THE POSTMAN, Kevin Costner, 1997, (c)Warner Bros.

To Remake or Not To Remake | 5 Terrible Movies Hollywood Should Revisit

Hollywood is playing it too safe nowadays. This year, the major list of releases are one of two things: a sequel or a remake. With the sequels, there is actually a lot of excitement surrounding some of them, and perhaps rightly so. To be fair, Dune Part Two has proved a success but that movie also raises another fascinating aspect. That is, that some sequels have turned out to be better, and have even surpassed their source material. Other examples are Francis Ford Coppola’s majestic The Godfather Part Two and the second movie in the Star Wars franchise The Empire Strikes Back. 

The list of sequels, and some of which have moviegoers foaming at the mouth are; Deadpool & Wolverine, Beetlejuice 2, Venom 3, Joker: Folie A Deux, A Quiet Place: Day One, Bad Boys 4 (eye roll), Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire and Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. There are many more – in fact a lot more – such as the Godzilla and Kung Fu Panda franchises. Some of these will provide genuine entertainment, of course, but we must always remember that for every The Dark Knight there is a horrendous Speed 2: Cruise Control. Sequels can provide an extension of a character’s development, a premise that simply begged to be extended, or can simply be done for the money.

Talking about dollar signs brings up that second format to consider: the dreaded remake. And they are coming thick and fast this year.

I am no fan of how Hollywood chooses to remake movies. Again diving into this year, here is what we are getting: Mean Girls, Road House, The Karate Kid, The Crow, Garfield, Nosferatu, Twisters, The Fall Guy (based on the TV series), and Speak No Evil. One thing they all have in common is; they are based on successful films and a successful formula. The idea is that it worked once, it will work again. This is simply lazy, and adds to the lack of originality in Hollywood. You would think once a film is made, becomes successful, becomes a part of cinema history and even a part of people’s own lives, it should end. It should be a case of movie makers moving on to the next project. That is far from the case. 

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So is there a better form of remake? Or should Hollywood remake the films that failed? That may sound pretentious but let’s investigate that notion. Over the years there were a lot of movies made based on exceptional ideas, with equally exceptional characters, but they failed due to miscasting, poor direction or simply good intentions that didn’t reach a receptive audience. Following are five films that failed miserably – critically and financially. Maybe Hollywood should return to them, learn from past mistakes (listen to fans), and provide worthy adaptations.

After all, and here is food for thought; in 1993 we got the Super Mario Bros movie, a live action disaster that failed to break even. Fast forward thirty years to last year and fans got an animated, A-lister filled remake of the Super Mario Bros Movie which successfully took in over a billion at the box office. So yes, with the right vision, and in the right hands, those failures can be turned around. 

#1  The Bonfire Of The Vanities (1990) 

The novel The Bonfire Of The Vanities by Tom Wolfe is a revolutionary insight into New York society. A mere three years after its release, Brian De Palma created the movie of the same name, and it is a horrendous, muddled watch. The cast features Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith, Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis, all of whom are horribly miscast. The satirical black comedy elements of the book are lacking in every scene, and that edge of any plot revelations simply fall flat. Where the movie adaptation of American Psycho succeeded, The Bonfire Of The Vanities fails spectacularly, still there is a movie there that should be made. 

#2 Spawn (1997)

Based on the cult comic book series, Spawn arrived before Marvel got its boost from the Blade and X-Men movies. It tells the story of a man who dies to become Spawn, a minion of Satan with the purpose of leading his army, only to eventually become the hero. While the CGI is exceptional in places, in other scenes it is uneven and the continuity is lost. The humour is rather childish which dismisses the violent, dark edge that makes the comic books by Todd McFarlane so popular. While Spawn missed the mark, it did create one of the first movies in the superhero genre to feature an African American as the hero. But even that does not make up for the disjointed storytelling, and hopefully someday someone will revisit it and create the movie the character deserves. 

#3 Maximum Overdrive (1986) 

This was so disappointing. It should (and deserves to) be remade today due to our reliance on technology and the rise of AI. It was written and directed by Stephen King, based on his own short story “Trucks” in which all machines come to life after being influenced by the radiation emanating from a comet. It had a soundtrack by AC/DC. For a horror film, this had everything going for it. Unfortunately, where King’s books make for terrific and memorable movies in someone else’s hands, in his own, not so good. Maximum Overdrive loses the human emotion – as if the humans are taken over by machines also. Made pre-internet, pre-smartphone and pre-social media , it’s an idea that craves a proper remake. 

#4 The Postman (1997)

This nearly torpedoed Kevin Costner’s career as an actor and director – if the budget of $235 million on Waterworld (1995) did not put Costner in enough hot water, The Postman totally boiled him alive. Based on the book of the same name by David Brin, Kevin Costner took the premise of a post-apocalyptic novel and created a boring, three hour mess. The first mistake he made was casting himself as the lead (again), the second was trying to make a dystopian, sentimental movie without the grittiness of reality. When we find a man who becomes a hero through deceit, the audience does not know how to feel or who to root for. A remake is warranted as Costner brought too much of his own vision into the narrative, separate to the already offered vision of the book. The Postman should have played out like The Road (John Hilcoat) but instead became a Field Of Dreams road movie. 

#5 Billy Bathgate (1991) 

Imagine casting Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Steve Hill, Steve Buscemi, Stanley Tucci and Bruce Willis in a movie that fails. That is exactly what happened when Robert Benton (Kramer Vs. Kramer) approached Billy Bathgate with the idea of making something similar to Goodfellas, but without the strong character to back it up. Based on the book of the same name by the acclaimed E.L Doctorow (Ragtime), we follow the tale of Billy Bathgate who, like Henry Hill, becomes an apprentice to a crime boss, in this case Dutch Shultz. The miscasting of the inexperienced Loren Dean as the lead character, and the heavyweight talent pushed to one side, meant the opportunity to make an excellent movie turned into an expensive flop. Then again, in others hands the result could be executed better. 

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