Welcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? Email us at email@example.com.
This one’s from reader Thane Himes:
It’s been proven time and again how difficult it is to create a satisfying sequel or remake something that would actually benefit from modern techniques or perspectives. Recently, I re-discovered Disney’s Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. I’d love to see Disney let its animators run wild and put out a Fantasia every decade or two. What intellectual property or franchise do you actually want to see get a sequel or a remake?
When I worked at a video store, 1969’s Dick Van Dyke dramedy The Comic became a sort of mythical lost classic in my mind, simply because the only copy we’d had—a VHS—was lost to a negligent customer, years before I read about it. On paper, The Comic seemed to have many elements of a movie I might love: an early Hollywood setting; a story of an arrogant movie star’s fall from grace; a comic actor, Dick Van Dyke, playing a tormented megalomaniac; direction by Carl Reiner. But possibly because I’d so built it up in my mind, when I finally snared it on my DVR years later, I couldn’t help but be let down. The film’s tone is wildly uneven, veering from slapstick to melodrama, and it never fully commits to the darkness the story seemed capable of—and Van Dyke’s voice-over narration flat-out doesn’t work. But there’s still a germ of a compelling movie there, particularly once it gets into the later, has-been years of Van Dyke’s Stan Laurel stand-in Billy Bright. I suppose the tale of a silent movie star who’s struggling to adapt to changing times was already handled recently in The Artist, but I definitely wouldn’t mind someone taking another stab at The Comic—preferably someone who’s more willing to tread that thin, shadowy line between comedy and tragedy.
Following The Muppets’ success at the box office and the Academy Awards, a big-screen sequel was a no-brainer. But I contend that the proper follow-up to the film would’ve been an updated version of The Muppet Show, tailored after the theater-saving telethon presented in The Muppets’ final act. Kermit The Frog and friends have a decent cinematic track record, but they were born on TV and did their best work on TV, a medium where their chaotic antics and intentionally bad jokes can be doled out at a rapid clip—a rapid clip ideal for sketches, musical sequences, backstage blackouts, and anything else that fits into a half-hour time slot. The televised variety show might be dead, but The Muppets demonstrated that these characters can still bring some life to it, just as they reinvigorated musty vaudeville and music hall traditions in the 1970s and ’80s. I’m not asking for a updated-for-the-times reboot like the short-lived Muppets Tonight: As seen in The Muppets, the old-fashioned stuff mixes just fine with the pop-culture The Muppet Show missed out on, and a modern-day star like Jack Black can ably step into the “reluctant Muppet Show guest” role previously perfected by John Cleese.
The popular opinion of David Lynch’s Dune has undergone constant revision since its release in 1984. In spite of the fact that it’s based on one of my favorite novels—and helmed by one of my favorite directors—I still have never been able to choke it down without it sticking in the tube of my stillsuit. Oddly enough, Children Of Dune—the 2003 miniseries adaption of Dune Messiah and Children Of Dune, Frank Herbert’s two most immediate sequels to his original novel—works better for me, at least as coherent, satisfying renditions go. But they do suffer from, you know, being produced by Syfy (er, Sci-Fi) circa 2003, which makes me wish someone would come along and do full, big-screen justice to those two sequels. Of course, that would also entail remaking Dune, a gauntlet that’s been thrown, picked up, and thrown down again far too many times since Lynch made “Dune” synonymous with “dud.” And hahaha, no, I’m not thinking Jodorowsky—although I’m not very jazzed on the idea of Dune getting the Peter Jackson treatment either, at least not after The Hobbit. So basically I’m screwed. But I can dream.
I’ve been stumping for this one for a while: In the 1947 circus noir Nightmare Alley, terminally handsome leading man Tyrone Power gives a career-best performance as Stan Carlisle, a charismatic barker who ascends to the peak of carny success as a spiritualist before free falling into the old-fashioned definition of geekdom. Despite a relatively big budget and real movie stars, the subject matter proved too extreme for middle America, and Nightmare Alley failed at the box office. Since then, this one-time shocker has lost its edge, and now its slick, artificial old-Hollywood production value appears at odds with a story obviously neutered by the demands of the Production Code. Now the Code is gone and carnivals are back in style, freeing Nightmare Alley to finally realize its R-rated potential as a deeply cynical slog through the mud of human nature. It could work either as a period piece—complete with the dated Freudian references of the original—or updated for the Long Island Medium era. I’m picturing Jon Hamm biting the head off a chicken in the opening credits.
Given that my long-running desire to see an updated, improved version of Westworld seems to finally be coming to fruition, I’ll turn to another item in the pantheon of 1970s science fiction: the short-lived series Space: 1999. It’s comparable to Battlestar Galactica in a lot of ways: Watching it now, the show comes across as campy and outdated. It has a bunch of devoted fans who would probably loudly declaim a remake. Also, it could easily be sillier than the first attempt. But, much like Ronald D. Moore’s reboot of Battlestar, Space: 1999 could be really awesome. It’s a fun concept just begging to be realized in much more exciting and ambitious detail—perhaps Mr. Moore would like to take a crack at it as well.
J.J. Abrams’ ongoing big-screen Star Trek reboot has given us some fun, forgettable popcorn movies. But Trek belongs on the small screen, where there’s room to stretch out, experiment, and explore the unknown. So I’d love to see a new Star Trek TV show refitted for the golden age of television. Those of us who love Trek have had to look past a lot of flaws—hammy acting, cheap special effects, cringeworthy attempts at humor, Voyager—and yet the series’ virtues are enduring ones. Imagine Star Trek’s imagination, adventure, and refreshing lack of cynicism, but with the ambition of Game Of Thrones, the surprising emotional depth of Fringe, and the crackerjack dialogue of Firefly. It seems like a new Trek show would be a license to print money for CBS (who owns the franchise’s television rights). Someone just needs to give the order to make it so.
One of my dad’s favorite films is Deliverance, so I was introduced at an early age. I’ve seen it numerous times over the years and it still holds up fine, but like Mary Harron’s skewering of masculinity and male vanity in American Psycho, I’d like to see Kelly Reichardt remake Deliverance. She has a great eye for the outdoors (Old Joy, Meek’s Cutoff), and while her tales are small in scale, they’re rich in content. Her requiem for a lost and dying wilderness richly matches the damning of the river, and her soft touch would complement the quiet campfire scenes in the film. She could make the rape scene properly devastating, as Ned Beatty squealing like a pig has become comedic fodder over the years. As for casting, I could envision Ryan Gosling taking a pay cut for the Reynolds role. Rounding out the cast, I’d like to see a younger take, with Miles Teller, Ben Mendelsohn, and Jonah Hill. Also, we’re all due for a Pharrell “Dueling Banjos” remix.
I wouldn’t necessarily want to see a remake, since the original was a period piece to begin with and one I think still holds up just fine, thanks, but all things being equal, I’d love to see either a sequel to or a next-generation style continuation of The Rocketeer. The original film completely and totally got the shaft by the studio, as Joe Johnston and virtually every cast member—but particularly Billy Campbell—will tell you, but it’s still beloved by many as a lost superhero classic. It would be awesome to see it jump forward to the 1960s and have the suit shake off its mothballs to save the day somehow… and then, you know, Cliff and Jenny’s son would take over the suit. Or, hell, maybe their daughter. I’m equal opportunity. I just know that Billy Campbell would be first in line to sign up for such a project, and you have to think that others like Alan Arkin or (dare to dream) Jennifer Connelly might consider it, too. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Terry O’Quinn playing a ’60s-era Howard Hughes? Come on, let’s get this thing green-lit already!
This one might be impractical and all (necessitating the cancellation of a perfectly good show and pulling people off about a dozen projects), but, hey, that’s just the sort of nutty, hypothetical dream-weaving an AVQ&A is for, so I’m going to go ahead and suggest a reboot of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse with Tatiana Maslany as the lead. I’ve got nothing but affection for Eliza Dushku as Faith on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, where her deceptively soulful tough-chick insouciance worked for everyone’s favorite rogue Slayer, but she’s not exactly the most versatile of actors, a serious liability on Dollhouse, where the role of Echo called for an actress able to embody multiple characters (often in the same episode, often pretending to be one character while playing another). Sound like anyone we know? Dollhouse found its feet thanks to a recommitted (and narratively ballsy) Whedon and a stellar supporting cast, but with Orphan Black’s Maslany driving a revamped series, what had to be found would be riveting from the start.
It’s past time for me to admit I’m a sucker for vampire flicks any time they’re done remotely well, and I have a strange fondness for the mixture of camp family-comedy and high gothic vampire trappings in Interview With The Vampire. Of course, it’s not perfect, which leaves plenty of room for someone to put their stamp on it. And though I’d be happy to see what the years would have done to Neil Jordan’s version, you could argue Jordan did his own personal remake of the vampire-as-toxic-family story with 2012’s Byzantium, which gave itself over to the same glorious excess as its predecessor and counts as his do-over, so I’m ready for someone else to take the reigns. I’m actually (maybe) getting my wish: Universal bought the rights to the whole series in August and plans to bring them to the screen as a franchise. While I can’t imagine seeing that series through to the bitter end, I’d like for even just the one to make it to the screen, to see what becomes of it.
I feel a little bad proposing a remake of a movie that’s already a bona-fide classic, but I can’t help but think a modern-day version of Billy Wilder’s 1951 masterpiece of satire, Ace In The Hole, would be something special. After all, the media has only grown more saturated with the need for spectacle since Wilder and screenwriters Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels told their tale of an opportunistic newspaperman (a beautifully seething Kirk Douglas) who manipulates the fate of a trapped miner to garner fame and fortune for himself. Expand the original’s focus on the corruptibility of “human interest” to encompass 24-hour news networks, social media, and the rest of our elaborately hashtagged culture, and you could have the toothiest piece of satire Hollywood has unleashed in years. George Clooney’s hungry charisma would fit like a glove in the role of Chuck Tatum, and his frequent collaborators Joel and Ethan Coen would finally get to marry their dual fascinations with screwball dialogue and the darker side of human nature in one neat, nasty little package.
The real world may yet beat me to this, according to various discussions in the past week or so, but there’s a part of me that will always be up for more scary/funny/poignant/romantic/creepy X-Files. I know the property had many chances: first as a movie series attempted to start concurrently with the TV show, then to prove itself without David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson as they phased out their weekly participation, and then again with the belated cinematic follow-up I Want To Believe, released to general lack of interest in 2008. That last one broke my heart, because my ideal continuation of The X-Files would be as a film series with Duchovny and Anderson intact. I didn’t even mind that the second movie was basically just a big-screen episode; it just sucks that it was a middling, unsatisfying big-screen episode. I remain convinced that, like past iterations of Star Trek, The X-Files could have made a nice transition from TV into movies, mixing big-picture continuity with more ambitious stand-alone installments—if Fox hadn’t insisted on running the show well past its natural expiration date, that is. Apparently the network may yet revive it as a limited series like it did with 24; I’m certainly on board for that and it probably makes sense, but I’d rather they gave a real go of making more movies. The best TV episodes showed a level of invention, playfulness, and style that would be right at home on a big screen. Technically, then, this makes me one of very few people clamoring for a sequel to The X-Files: I Want To Believe.
This is the Q&A I was born to answer, and as such, I’m not going to narrow it down to just one—there’s a top two, you see. Sliders and Silk Stalkings. I find the fact that they haven’t gotten the ubiquitous reboot treatment baffling. Sliders, especially, was a fantastic science-fiction concept that got bogged down by network interference and insanely convoluted mythology (as a result of said interference) after its second season. The CW, Syfy, or even a major network hoping to bank on nostalgia should be jumping at the chance to remake it—not just a Funny Or Die sketch. Silk Stalkings, on the other hand, was a ridiculous procedural with a will-they/won’t-they pairing that could easily exist again in the world of Castle, Bones, and USA’s brand of characters always being welcome. Keep the amazing opening credits, cast Margarita Levieva in the Mitzi Kapture role and Michael Trevino in the Rob Estes role, and call it a day. Plus, the 21st century is ready for a shot-for-shot remake of the episode where Carrie-Anne Moss plays twins.
The main problem with remaking the 1983 movie adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes is you couldn’t cast Jason Robards in it again. He and Jonathan Pryce are the highlights of the original film, part of Disney’s half-assed attempt to do dark fantasy in the early ’80s. The rest is a muddle of clumsy effects, iffy child actors, and unexpectedly eerie scenes that ultimately fail to add up to anything truly memorable. This a problem shared to a lesser extent by the source material, as Ray Bradbury was always a better short story writer than a novelist, but still, the core premise—a dark carnival offering lonely townsfolk their deepest desires, for a very steep price—remains strong. All it needs is a screenwriter and director with a strong sense of style and structure, and the magic of modern special effects, and you could have something that delivers on promises instead of just making them. Pity about Robards, though.