This week’s question comes from reader Max Morgan:
If you could have your choice of a movie remake and the director to take on that task, what and who would it be? For example, my choice would be the wonderful Michael Douglas film Falling Down, directed by David Fincher.
While I’d argue that Stanley Donen’s superbly scripted, genre-bending Charade is a perfect capsule of ’60s kitsch and charm, there’s one director I’d be okay with giving it a contemporary spin: Steven Soderbergh. The feat was already attempted in 2002 with Jonathan Demme’s The Truth About Charlie, but the film failed to nail its predecessor’s delicate balance of tone. The Knick mastermind has a knack for crafting sleek, sexy pop that’s not afraid to embrace its sense of humor or dark side, and Charade’s loop-the-loop plotting would be the perfect sandbox for his talents. The film’s dialogue is dazzling and its ensemble eclectic (Soderbergh definitely knows how to assemble an enthralling cast), but its main draw is the irresistible repartee between mega-stars Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Out Of Sight is the obvious reference point here, highlighting the director’s ability to build palpable, simmering chemistry between his two leads amid a thrilling crime yarn. I’m drooling at the thought of what Soderbergh could do with the stunning Kerry Washington and dashing Michael Fassbender subbing in for Hepburn and Grant.
I’m going to say something a little crazy here, but I want to take one of my favorites from Wes Anderson’s, the most-often overlooked The Darjeeling Limited, and give it to Sarah Polley so she can focus on the raw emotion of the three grieving brothers and cut out most of the other crap. I am talking about losing those suitcases and stripping it of all the other quirky Anderson signatures in favor of a story that shares the reality of Peter, Francis, and Jack’s stunted lives with heightened—darker, moodier, slower—emotional responses coming from the characters, as seen previously in Polley films like Take This Waltz and Stories We Tell. By blowing up the compact emotions scripted by Anderson, Polley could create a much more human story, where the significance and complexities of familial bonds aren’t drowned out by Anderson’s eccentricities.
I’m mostly excited by the idea of taking a relatively weak film that has great potential, story-wise, and dropping it in the lap of a director more suited to the material. So I’m going to go with A Beautiful Mind, re-made by the wonderful Rebecca Miller. The story of mathematician John Nash and his fractured psyche was wholly unsuited to Ron Howard’s popcorn sensibilities. Miller, with her gift for exploring the tumultuous and messy inner lives of her characters, would be ideally suited to the fascinating and complex humanity that was given such short shrift by Howard, and not just because of a script whitewashed of the ugly realities of Nash himself. Seeing a gifted filmmaker with a talent for unflinching character study (especially in the under-appreciated The Ballad Of Jack & Rose) tackle such a project sounds thrilling.
George Miller did a wonderful thing with Mad Max: Fury Road. He was able to present a world fully formed, bursting with personality, detail, and history. And he conveyed this mythology almost wordlessly and without burdening the story with endless reams of exposition. He entrusts the audience to be conversant in the basic tools of storytelling, allowing us to construct for ourselves the strange hierarchies, rules, and structures behind Immortan Joe’s post-apocalyptic Babylonia. That’s the kind of lean cathartic storytelling that the fantasy genre desperately needs, which is why I wish Miller would helm a Conan The Barbarian reboot. Jason Momoa’s 2011 version was fine, at least considering it was a slightly bigger budget cinema experience that felt mostly like an episode of Hercules or Xena with an extra 30 minutes and a few more CGI monsters tacked on. But Conan, like Max, functions well as an unhinged, hyper-competent warrior who shapes his environment through deeds and not words. Miller’s confident show-don’t-tell direction applied to a Conan film could be a lyrical, high-fantasy poem. It would be a welcome contrast to fantasy movies that bury the viewer under the sludge of too-fussy world-building.
I haven’t even seen Scooter Braun and Jon M. Chu’s Jem And The Holograms movie, but I hate it. The trailer turns my stomach, the buzz is abysmal, and Synergy is, like… a ball or something? I’ll gladly admit that while Jem isn’t a perfect prestige project for someone to work on—the very concept is a thin and a bit dated at best—I would have loved for a woman director with a sense of camp and flair to take that one on. And I still would. I don’t anticipate that second Jem remake coming any time soon, but if and when it does, hey, maybe Elizabeth Banks? She’s more than proven she can do silly but smart with the Pitch Perfect films, and she’d know how to cast smart, well-trod women whose very existences didn’t amount to a collective internet yawn. Plus, I bet she would have called up Jem creator Christy Marx. Come on. If nothing else, her presence behind the lens would give all us Jem fans one less thing to complain about—or, on the flip side, one thing to actually get excited about.
Sometimes you find that a movie that you remembered fondly from your childhood utterly fails to hold up when you grow up, but it’s arguably even more frustrating when you can still see why you loved it as a kid but know in your heart of hearts that others won’t appreciate it as much because the special effects have aged so poorly. That’s why I’d love to see a remake of Battle Beyond The Stars by Edgar Wright, who I’m sure could do the material justice and, almost as importantly, would be able to find both the drama and the absurdity in the idea of transplanting Seven Samurai into space.
Forbidden Planet is a ’50s sci-fi touchstone. Leslie Nielsen, in his pre-Airplane! career as a dramatic actor, is the captain of a ship who touches down on an alien world with a dark secret. The film was essentially the template for Star Trek, and one of the best sci-fi films of its era. But the film is still limited by the budgets and special effects of the ’50s, so the aliens are a never-seen, long-dead race, and only their technology remains. (One piece of that technology, Robbie The Robot, was the film’s breakout star) Who better to revive the concept than Guillermo Del Toro, a director who’s made a career of imagining the unknown? Imagine the inventiveness of Pan’s Labyrinth’s character design, applied to an entire alien world. While we’re at it, imagine a studio giving Del Toro a budget to adequately see his vision through.
It’s inevitable that the big YA/fantasy franchises of the past decade-plus will someday be re-made—probably sooner than anyone would prefer. But if it has to happen, I’d love to hand Twilight—any Twilight, but preferably the whole four-book non-saga compressed into the single 120-minute feature it could easily sustain—over to Sofia Coppola, who was apparently considered for Breaking Dawn. The first, lowest-budget Twilight movie captured some young-love intoxication thanks to director Catherine Hardwicke, but as talented as she is, she wasn’t able to break free from the source material. Coppola couldn’t help but break free from the source material; I can’t imagine her making a slavish adaptation unless the material was already exactly her sensibility. With her dreamy, melancholic, patient style, she could draw out what’s actually seductive about the vampire-human relationship, and either acknowledge the creepiness of the vampire boyfriend or manage to successfully drown it out of the creepy, creepy books with some of The Jesus And Mary Chain or something.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
I’m going to out-crazy Becca by saying, first of all, that the 2003 film Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle should be re-made. Yes, it’s technically a sequel, but Full Throttle easily stands on its own. Charlie’s Angels has been rebooted so many times now—even as a television show—and a new reboot is already in the works. While I’m sure Elizabeth Banks will make a fine addition to the Charlie’s Angels franchise, her project will likely be a full reboot. What I really want is a near-exact remake of Full Throttle, with one major change: In the remake, all the fun queer subtext should bubble to the surface as bold text. What if there were a Full Throttle that actually allowed Natalie to be in love with Madison Lee like she so obviously is? A Full Throttle that allows Dylan to be attracted to women instead of just implying it repeatedly? And Jamie Babbit should be the director to remake Full Throttle as the lesbian-led action film we all deserve. Although she’s not really someone who comes to mind when I think “action movie,” her films often live in the exact comedic space where Charlie’s Angels belongs. For kicks, let’s keep the same cast.
Like Kayla’s, mine’s not so much a remake as it is a do-over. As much fun as it is to snark on Mission: Impossible II for just how John Woo of a film it is—from the slow-mo to the double guns to the doves—I’d love to see a remake of that movie into something seriously watchable. We all know the Mission: Impossible is an auteur’s franchise, and that makes taking the good with the bad of said director. MI II took way too much bad to even make it turn around and be good, but it could be saved with a competent director like David Fincher taking the reins. The entire convoluted Bellerophon/Chimera and Ethan/Ambrose plots actually beg for a Fincheresque style of storytelling. Make it a psychological thriller and then J.J. Abrams’ MI III is an even more apt sequel to it all. A runner-up would be Steven Soderbergh if you want the movie to be more about Thandie Newton’s character Nyah and her skills as an expert thief (instead of about her being a sex slave, as Woo’s film is), turning Mission: Impossible more into an Ocean’s type film. But either way, there are options in making Mission: Impossible II not suck. (And neither Fincher nor Soderbergh would allow the theme to be Limp Bizkit-ed.)