it’s not done in movie form, a wealthy TV studio like HBO could do it justice as a miniseries. Some new spins on the tale may have to be introduced to keep it fresh, even if it means mixing up elements from both books. A director well-versed in directing actors and visual effects would be ideal, such as a Terry Gilliam or a Guillermo del Toro. Finally, Alice must be a little girl like in the book and a charming one above all! While this is not likely to happen in a good long while, I’m holding out hope regardless…
8. Cutthroat Island (1995)
Morgan Adams (Geena Davis) was a smirking, sassy ne’er-do-well who went searching for treasure with a dapper high society con-man (Matthew Modine) whilst feuding against her scurvy pirate uncle (Frank Langella) on the high seas. Sounds pretty damn awesome on paper, but the final product was implausible, badly-acted and poorly put-together. So, why bring it back? Well, the buccaneer adventure genre received a considerable boost from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, after all. Secondly, in the wake of the success of The Hunger Games, audiences are more on board with female-centred action-adventures than before. With Pirates of the Caribbean starting to wind down, injecting some variety in the form of female pirates would be awesome. With more sophisticated techniques for filming ships at sea and dazzling naval battles, a great screenwriter could provide a polished revamp with a savvy action director attached. Lastly, a chance to hear that rousing swashbuckling theme by John Debney attached to a better movie will make it all the more memorable!
7. Masters of the Universe (1987)
Fans of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe are generally split on what a modern live-action movie should look like, whether to take the series to a grittier place or try to maintain that Flash Gordon-inspired swashbuckling in space sensibility. With Star Wars and Marvel breathing new life into the space opera genre, even I think it would be pretty fun to see a more fantastical style. The original 80s movie had a lot of fun scenes, but often felt too cheesy and awkwardly directed for its own good, and hardly holds up. A similar tone to the 2002 animated series could balance the many strange fantasy elements of this wide universe. Personally, I’d like to see them embrace the high-spirited fun side with just a small helping of seriousness. There are hints of a He-Man reboot in the near future from Sony, of course, and if it finds the right balance of humour and epic storytelling, it could make for a fun ride.
6. Caligula (1979)
Caligula is that film from a time period whern directors could get away with anything, featuring a story of ancient Roman debauchery with real debauchery happening on the screen. All of the sex, except for the scenes happening between the principal actors, is real. While this was done to make the film controversial and artistic, it did quite the opposite, resulting in an epic failure that might as well be labelled as porn. The film, featuring a prestigious cast (Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole, and John Gielgud) is notable for its explicit scenes of coitus and violence, including six-minutes of hardcore footage. When Caligula was released, it received strongly hostile reviews, with pundits criticising its extreme scenes of rumpy-pumpy and violence, and a lack of narrative coherence. The movie tried really hard to be controversial art and failed miserably. The story of such a fascinating figure like Caligula has potential for big-screen interpretation, provided you know how to tailor the film to an audience, such as the fans of HBO’s Rome. Just reign in the gratuitous sex scenes and emphasise an intriguing and cohesive story.
5. Congo (1995)
Let’s be honest here. Despite director Frank Marshall’s intentions, Congo is a very silly film, ranging from the phony animatronic apes to Tim Curry’s hammy Romanian accent. Marshall attempts to emulate Spielberg’s style of suspense and sentimentality but to no effect. In the end, there is no resonance. The movie substitutes the horror elements of the book for weak comic relief and feels like its riding the coattails of Jurassic Park. A cast of engaging actors with a screenplay that brings out the scarier elements of the Michael Crichton novel could make for a truly terrifying film with characters worth investing in; sort of a Heart of Darkness with killer apes. Considering the very polished look of Caesar’s clan in the rebooted Apes franchise, and with a more horror-oriented director at the helm, Congo could certainly turn into that modern lost city thriller that Crichton intended it to be.
4. Alexander (2004)
Oliver Stone’s maligned Alexander opus has made many display aggravation towards this once visionary director. The two main problems were that it tried to tell the entire life of Alexander and the result was choppy and inconsistent, as well as a completely miscast Colin Farrell as the eponymous conqueror. Instead of looking at the entirety of Alexander’s life, I could see a picture that focuses more on his early conquests and ascension to power, or one of his most famous victories. Like in Gladiator or Kingdom of Heaven, a more focused narrative would allow for the audience to be more invested in the characters. Perhaps the Final Cut is an improvement, but it may be too late for Stone to make amends. What of Alexander himself? Henry Cavill once stated that his most desired role would be that of Alexander the Great, and I for one think he has both the physique and the chops to pull it off.
3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Despite its fine casting, visual style and fun action set-pieces, this was the ill-fated end to Sean Connery’s acting career. It’s a tremendous shame considering the source material from the talented Alan Moore deserves a more involving treatment. All it needs is a second chance provided it doesn’t suffer from the same seven character mash-up plot as the original did. Alternatively, adapt the storylines in the form of a TV Series in the same style and tone of Arrow and Penny Dreadful with flowing character development and a well-paced narrative steeped in a gritty and stylistic 19th century setting. Filling the shoes of the great Connery as Allan Quatermain would be no easy task, but my first choice would be a grizzled Sam Neill sporting Connery’s famous stubble in the part.
2. The Black Cauldron (1985)
Disney’s animated feature The Black Cauldron was an attempt to fuse plot elements from the first two books of the beloved Chronicles of Prydain series into around eighty-minutes. A mistake that no doubt alienated fans of the books. While the original film was panned for being overly dark and humourless by Disney’s standards, its weaknesses reside in its patchy narrative and undeveloped characters. With all the powers of modern technology, it seems that a live-action re-adaptation of the first novel The Book of Three seems to be in order. To my knowledge, Disney still retains the rights to The Chronicles of Prydain. I would imagine that a Lord of the Rings-inspired balance of reverence to the books and artistic licence could lead to a richer adaptation that can stand the test of time without constant comparisons to the Tolkien opus.
1. Dune (1984)
Many regard the Dune series as one of the great epics of science fiction literature, and given its extensive mythology and rich characters, the 1984 movie is something of a mixed bag. It boasts a wealth of twisted and eye-catching visuals, sets and costumes, but it still suffers from a narrative and script so convoluted that it makes for a difficult viewing experience for those who haven’t read the book first. That’s to say nothing of the many fans who were pissed off by the myriad changes to the story. The film certainly looks amazing, but the book’s intriguing complexities are difficult to translate onscreen, which makes it a highly risky property for a studio to gamble on. Due to the inherent prophecy and Chosen One elements, comparisons to Star Wars would be inevitable, as was the case with the David Lynch movie. The book has been described as unfilmable, just like The Lord of the Rings was for a time, but there may yet be an enterprising filmmaker out there who might be brave enough to defy that statement. I don’t know who that would be, but surprises are abound!