Seven Science Fiction Movies Begging For A Remake
In the wake of the excitement over Shane Black’s upcoming film, The Predator, it seems natural to wonder what other science fiction movie gems are out there waiting to be rediscovered, reimagined, or simply polished up. While we can expect that Black’s new installment will be packed with dark humor, epic visuals, and a brand new Mega-Predator guaranteed to rip out its share of spinal columns, one can also hope the new movie will impart the subtle social introspection that makes all good science fiction great.
For example, what if humans—with all of our innovations, technology, and badass weaponry—suddenly discover that we are no longer on top of the food chain? That’s the big question underpinning the original Predator film. And even Predator II took an honest stab at examining the gang-related violence of 90’s Los Angeles (even if the movie also supposed Danny Glover could climb down a 100-foot drainpipe and best a Predator hand-to-hand).
So with the aim of social introspection in mind, let’s take a look at seven science fiction movies that are begging for a remake:
Starship Troopers (1997)
The shadow cast behind Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s classic Starship Troopers makes it impossible to consider a modern adaptation without first admiring what Verhoeven got right. He produced a scathing satire of what was an otherwise straightforward pro-military space opera. Despite his film’s often campy, over-the-top bloodshed and bug-stomping action, Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers was a clever spoof of military/industrial fascism, complete with cheesy anthems and military propaganda interspersed throughout the movie.
While many misinterpreted Verhoeven’s heavy-handed treatment of the movie’s central theme—a fact that may explain its lackluster performance at the box office—Starship Troopers nonetheless garnered an army of loyal fans that carried it into cult classic status, including a constituency of real-life soldiers who have since had Death From Above tattoos inked on their biceps…now that’s dedication! And that kind of dedication deserves a rewarding remake, one that digs deeper into the reality of life as a soldier.
Among the various themes explored in Heinlein’s 1959 book, the concept of military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stands out among the rest. Juan Rico, the protagonist of the novel (who was renamed “Johnny Rico” in Verhoeven’s movie), is plagued by the memories of his various military exploits around the universe. He additionally reflects upon fellow soldiers who are so distraught that they can no longer serve in their regiment after the death of their psychic-canine partners (but that’s a whole different story).
Despite Heinlein’s portrayal of military PTSD, however, the effects of war upon the grunts depicted in Verhoeven’s adaptation were minimal, as they often screamed, “Kill ’em all!” and charged straight into the maw of their anthropoid attackers. Could a more dramatic adaptation delve deeper into the effects of war upon the mind and spirit of a soldier? And could that inquiry stretch out to encompass an appraisal of how global militarism might impact our entire universe in the future?
As luck would have it, there is currently a remake in the works aimed at delivering a more dramatic adaptation of Starship Troopers. Columbia Pictures is reportedly in the process of revamping the film, with writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon providing a script that promises to stay truer to Heinlein’s original material. Ironically, however, this is the same writing team responsible for the 2017’s Baywatch reboot…so you may not want to bet your life of the “seriousness” of this remake. But then again, why not?
In the now infamous words of one Juan “Johnny” Rico: Do you wanna live forever?
This relatively unknown science fiction/crime drama starring Sean Connery washed out beneath a wave of science fiction blockbusters released in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Movies like Alien and Star Wars influenced the movie business to the point that every production house was eager to shoot the next science fiction hit. So when Peter Hyams (Timecop) approached Hollywood with his desire to shoot a western flick similar to High Noon, he was shot down by producers who believed a western could never sell in the heavily saturated science fiction market.
His solution? Space Western.
Like any good western, Outland follows the story of a Federal Marshal who’s out to stop the bad guys; in this case, the bad guys are drug dealers pumping space miners full of stimulants until they begin freaking out and killing themselves. When Marshal O’Niel (played by Connery) discovers who’s behind the conspiracy, he grabs his trusty shotgun and starts dishing out good ol’ fashioned western justice…uh, in space.
While the movie helped set in motion a unique genre that would pave the way for other SF/western crossovers like Serenity and Cowboys vs Aliens, the movie failed to explore the richer potential of a crime drama set in space. Although Marshal O’Niel comes off rough and ready for action, he is still portrayed as a clean cop: he doesn’t take bribes, stands up for justice, and clearly defines the line between good and bad. But modern audiences aren’t so appreciative of the “good cop/bad cop” dichotomy anymore, and this is where the real need for a remake exists.
What if O’Niel wasn’t such a good guy after all? What if he’s easily corrupted, or perhaps plays a part in the conspiracy from the start? If his character explored a darker path it would only serve to support the deep-space setting in a way the original movie never did. After all, if humans can find a way to colonize distant moons, why wouldn’t crime follow shortly after? And in the solitude of space, who would be there to stop you? Such sentiment is suggested in the tag line from Outland (one that seems “borrowed” directly from Ridley Scott): Even in space, the ultimate enemy is man.
They Live (1988)
Like most of John Carpenter’s films, They Live exists inside a 1980’s time capsule. It’s hard to imagine any of his movies remade with the same magic as they were conceived by such a legendary creator, but the subject matter of this particular movie has the potential to be hugely relevant today.
The movie follows a nobody named John Nada as he discovers that the world is being controlled by aliens who have turned humanity into zombies that do nothing but consume, breed, and die. The aliens use subliminal messages to control the population, but old Johnny Nada sees right through their lies when he slips on his magic sunglasses and reveals their plot to the world.
Now if the idea of humanity being zombified by technology sounds eerily familiar to you, you’re on the right track for where a modern reboot could succeed. Only this time, instead of sunglasses and a mysterious radio signal that controls human minds, smart phones could be an easier scapegoat for how the aliens seize control. And what if Mr. Nada is the last person on the planet who doesn’t own a smart phone? However this remake might play out, the raw material is there for a revamp of They Live that would take on the post-internet world. Though Universal let it leak a few years back that there was a plan in motion to remake the movie, the buzz has quieted in recent years. Hopefully someone will pick up the project, otherwise we may all be doomed to OBEY.
The Toxic Avenger (1984)
Another film that’s locked in a 1980’s time capsule, The Toxic Avenger is an irreverent superhero flick…and an absolute enigma. A movie without a discernible plot, pace, or real point, The Toxic Avenger went on to trigger an entire franchise of low-budget movies, a cartoon series in the early 90’s called Toxic Crusaders, and more recently, a musical.
Though the cartoon sought to develop the only altruistic motive of the franchise (to spread environmental awareness), the original movie was filled with about as many 80’s tropes as could be stuffed into a bubbling barrel of green toxic sludge. Watch the first few minutes of the 1984 original and you’ll witness just about every underrepresented social group being mocked before the opening credits end. Plus, everyone’s working out in the gym with leg warmers and head bands…soooo freaking 80’s.
Although The Toxic Avenger was clearly never intended to break down social stereotypes in any meaningful way, a remake could do exactly that. Not only could there be a larger social commentary on the effects of environmental waste, the tongue-in-cheek nature of the original movie could be carried into a remake and provide a refreshing break from the seriousness of many modern superhero movies; such a self-reflexive approach is part of what made Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy such huge successes. Certainly there’s room for another slap-sticking superhero, and in this case, he actually carries a mop stick! At the very least, we might get the chance to see a Toxic Avenger that looks less like Sloth from Goonies.
There has been some interest in making a new Toxic Avenger flick in recent years, with Schwarzenegger himself showing some interest in taking on a role back in 2013. Although there has been a Toxic Avenger musical produced and rumor has it there is a finished script buried somewhere, there’s no confirmed remake currently on the horizon.
Event Horizon (1997)
Speaking of horizons, this sci-fi/horror movie exists on a completely different one. Simply stated, Event Horizon scared the crap out of a lot of people. Set on a spaceship of the same name, Event Horizon explores what happens when humanity’s reach for the stars outstretches our understanding of the universe. After the spacecraft returns from an unknown dimension, the rescue crew discovers that something sinister came back with the ship. What results is a bloodbath unmatched by even the most hardcore slasher flick.
To be honest, there’s not much here that really needs reimagining; the original movie was awesome and horrific enough. However, amid some recent real-life technological discoveries—like NASA’s proposed Electromagnetic Drive (a possible faster-than-light engine that can actually bend time and space)—perhaps this is a good time to start exploring the possible consequences of messing with Newton’s laws. And if the idea of opening a portal to Hell is too evangelical for modern audiences, that’s fine. I’m sure there are many more terrifying places we’ve yet to discover in the (un)known universe.
The Fly (1958/1986)
While on the subject of sci-fi/horror crossovers, The Fly was a much quieter blend of horror when compared to a movie like Event Horizon. However, the underlying subject matter is similar in the sense that The Fly seeks to explore the consequences of toying with nature.
In the movie, a scientist seeks to create a machine that can transport people from one point to another instantaneously, beginning with a humble setup in his laboratory. But when a fly buzzes into his machine while he’s testing it on himself, he unwittingly turns himself into a hybrid man/fly. While the original 1958 version portrayed this transformation horrifically enough, the 1986 David Cronenberg remake (starring the one and only Jeff Goldblum) gave us some truly unforgettable body-horror makeup jobs.
In light of the fact that the Cronenberg remake was a such a success, there may not be much of a case for an additional remake. On the other hand, there have been many new advancements in genetic science and stem cell research since the last reboot that could provide some alternative points of entry for scientific inquiry into this classic story. For instance, instead of teleportation, the scientist could be looking for a means of genetic hybridization when he inadvertently transforms himself. Like a reboot of Event Horizon, a reimagining of The Fly could explore the darker side of scientific innovation.
As of 2017, its been reported that JD Dillard has approached Fox about doing a new remake. Dillard’s indie flick Sleight turned some heads at Sundance a couple years ago, so hopefully he’s got what it takes to match Cronenberg’s horrific reimagining.
Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece Dune is arguably the most influential science fiction book ever written. When David Lynch first read the book, he immediately signed on to do the movie adaptation back in 1984. Many were excited over the prospect of a Dune film, but the project failed to live up to expectations. Though there remains a loyal following of Lynch’s version, it simply wasn’t able to capture the scope of the book. Some blame the movie’s shortcomings on shortcuts designed to hasten the explanation of complex ideas inherent in the book’s storyline, while others argue that the book is simply too complex to condense into a single film. It seems that these reasons, among others, could be amended in an updated remake.
Many new franchises such as The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series have favored extending films into multiple installments, in order to avoid shortcuts that might harm the movie’s reception. Such an adaptation of Dune, cut into a trilogy, would easily be accepted today- there was a television miniseries remake of Dune back in 2000 that was relatively well-loved. In addition, modern CGI could greatly enhance many of the visual effects that the original movie’s practical effects struggled to portray. Honestly, can you imagine how badass a sand worm would look on the big screen today?
In terms of fleshing out the central theme of Dune (which is considered by many to be the book that planted the seed for much of Lucas’s Star Wars plot), a modern audience would be more than ready to digest a story about an imperial force that mines a far away desert planet in order to acquire the world’s most important resource—oil—oops, I mean, spice. An allegorical approach to a rewrite would be rife with material to comment on the modern world. Environmental conservation was also a key concept at the heart of Herbert’s message, and would definitely be of interest to a modern audience.
Well, good news: an updated adaptation of Dune is definitely set for the future. With many rumors circulating around the possibility of a Dune remake for the better part of a decade, director Denis Villeneuve has signed on for the project. Villeneuve is responsible for not only adapting Arrival for the screen, he was also behind Blade Runner 2049, which did a great job following up another beloved science fiction masterpiece. These things considered, he seems like the right man for the job, and with any luck, we’ll get to see Paul Atreides riding sand worms across the desert in no time.
Did we miss any science fiction remakes that you want to see? If so, let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to Let Your Geek Side Show!