I'm just going to say it: Short Circuit was one of my favorite movies growing up. I, like many of my peers, loved the story of Johnny 5, a robot engineered to be a Cold War killing machine who comes to life and discovers his humanity. It was goofy, sweet and hopeful. Like the kids who adored him, Number 5 was looking to learn, grow and become what he chose—even if that didn't jive with the desires of his parents…or engineers, whatever. It was a touching and totally '80s tale for which I unapologetically still have a nostalgic soft spot.
So, no, I'm not in favor of a Short Circuit remake. The story of intelligent life coming to life is intriguing, and in the context of a family friendly movie can be beautiful. Besides Short Circuit, both Wall-E and The Iron Giant have shown this. And while each could be considered a descendant of Johnny 5, neither needed to be a direct remake to prove spectacular. They borrowed elements but were uniquely their own. So why bother with a Short Circuit remake?
For Hop director Tim Hill, the story of Johnny 5 is more timely now than it was in the midst of Cold War paranoia. Talking to 24 Frames, the slated helmer of Short Circuit's remake stated:
“The thing that makes it so relevant is that we live in this age of robots, particularly when it comes to war. We have drones that do our fighting for us, do all these jobs men and women don’t want to do. And that’s what makes this so interesting--things like this moment in the story when Johnny realizes he’s going to be disassembled and contemplates death, and whether it’s right to terminate someone else. These are heavy themes for a family movie, but I think they can have their place.”
So far, this doesn't actually sound too different from the original, and that's by design. Hill and a team or writers (never a good sign) are still working on the script, but he insists elements of the Johnny 5 that audiences connected to 26 years ago will be integrated in Dimension's re-imagining, including the robot's sense of wonder. What will change is Johnny 5's look. Hill has been reading up on technological innovations, and notes the new Johnny 5 will more closely resemble modern machines than the '80s original. Speaking to the design process, Hill divulged, "You’ve got to find the balance between something fierce and something endearing. The original was cute. But no one was threatened by it.”
This statement leads me to believe he has never watched the sequel, Short Circuit 2, where Johnny 5 gets a fierce makeover fit for the less-than-robot-friendly streets of New York. I mean, he had a metal Mohawk, guys!
Anyhow, Johnny 5 is not the only Short Circuit character getting a major overhaul. Stephanie, his first human friend, played by Ally Sheedy in the original, will no longer be a sassy, animal-loving twenty-something. Instead, she'll be a teen, or maybe even a tween. Hill hopes this will help the movie's family-friendly cred while also adding "a wish-fulfillment dimension not present in the original." He goes on to note that a younger protagonist could better reflect the contemporary trend for people to bond with their devices, something to which he thinks kids are especially susceptible.
Actually, I do agree on Hill's last insight, and can see where a story of a robot coming to life could prove relevant today. Still, I can't see why not make an original story with this premise? I find it hard to imagine that Short Circuit has the kind of built-in audience that Alvin and the Chipmunks--another Hill effort--did. Honestly, I'm kind of hoping for a miracle of the life-imitating-art variety wherein Steve Guttenberg steps in and saves his robot buddy from being disassembled one last time.