8. The Hitcher
Ladies and gentlemen, the Platinum Dunes formula for remaking popular hits: if it doesn’t move at speed, explode or get naked, out it goes.
Gone is Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character, while lead Jim Halsey becomes a college student driving to Spring Break with his lingerie model girlfriend, who wears short shorts and is first shown removing her top. To make sure the target demographic doesn’t get bored, every let up in the action has been removed from Eric Red’s original story, which works amazingly well if their intention was to suck all the life out of the movie.
In the same year that Michael Myers returned with an overlong backstory, John Ryder (Sean Bean) returned as the hitchhiker your mother warned you about. There are no flashbacks to Ryder’s messed-up childhood here, just a ton of cheap shocks, ripped-out throats and it-was-all-a-dream moments, none of which appear in Robert Harmon’s original. With no proper build-up, no suspense and nobody worth rooting for, we’re all of a sudden adrift in a movie with plenty of running around and stuff blowing up, and very uninteresting it is too.
7. The Invasion
If ever an era needed a remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers it was the corporate-owned 2000s and Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) was just the filmmaker to pull it off. He envisioned a subtle and atmospheric movie shot in claustrophobic spaces that utilized virtually no special effects, but Warner Bros had other ideas.
When the studio balked at Hirschbiegel’s first cut, producer Joel Silver brought in the Wachowskis to add more action and their contribution must’ve been substantial judging by the $10 million spent on reshoots. In the final version, the movie flirts with paranoia and chase scenes, but isn’t particularly accomplished at either.
Neither a very good sci-fi movie nor a very good thriller, the movie groans along for 99 minutes and not even Daniel Craig can save it. The human drama is flat, the action lacks spark and the ending is the limpest of any of the Body Snatchers movies. Where’s Donald Sutherland when you need him?
6. Total Recall
When Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall opened in June 1990, it cost a whopping $70 million (making it the most expensive movie since Rambo III) and packed in more blood, gunfights and mind-bending ideas than any other film in a summer that included Robocop 2, Dick Tracy and Die Hard 2.
Jump forward two decades and this wet fart of a remake has taken the scissors to the original script, cutting out all the zingers, all the fun and most of the plot. So much story has been removed, and replaced by blah chase sequences, that all the life gets sucked out of the story. Jessica Biel suddenly appears, and there’s a chase. Bill Nighy suddenly appears, and there’s a chase. Bryan Cranston (criminally underused in the Ronny Cox role) appears, and blah blah blah.
Another disappointment is that the director is LenWiseman, who made an auspicious debut with Underworld (2003), followed it with Underworld Evolution (2006) and burst onto the Action Director’s A-list with Live Free Or Die Hard (or Die Hard 4.0, if you’re European), for our money the best Die Hard sequel. Total Recall has none of that movie’s verve or excitement (no free running Frenchman, either), and since we’ve literally seen it all before, done better, there’s no reason to bother with this boring failure.
5. The Wicker Man
In order to make this remake ‘work’ for a multiplex audience, all the nudity and weirdness have been excised along with the original setting, which leaves only the cop hero, and thank God the filmmakers chose Nicolas Cage, because otherwise the movie would’ve been yet another dull misfire.
To convey his character’s frustration, Nic shouts his lines, says everything three times and, when the going gets weird, eventually resorts to Kung-Fu. According to director Neil Labutte’s commentary, the star demanded daily rewrites so that his character would be more believable, martial arts apparently being common among motorcycle cops.
Whether dropping the F-bomb in front of small children, stealing a teacher’s bicycle at gunpoint or knocking out a woman while dressed as a bear (don’t ask), Nic’s the whole show here and boy is he a crack detective. After 75 minutes of weird dreams, cheap scares and near-fatal accidents, his character finally concludes that “Something bad is about to happen.”
4. Friday The 13th
Made without its tongue in its cheek, this remake isn’t aiming for post-modernism or nostalgia, it’s just another soulless product that wants to take your money. Slouching from one overly familiar set piece to the next without irony, this film was assembled from tried and tested ideas by marketers.
There are characters who re-tell the story of Jason Voorhees around the campfire, a bunch of creepy locals (including a yee-haw redneck straight out of central casting) plus an incompetent Sheriff who doesn’t believe that the disappearances are the work of a maniac in a hockey mask (what is this, Scooby Doo?), but what really grates are the groaning attempts at humour.
“Comic relief” is provided by a stock stoner character who talks to his bong in a funny voice and performs some pratfalls that end up with furniture being broken. This necessitates a trip to the woodshed, and you know what that means. Yes, the token ethnic guy wanders off alone, in the dark, to his doom. It’s like Scream never happened.
3. Planet Of The Apes
If you need convincing that blockbusters in the early 2000s were churned out for an audience of gurgling test subjects, look no further than Tim Burton’s “reimagining” of Planet Of The Apes. Judging by the level of wit and creativity on display here, a “reimagining” means a rushed and pointless film that throws out the original in favour of a third-rate Twilight Zone episode.
The 1968 original is incredibly subversive, with characters arguing that religious dogma (read “creationism”) should not be substituted for scientific fact, but this movie is having none of that. Instead, Mark Wahlberg runs around, there are some special effects, and Charlton Heston turns up to say “damn them all to hell” (as will you).
So incredibly slipshod in its storytelling that neither Burton nor his cast could explain the plot, Apes ’01 has the distinction of being the only movie in the franchise where nothing is satisfactorily explained, characters and plot points are introduced and discarded at random and the big ‘reveal’ at the climax still leaves viewers scratching their heads.
Who is Ape-raham Lincoln and why does he have a monument in his honour? More importantly, what did his wife think of the show? If you expect answers from Burton’s DVD commentary, you’ll be disappointed.
2. The Fog
Hollywood’s Devil worshippers had the formula for a successful fright flick down cold: some pretty actors from television in their first lead roles, a budget in the $5-20m range to ensure profitability, enough special effects to entertain a caffeinated twelve-year-old, and a script written in crayon by Sloth from The Goonies.
In 2005, they sat down and said to each other: “Remember that John Carpenter film about the haunted fishing village? Here’s the remake: it’s Clark Kent and his African-American sidekick versus the ghosts from Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. With a wimp rock soundtrack. From the director of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This video!”
Most of The Fog’s cast either weren’t born or were still in diapers when Carpenter’s film came out, but hopefully they caught it on television. Hopefully someone did, although there’s not much evidence of that in the finished film. Antonio Bay has become Spooky Island, where the adults are corrupt and kids know best, so it’s a shame they don’t drive around in a van solving mysteries.
1. The Day The Earth Stood Still
Common sense dictates that if you’re going to remake a classic, don’t give it to the director of Hellraiser: Inferno. Also, don’t cast John Cleese as a boffin, Jaden Smith as Jennifer Connelly’s stepson or Keanu Reeves as an alien named Klaatu. That’s just asking for trouble.
In the 1951 original, Klaatu was a surrogate Christ, adopting the name “Carpenter” before being killed resurrected. The idea of Keanu playing Christ is good only for a few chuckles but the filmmakers seem to have retained it, hence the sequence where Klaatu appears to be walking on water.
It’s a shame that they didn’t retain the story: gone is the sequence where Klaatu neutralizes the electricity supply across the globe, causing the Earth to (you guessed it) stand still. It’s been replaced with some hogwash about how he must destroy mankind in order to save the planet, but then Connolly convinces him that people aren’t so bad and he reconsiders etc.
What we are dealing with here, ladies and germs, is a movie called The Day The Earth Stood Still where the Earth does not stand still. Or it stands still metaphorically. Or something.
Director Scott Derrickson didn’t know when to quit and later remade Scream Queen Hot Tub Party without the scream queens. It’s just two hours of staring at an empty tub.