In the early 2000s, Hollywood discovered a temporary cure for “sequelitis”, the disease that gave them the uncontrollable urge to make a sequel to every successful movie. By remaking previous hits instead, they could trade upon famous titles and wouldn’t have to come up with new stories.
Convincing audiences to watch remakes of lousy 80s movies ranks as one of greatest tricks Tinseltown ever pulled. The very idea of someone wanting to reboot Footloose, Annie and Fame is horrifying, and the fact that those movies broke even at the box office is surely some sign of impending social collapse.
Even more mystifying are all those attempts to reboot a classic by throwing out everything that worked, miscasting the lead character and grafting on a new ending that doesn’t make any sense. There are eight million rubbish remakes in The Naked City. Here are fifteen of them.
15. Conan The Barbarian
After several years working in television and enduring humiliating roles in junk like Hercules In New York, Arnold Schwarzenegger finally got the chance to prove himself in Conan The Barbarian (1982). Adapted from Robert E Howard’s stories, it’s a long, bloody sword and sorcery tale.
After several years working in television, including a two-year stint on Baywatch, Jason Momoa finally landed a role in a movie that people would want to see. It’s another long and bloody movie, but this one gives the impression that the filmmakers were more interested in cool shots and special effects than in honouring Howard’s pulp tales. The director is Marcus Nispel, whose previous films (Friday The 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc) were all reboots, so skull-cracking originality was never going to be on the agenda.
The king of flop remakes, Conan cost $90 million to produce and only made $48 million worldwide. Momoa went on to play Aquaman, but Nispel’s next movie went straight to DVD.
This reboot of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original isn’t a movie at all but a glorified series pilot, so bland and asinine that it belongs on the SyFy Channel. The wit, violence and satire have been stripped away, and all that remains is a generic revenge story told in PG-13 fashion.
There’s a funny scene in the original where Ronny Cox’s corporate villain says he had a guaranteed military sale with ED 209 – renovation program, spare parts for 25 years, the works. Then he says, “Who cares if it worked or not?” That’s this movie in a nutshell.
Even a watered down, forgettable Robocop remake has an audience, not to mention franchise potential – who cares if it works or not? Just add some cool effects, throw in a bunch of name actors (something the original didn’t really have) and you’ve got a guaranteed sale.
Three years before he took the Michael Caine role in a forgettable remake of Sleuth (opposite Caine, who had the Laurence Olivier role), Jude Law took the Michael Caine role in this vanilla remake of Alfie, but the story’s been diluted and relocated to NYC.
Law still talks to the camera, moaning about his lot and explaining his actions, but all of the darker moments from the original (remember Denholm Elliott as a seedy abortionist?) have been excised and replaced by….well, nothing much. There’s a touch of feminism, life lessons are learned but the film still doesn’t add up to very much.
The director is Charles Shyer (Father Of The Bride), who’s not known for edgy humour, and his attempts to make us like the character cost the film dearly at the box office. In the US, it grossed $13 million on a $60 million production budget.
12. The Truth About Charlie
Starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Donen’s Charade is one of the great comedy thrillers of the 1960s, as charming as it is exciting. Directed by Jonathan Demme, this reboot makes so many odd choices that it distances the viewer and calls attention to its shortcomings at every available opportunity.
Winning Best director for The Silence Of The Lambs must’ve gone to Demme’s head because he’s not interested in making a chase thriller – for some reason, he just wants to reference French New Wave cinema, and even has Charles Aznavour (as “himself”) make an appearance. All in a movie starring Mark Wahlberg, no less.
Throw in a cacophonous musical score, overbearing camerawork and Tim Robbins as a too-shifty-to-be-believable government official and you’ve got a film that instead of exciting the audience leaves them wondering what they just witnessed.
The fourth most popular movie of 1981, the original Arthur made $95 million at the US box office. The story of a spoiled millionaire who must choose between true love and wealth in a planned marriage cemented Dudley Moore’s status as a leading man and won Oscars for its theme song as well as John Gielgud’s turn as Moore’s butler.
Directed by Jason Winer, this 2011 reboot trades down from Moore and Liza Minelli to Russell Brand and Greta Gerwig in the lead roles, though it has the sense to cast a previous Oscar winner (Helen Mirren) as Arthur’s valet. In no other aspect does the movie display sound judgment. Brand is being pressured to marry Jennifer Garner, whose character is such an inhuman, status-seeking monster that you’re never left in any doubt which direction the story will take.
After opening at #3, the movie took $33 million in the US, less than its $40 million production budget.
10. A Nightmare On Elm Street
When Platinum Dunes rebooted the Elm Street franchise in 2010, they ran smack-bang into the franchise’s biggest problem: how do you re-introduce a villain who’s such a part of popular culture that he was a “nostalgic” gag in Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer?
Unfortunately, the company wasn’t interested in Freddy Krueger and viewed him only as money in the bank, hence this sluggish, humourless reboot that pleased nobody. “Actors register as body count,” wrote one critic, “characters go undeveloped and sensation trumps feeling. A nightmare, indeed.”
Had the movie been given to French filmmakers Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, who made Inside (2007), the film would’ve been “a dark version of The Goonies.” Instead, Platinum Dunes went the tried-and-tested route and even though the film made $115 million worldwide, we’ve still to see a sequel.
9. Day Of The Dead
Sensibly dumped on DVD by its distributor, this Day follows neither 2004’s Dawn Of The Dead (which also starred Ving Rhames) nor 2006’s Night Of The Living Dead 3D, it’s just another stand-alone rip-off hiding behind a famous title.
And what a rip-off. Gone is the briskness of George Romero’s original set-up and in, courtesy of screenwriter JeffreyReddick (Final Destination), comes lots of running around as a bunch of boring, interchangeable nobodies behave in stupid ways. If our last line of defence against the living dead consists of Mena Suvari, AnnaLynne McCord and Nick Cannon (later a judge on America’s Got Talent), we really are in trouble.
The director is Steve Miner, who also helmed Friday The 13th Part 2 & 3, House and Halloween H20, so he knows how to squeeze thrills out of limited budgets (and ideas), but Day looks and plays like a TV movie. Rushed and poorly staged, with indifferent make-up effects, it’s enough to make you nostalgic for Flight of the Living Dead.