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Television, like most things, is a cross between an unchanging foundation and a neverending cycle of trends, and the medium is currently wearing its Remake Slap Bracelet proudly. While some of the recent movie-to-TV announcements will certainly wither into unaired nothingness, HBO recently announced they’re pushing forward with their stocked-cast Westworld reboot, adding to a growing list. And you know more will be announced in the coming months.
If you’re like me, you’re thinking science fiction movies are the most fertile lands for remakes, because they tend to offer the most story depth and room for derivation, and they’re usually based on expansive literary works. (Is it cheating if it’s based on a book? Then I cheated.) Plus, TV is also in the infancy of the Limited Series Era, so these stories could easily fit into 10 episodes or less, whereas the 22+ episode seasons of yore would have stretched them too thin. Here are ten classic sci-fi flicks that I would be totally down with seeing get transformed for the small screen, assuming everything about them would be made perfectly. Gotta stay positive. Now let’s kick it off with a little bit of blasphemy.
Escape from New YorkDirected by: John Carpenter (1981)
Yeah, I’m not that excited about the Escape from New York remake that’s currently in slow-development. But if you tell me that I’ll get to see Snake Plissken cracking wise and blowing shit up on a weekly basis (on, say, FX), then I start to get a little more excited about it. Instead of dropping three movies (or whatever it’ll be) onto audiences years apart, give us one really fantastic rescue-filled story of futuristic badassery told in eight episodes. This pretty much eliminates the need to find a new person to deal with in the lead role and gives Kurt Russell a chance to return to TV in his most iconic role. Snake Plissken would still be ruthlessly hardcore in his sixties.
LeviathanDirected by: George P. Cosmatos (1989)
Leviathan is an oft-overlooked entry when it comes to creature features, despite being a solid limited-location thriller. Given Syfy is the home of the movie makeup competition Face Off, it’s the perfect place to try and top Stan Winston’s magnificent work on this film’s ghoulish monster. The network’s Helix, though far from the most intelligent series on the air right now, at least did a good job keeping its story mostly contained to one building in otherwise unlivable conditions. Let’s bring that concept back down under the sea; it can be a mining operation like it was in the movie, or it can be more research-based and environmentally friendly. So long as the tone is dark and it makes being trapped on an ocean floor just as frightening as the slimy creature walking the halls.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th DimensionDirected by: W.D. Richter (1984)
Look, it’s another Peter Weller movie! Both ahead of its time and behind the times with its pitch-perfect genre-mashing, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension could have become one of the greatest and most insane movie franchises ever. Instead, it got zilch for promotion and failed to capture mass audiences, though it has attained a huge cult following that would certainly tune in to see neurosurgeon-rock star-pilot-physician Buckaroo Banzai taking on different creatures and pop culture-savvy bad guys. Fox tried to make this show in 1998, which would have admittedly been a good time in that network’s run to get it done, but I think Starz or Netflix would be the ideal places where a huge budget and creative freedom could turn Dr. Banzai into a TV phenom.
LifeforceDirected by: Tobe Hooper (1985)
Alien screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. Texas Chain Saw Massacre director Tobe Hooper. Space vampires. It’s the kind of combination that sounds like an urban legend rather than an existing film. Only the third part of that equation would actually make it to TV – unless Hooper would be so willing – but I think Lifeforce would be a proper continuation of TV’s efforts to make vampires scary-looking again. (Thinking of The Strain here.) The bloodsucker trend seems to have blown by, which means it’s the perfect time to sneak another sci-fi version of non-bloodsucking vamps on unsuspecting audiences. I thought Extant would make astronauts look cool again, but that show flew off the rails pretty quickly. Given a slow-burn Walking Dead approach, but hopefully one less plodding, Lifeforce could be the rare small screen space horror success.
The RocketeerDirected by: Joe Johnston (1991)
While it would have been easy to add Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon to this list, I kind of felt like that would be cheating too hard. Instead, I think the world is ready for a feel-good adventure series with a jetpack-using virtue-oozer as its central hero. Based on Dave Stevens’ comic character, Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer should have been a huge hit for Disney, mixing whimsy and heart with high-flying effects and action, but for some reason, it was a minor flop at the box office. Even if it ended up just becoming a Disney XD animated series, The Rocketeer deserves to find a new audience of children and adults alike who embrace a little future tech mixed in with their good ole days (of Nazis). Disney has been talking about getting a feature remake off the ground, but this character needs to live on in the serialized format that inspired his existence.
DuneDirected by: David Lynch (1984)
There’s a pessimism-fueled imp that lives inside of me that would love to see David Lynch return to Frank Herbert’s epic novel Dune to see how the meditative director would handle this story 30 years after attempting it the first time. But no, the sensible side of me just wants that broadened mindscape brought to this story, only in a way that actually works from beginning to end and doesn’t require extensive research to figure out what the hell was happening. Herbert’s work came back to the public consciousness with last year’s excessively awesome documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, so it’s as good a time as any to revisit this gigantic tale. And there are six novels in the series, which is already more than Game of Thrones has going for it. Make the spice an allegory for oil or something if need be, but let’s find 700 popular actors and get this thing made.
Re-AnimatorDirected by: Stuart Gordon (1985)
Sci-fi on TV is generally held to dramas and thrillers, which is weird, since sci-fi and comedy are successful nearly every time they’re paired together. Re-Animator is one of the best sci-fi horrors out there, not just because of the excellent direction and horrific H.P. Lovecraft source material, but for the super dark comedic streak running throughout the entire film. I’m usually against previously established characters fronting TV procedurals, but I would be completely into a series version of Herbert West (still Jeffrey Combs) bringing a different person back to life on a weekly basis and seeing what kind of sadistic nonsense he would get into. I don’t even care if each week is a complete reboot, where every episode starts off exactly the same way, only he picks a different person to reanimate each time. This admittedly sounds like more of a U.K. project than something American TV would go for, so get on it, Brits.
Invasion of the Body SnatchersDirected by: Philip Kaufman (1978)
Yeah, so this is already a remake of a movie based on a Jack Finney novel. Doesn’t matter, because Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is arguably the best iteration of the pod people story out there. So sure, it seems counterintuitive to want to see it redone, but with the recent glut of “people returning from the dead that aren’t murderous zombies” shows hitting the air, it’s about time to see that get twisted back around to a show about people being duplicated into emotionless beings. It’s got alien stuff, it can incorporate cloning, and it’s got “passive America” as a metaphor to run with. Fit the central plot arc into the right context – which doesn’t have to be about Washington D.C. getting destroyed, guys – and this could be high-minded sci-fi that appeals to all audiences.
Slaughterhouse-FiveDirected by: George Roy Hill (1972)
Of course, not all TV shows need to attract wide audiences, and I’m pretty sure no small screen version of Slaughterhouse-Five, either the film or Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, would bring viewers in droves. So I have very specific instructions for this one. James Franco has to do it for some streaming website that doesn’t even exist yet, and it has to be completed for $100 million while Franco and the cast are high on codeine and locked inside a sound stage for an entire month, and it has to be some meta approach to them trying to remake the movie while getting unstuck from time themselves. No more, no less.
The Meteor ManDirected by: Robert Townsend (1993)
Yeah, I’m taking a leap by loosely hiding The Meteor Man behind these other more obvious (actual) classics, but Robert Townsend is a funny guy whose peaks of fame were never really all that mainstream. (We’re not going to get into how Townsend directed Bill Cosby’s recently postponed Netflix comedy special.) We’re in a pop culture world that keeps spitting out superheroes, so why not bring back this well-intentioned look at inner city life in a more serialized format? That’s kind of what the scatterbrained movie felt like anyway. Get Michael Jai White involved in the creative process, and I’ll seek this shit out anywhere. Meteor Man made this list. The end.