There's only one thing Hollywood loves than a movie based on a toy: remakes. Dozens of science-fiction classics are slated for do-overs. But instead of remaking films that were fine the first time, here are 20 books Hollywood should film.
Seriously, after watching The Day The Earth Stood Still, we're even more convinced than ever that "updating" or otherwise attempting to refresh the classics of the genre just leads to horrible soggy messes. It's hard to believe there's something worse than endless sequels, but remakes of perfectly great films might just be it. Especially when there are so many great books left unfilmed, many of which are made for a film adaptation.
Instead of remaking Videodrome...
Universal snapped up the remake rights to this Cronenberg film last year, and Ehren Kruger (co-writer of Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen and sole writer of Transformers 3) will write and co-produce. The new version will "modernize the concept, infuse it with the possibilities of nano-technology and blow it up into a large-scale sci-fi action thriller," says Variety.
...Film Jennifer Government by Max Barry instead.
Seriously, if you want to see a huge paranoid thriller set in a dystopian future world, you're actually crying out for a Jennifer Government movie. In a dark future, everybody's last name is the company they work for — and now companies have started engineering murder as a means of marketing their products. Horror and strangeness blend together with snarky humor — even the Michael Bay version would be interesting.
Instead of remaking Robocop…
If I want to watch the Darren Aronofsky version of Robocop, I'll just put in the DVD of the Verhoeven version and turn the brightness way down, while occasionally sticking my head into a bucket of Christmas lights. Actually, I love Aronofsky's work, for the most part, but Robocop is a film that requires no "reimagining." It's already fully imagined. Leave Robocop alone!
...Film Mark L. Van Name's Jon And Lobo novels.
We've praised these books before, but the story of the only cyborg in a society that believes cyborgs don't exist is tailor-made for a film. Jon can talk to machines thanks to nanotech implants, and he forms a close partnership with a sentient tank, which helps him go kick ass across several star systems.
Instead of remaking Escape From New York...
Apparently the script for this remake by Allan Loeb is really quite clever, and this time around Snake Plissken's rescuing a female senator (instead of the president) from the walled-off Manhattan. The banter is said to be razor-sharp, and New Line Cinema is putting this on the fast track.
...Film Glasshouse by Charles Stross instead.
Why has none of Stross' brilliant novels been filmed yet? In any case, Glasshouse is one of his best, and it's a brilliant portrayal of a town that's also a dystopian prison, where the people are tagged. Another good alternative is Catherine Fischer's Incarceron, but that's already becoming a movie.
Instead of remaking Forbidden Planet...
Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski just wrote his second draft of the screenplay for this remake — after the first draft leaked on the internet — and he hints that it'll be full of surprises, including stuff that wasn't in the first version. But given that the original was already a remake of Shakespeare's The Tempest, we're not convinced that trying for the "surprise" factor is such a great idea. We love JMS, but this is a perfect example of a film that still holds up.
...Film Lensman instead.
Luckily, JMS' other big-screen adapation project sounds a lot more promising. The classic original space opera, E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series has been begging for a movie adaptation for decades now — as long as JMS can strip the icky eugenics stuff and sexism out of the books, we could be looking at the next Avatar. (Or the next Green Lantern, really.)
Instead of The Thing prequel...
Seriously, a prequel to The Thing? Featuring backstory about the original doomed Norwegian expedition that we don't need to know, and characters we don't need to see die? (Including, rumor has it, the brother of Kurt Russell's character from the original film.) This just seems wrong. Even though it's not technically a remake and thus might not fit in this film, we must lodge our formal protest. Ronald D. Moore was writing the script, but I believe he's been replaced.
...Film Finch by Jeff VanderMeer instead.
In VanderMeer's awesome book (spoiler alert) the alien spore people can take over humans and control huge parts of our civilization. It's got much of the same body horror as The Thing, plus the idea of alien life that can take over humans and transform us into parts of them. It packs the same sort of "aliens replacing us" punch, and would make a crackerjack movie.
Instead of redoing When Worlds Collide...
Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, G.I. Joe) is on board to direct this remake, with Steven Spielberg collaborating on the script. He told Cinefantastique magazine (in the July 2009 issue) that he's still on board, but the project's been delayed slightly to avoid competing with Emmerich's 2012. Instead of a cerebral tale about another world on a collision course with Earth, as scientists ready an ark to take some humans to another habitable planet, expect the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower to melt.
...Film Spin By Robert Charles Wilson instead.
It's got the same "global disaster strikes the Earth" thing, but Wilson's tale of a membrane encompassing the Earth that slows down time on Earth relative to the rest of the solar system is more original, and a darn sight more interesting. Unknown beings called "the Hypotheticals" have slowed down time on the Earth to such an extent, we'll be destroyed by the expanding sun within one generation. The clever premise lets humans found a colony on Mars and develop high technology while relatively little time seems to pass on Earth — and the final reveal about why the aliens have done this is the kind of thing the Day The Earth Stood Still remake was going for, and failed to deliver. In the hands of a Duncan Jones or Steven Soderbergh, this could be an instant classic.
Instead of remaking The Bride Of Frankenstein...
As of last summer, Universal was in talks with The Illusionist's Neil Burger to write and direct a remake of this James Whale classic, and it's rumored to be set in present-day New York. (Of course, The Wolfman's lackluster performance may have soured Universal on monster remakes for a while.)
...film John Kessel's Pride And Prometheus instead.
You want a smart, witty look at the Frankenstein story? Look no further than Kessel's story, which is also the best of the recent Jane Austen mash-ups. The Bennet sisters meet Victor Frankenstein, and after the younger sister Kitty dies, her body disapears, and well... you can guess the rest. A film of "Pride And Prometheus" could capitalize on two hot trends — but more importantly, it could bring the Frankenstein mythos back to life.
Instead of remaking Creature From The Black Lagoon...
Another Universal monster movie, this property has gone through a bunch of possible directors, including John Carpenter, Peter Jackson, John Landis, and most recently The Crazies director Breck Eisner. Now Carl Rinsch is reportedly on board, for a more violent Alien-inspired take.
...Film The Scar by China Mieville instead.
This novel, set in the same world as Perdido Street Station, has a monstrous major character, the "remade" criminal Tanner — but more importantly, it features the Avanc, a sea monster that the Lovers raise and attempt to capture in their desire to reach the Scar, where reality is in flux and anything is possible. Plus there's pirates! War! And a city made up of floating ships. This is the watery monster story you want.
Instead of remaking The Brood...
After Eisner dropped out of Creature, he was in talks to do this Cronenberg remake instead. But he's said a few times recently that he's only had preliminary talks, and he might love the Cronenberg original too much to try and redo it.
...Film Geek Love by Katherine Dunn instead.
If you want people acting out their psychoses through their mutant babies, this is the book you want. It has the potential to be every bit as grotesque and disturbing — and horrifying — as Cronenberg's film. The Binewskis' circus is faltering, so they decide to try something new: They breed their own freaks by using drugs and radioactive substances to turn their own unborn progeny into mutants. Some are lucky, like Miranda, who only has a pig tail and works as a stripper. But then there's the twisted Arty, who launches his own cult called Arturism in which his followers compete to mutilate themselves. Consider this a plea for the long-awaited Geek Love movie.
Instead of remaking Flash Gordon...
Unlike The Brood, this may actually be Eisner's next project, assuming The Crazies' weak opening-weekend box office doesn't sap the fuel out of its rockets. This would be an "origin story" for Flash, fairly true to the comics, and would feature lots of planet-hopping.
...Film The Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold instead.
The three-time Hugo-winning saga of the disabled Miles Vorkosigan and his awesome military career is like Flash Gordon on steroids. Just the story of the romance between Miles' parents and the war that brings them together could be a whole movie by itself. And Ming only wishes he was as merciless as the Barrayarans at their worst.
Instead of remaking Short Circuit...
After the success of Wall-E, it was pretty much inevitable, no? Steve Carr, director of Paul Blart, Mall Cop, is attached to direct this film, from a script by Robot Chicken's Dan Milano. Same deal: A military robot gets struck by lightning and develops a conscience, befriending a young boy.
...Film When Harlie Was One by David Gerrold.
Still one of the greatest "cyber-consciousness goes loopy" stories of all time, Gerrold even rewrote this early 1970s novel in the early 1980s, giving you two versions to choose from. Harlie attains artificial sentience, and then threatens to become virtually godlike, all the while running loops around his human creators. The bit where Harlie "drops acid" would make for a pretty hilarious film sequence — although Harlie isn't mobile, which could be a dealbreaker.
Instead of remaking Metropolis...
Okay, seriously? The good news is, this remake hasn't been mentioned since 2007, when producers Thomas Schueler and Mario Kassar bought the rights. At the time, Schueler said, "With the overwhelming role technology plays in our daily lives, the growing gap between rich and poor, including the gradual elimination of the middle class, the story of 'Metropolis' is a frightening reflection of our society that takes place in an all too possible not too distant future."
...Film Virtual Girl by Amy Thomson
Thomson's novel about a man who creates a robot woman who decides to seek her freedom is absolutely crying out for a big-screen version. With shows like Caprica exploring robot consciousness, it's the perfect time to explore the perspective of a cyber-mind that views a body as a "peripheral" and risks going insane from the rush of input that the real world offers.
Instead of remaking Let The Right One In...
This is a case of a remake that it's too late to stop — Cloverfield director Matt Reeves is already filming the American version of this Swedish vampire movie. And early comments from Reeves and star Chloe Moretz seem to hint that the U.S. version will abandon all of the original's troubling hints that the vampire, Eli, is just using young Oskar, the way we see Eli using another guy. Here's hoping we're wrong, since that creepiness is an integral part of the story.
...Film Fledgling by Octavia Butler
Butler's last novel, the first in a series that we'll never see the rest of now, is actually told from the point of view of a 53-year-old vampire who happens to look like a 10-year-old black girl. Butler brings much of the same creepiness as the Swedish film, with the vampires needing seven or eight human volunteers, called syms (or symbionts) to survive — and the syms receive an erotic pleasure from their situation.
Instead of remaking Buffy The Vampire Slayer...
Buffy? Without Joss? That's unpossible. Seriously, it seems like a weird idea, and I'm not entirely sure what the point would be. We haven't heard much about this since last May, but like all Demonic plots from beneath the Earth's surface, I'm sure it's still bubbling away.
...Film The Strange Adventures Of Rangergirl by Tim Pratt instead.
It's like Buffy mashed up with Promethea — Marzi is an art-school dropout running a quirky Santa Cruz coffeehouse, and it turns out the coffeehouse's murals are actually a kind of art magic, dedicated to keeping an evil force at bay. And now it's escaping. It's up to Marzi — and her comic-book fantasy character Rangergirl — to stop the evil force from getting out into the world.
Instead of remaking Total Recall...
Keep your ass off Mars! Okay, don't panic, but Kurt Wimmer, the mind behind Equilibrium and the "what the hell was that" Ultraviolet, has been hired to write a remake of Dan O'Bannon's classic script, based on Philip K. Dick's writing. Okay, go ahead and panic.
...Film Software/Wetware by Rudy Rucker instead.
There are many heirs to Dick's crown of weirdness, but Rucker makes a bold claim to the Dickian tradition with the first two novels in the "Ware" tetralogy. You've got your strange questions about identity (as Cobb Anderson becomes his own android duplicate) your weird conspiracies, and your off-Earth settings (the emancipated robots set up shop on the Moon). I'd actually be curious to see what Wimmer (or someone else in Hollywood) would do with this.
Instead of remaking He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe...
Joel Silver (the producer who's spawned his own universe) has teamed up with writer Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li) to put together a new version of this sagahttp://www.variety.com/article/VR1117.... Actually, there have only been vague rumblings lately, but the success of Transformers probably makes this film inevitable.
...Film Titan by John Varley instead.
Captain Cirocco "Rocky" Jones travels to Saturn and encounters centaurs, the Titanides, and bird-like creatures, the Angels. She discovers a controlling intelligence, called Gaea, and becomes its super-powered agent, or Wizard. It's a great blending of space opera and high-fantasy tropes, and the perfect alternative to another He-Man.
Instead of remaking Logan's Run...
It's not clear where this project is — Bryan Singer was on board, with a script by Valkyrie screenwriter Chris McQuarrie, and as recently as a year ago, he was still saying he might do it. But Silver and Tron director Joseph Kosinski were also announced to be making this film at one point. So who can say?
...Film any one of a number of dystopian novels instead.
It's amazing that there's still been no real big-screen adaptation of Huxley's Brave New World, which is in many ways the inspiration for Logan's Run. (We're still hoping Ridley Scott will get around to this one, as he's hinted he might.) But there's also Vonnegut's Player Piano, Wyndham's The Chrysalids, Ness' The Knife Of Never Letting Go, and many others.
Instead of remaking The Fly...
This might be the one remake that's worth being excited about. David Cronenberg is directing the remake of his own film, because he's excited by the film-making possibilities of today's technology. Given how much Cronenberg's directorial skills have matured in the past few decades, it could be fascinating to see how he approaches the story of a teleportation experiment gone wrong this time around. But still...
...Film David Marusek's Counting Heads instead.
We'd still rather see Cronenberg do something new. How many more Cronenberg films are we going to get? If we could pick one SF novel for Cronenberg to adapt, it would be David Marusek's clone-angst novel Counting Heads. It's such a Cronenberg story, full of weird doubled characers and nano-plagues. Or else maybe Kathleen Ann Goonan's Queen City Jazz, which is packed with weird body horror done in a literary way, as people are transformed horrifically into early 20th century Jazz Age figures by the malfunctioning nanotech city. Or maybe Margaret Atwood's Oryx And Crake.
Instead of remaking Highlander...
Fast And The Furious director Justin Lin is helming this remake, from a script by Iron Man scribes Matt Holloway and Art Marcum that focuses on the backstory of the immortals. Could be meat, could be cake.
...Film The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan.
You want epic sword fights, complicated heroes, sweeping backstories and dire prophecies? This novel demands to become a huge, big budget movie. (Although the copious amounts of gay sex might disturb the Hollywood execs slightly.)
Instead of remaking Fantastic Voyage...
James Cameron himself is involved in producing this remake, and says that everything we've learned about medical imaging will make the new film much more realistic than the original. No director is named yet, but Cameron seems pretty determined to make it happen. And he's got a bit of clout these days.
...Film Surface Tension by James Blish.
Humans arrive on a distant waterworld, with seed banks to help colonize it with adapted human-like offspring. But the ship crashes and the seed banks are ruined — so the ship's crew reengineers their own descendants to become microscopic sea life, retaining human intelligence but reduced to a primitive civilization. Instead of just being temporarily microscopic, these offspring of humanity are permanently tiny, struggling to survive and develop civilization anew. You could also film Isaac Asimov's quasi sequel, Fantastic Voyage 2: Destination Brain.
Instead of remaking The Incredible Shrinking Man...
It's like all your worst nightmares rolled into one. A remake of Shrinking Man starring Eddie Murphy — and directed by Brett Ratner. Couldn't we just watch Meet Dave on Nyquil instead?
...Film Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask by Jim Munroe.
Actually, we're not sure we want Eddie Murphy or Brett Ratner anywhere near this amazing novel about a mild-mannered guy who can turn into a fly, and who teams up with a woman who can make things disappear to right social wrongs. It's a hilarious, weird, silly book that would make a fantastic movie in the right hands — and actually, it already did make for a great short film.
Other upcoming remakes we don't particularly want to see, but we ran out of time to suggest alternative books for: Mannequin, All Of Me, The Illustrated Man, They Live, Scanners, Fahrenheit 451, Weird Science, The Blob, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Altered States, The Entity and Westworld.
Additional reporting by Annalee Newitz. Thanks for coming up with some great book ideas!