In modern day cinema, it is becoming increasingly difficult to create original content. One of the ways in which movie studios attempt to combat this is to remake classic movies. The logic does make sense, remaking a movie which is much loved seems like a fool proof plan, but, what studios fail to consider is the effect that nostalgia has on how a new version is received.
Many people take offence when they learn that their favourite movie is to be remade and will already have an expectation that the movie will fail. The 2016 version of Ghostbusters was deemed a critical failure; in reality, it wasn’t that it was necessarily a bad movie, it just fell short of the bar set by the original, resulting in it being considered much worse than it actually was.
So the question is, instead of remaking movies which were highly rated, why not remake movies where the bar is already low? Over the years there have been many movies which failed either critically or financially but actually had a good premise. A bad script, poor casting or a busy release window can all be reasons why a movie fails. But that doesn’t mean that at the heart of it there wasn’t a good movie waiting to be made.
The following ten movies are examples of movies with a good premise that, if remade, could be far more successful than the original.
1. The Golden Compass (2007)
The Golden Compass was a 2007 fantasy-adventure film based on Phillip Pullmans His Dark Materials trilogy. The film tells the story of Lyra Belacqua, a young orphan who discovers that a mysterious group called the Gobblers are kidnapping poor orphan Gyptian children. After being rescued by the Gyptians, Lyra sets off on a quest to the land of the armoured polar bears (yes that’s a real thing) in an attempt to rescue the missing children.
Although the film contained an all-star cast (Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Sir Ian McKellen to name a few), reviews of the movie were mixed at best. Watering down the themes of rejection of religion and abuse of power resulted in the film failing to replicate the success of the books. Had the studio doubled down on these themes, things could have looked a lot different.
Even before its release, the film received criticism for the dilution of some of the most interesting elements which made the book series so popular, as well as from some religious organisations for the trilogy’s anti-Catholic themes.
In 2014 Pullman criticised the film, stating: ‘They needed an ending that would work for a single film, but one that would also work if it was the first of a trilogy. They wanted a cliff-hanger and a resolution. You just can’t do that.’
2. Hancock (2008)
If there was one shining moment in the 1983 film Superman III – except any scene with Richard Pryor – it was when Superman, under the influence of cheap imitation Kryptonite, goes on a bender and begins to act like a complete douche. It raises the question, if you had super powers, would you use them for good or for your own entertainment?
Peter Berg’s superhero comedy Hancock took this theme and made it the film’s premise. Played by Will Smith, Hancock is an alcoholic superhero with amnesia that saves the life of a corporate public relations consultant called Ray (Jason Bateman) after he becomes trapped on railroad tracks with an incoming freight train. In return, Ray offers to improve Hancock’s public image.
Although the plot starts well, it never quite lives up to the premise and takes a dramatic nosedive about half of the way through, as the tone takes a more serious turn.
3. Alien Vs Predator (2004)
One of the most debated topics among film fanatics is who would win out of two film characters. Whether it is Robocop vs Terminator or Hulk vs Superman, debating these dream matches creates as much delight among fanboys as it does animosity.
One matchup which has created much discussion is Alien vs Predator. So much so that it spawned multiple books, comics and video games over the years. So you can imagine the excitement when 20th Century Fox announced that they would be releasing an Alien Vs Predator movie, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.
Sadly, this was another case of a film not living up to the hype and the movie spent too much time focusing on the cardboard cut-out human characters whose purpose was really only to act as fodder for the two franchise monsters. The film also failed to replicate the horror which made Alien and Predator more than just dumb sci-fi action.
4. Hackers (1995)
Hackers, directed by Iain Softley and starring Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie is a 1995 American crime film that follows a group of adolescent hackers who attempt to expose a corporate extortion conspiracy. The film is based on the ideals of The Hacker Manifesto, a 1986 written by a computer security hacker who went by the pseudonym of The Mentor.
In a lot of ways, the film was ahead of its time. As the film was released in an age when the internet was still a relatively new thing, many of the themes were lost on the audience and as a result, the critical response suffered. On top of that, the film made only $7.5 million at the box office compared to the production budget of $20 million.
With the internet and hacking being very much a part of today’s culture, a remake of Hackers could fare much better on modern audiences and could experience a level of success akin to the NBC hit show Mr. Robot.
5. Red Sonja (1985)
Eager to capitalise on the success of the Arnie-starring Conan movies, MGM attempted to launch their own fantasy franchise featuring one of Robert E. Howard’s other characters, Red Sonya of Rogatino. Unfortunately for them, the film was a complete failure both critically and financially.
Arnie, who portrayed Lord Kalidor in the film, stated ‘It’s the worst film I have ever made’. Now, when my kids get out of line, they’re sent to their room and forced to watch Red Sonja ten times. I never have too much trouble with them’ – ouch!
In the current climate, a remake of Red Sonja would expect to fare much better. In an age where we are seeing an increase of strong female characters on the screen, Red Sonja would be the ideal intellectual property and character to build a franchise featuring a strong female role model to young girls around the world.