That Time the Remake/Reboot Was Better.
Not Just Crazy Talk.
Defending the existence of remakes or reboots is often reacted to a crazy talk within the vocal minority of the internet. The moment some studio or director is reported as bringing back a beloved franchise or property then the forums and social media sites burst into flame wars when the most negative or hyperbolic sentiment takes center stage. Oddly enough remakes have been a part of the entertainment eco system longer than social media and online forums. Admittedly the repackaging of popular franchises has reached a fever pitch in recent years but adaptations from one form of media to another were arguably the first remakes. Breakfast at Tiffany's was a adaptation of a preexisting novel by Truman Capote. For the sake of consistency this piece is going to set up some rules for the remakes/reboots that are covered.
1) I will only refer to remakes/reboots that occur within the same media as the source material. In other words TV show to TV shows, movies to movies, and so on.
2) The remake/reboot must replace the original narrative. Reboots that take place "In universe" that allow the original narrative to continue as part of the story will not be considered. This means that the 2009 Star Trek reboot is not considered since the movie is based on an alternate time line which some of the characters are aware that it was altered by Nero's incursion. Same applies to the X-men films.
3) I will do my best to apply some level of objectivity to my assessments such as relevance over time, cohesive narrative, and consistency. This isn't just because I liked something better. That's said, do true objectivity actually exist?
A Tale of Two Things.
The 1950s and 60s were an interesting time for American cinema especially in regard to genre films. Much like Japan echoed their sentiment as a post nuclear apocalyptic culture through the early days of anime and the prolific Gojira (AKA Godzilla) series of films as products of a nation that has suffered and survived an atomic attack our domestic sci fi films began to demonstrate our fears of the looming cold war. A slew of films such as Them and Tarantula focused, much like Godzilla, on the concept of nuclear infused giant creatures. It was during this era that the film The Thing from Another World was released on a Sci Fi hungry public. The film takes place on a US military base in the Arctic. The men of the base set out to examine a recently crashed object. They find a figure that is frozen in the ice and claim it in the name of SCIENCE. It thaws out and havoc ensues. Given it's 1950s sensibilities and modest budget the film is still fairly enjoyable. It's a pretty character driven affair as the characters discuss how to dispose of the threat whereas some would rather preserve the creature in the name of SCIENCE. If anything parts of the movie are definitely a product of the time. Particularly the end speech of "Keep watching the skies" is a regularly referenced scene in the film and may or may not be a reference to the "Red Scare". Regardless the movie is very much a "must watch" for fans of the genre. However, John Carpenter clearly upped the ante with his 1982 remake simply called The Thing. Whereas the original had it's elements of horror in a sci fi setting this film embraced a hard R rating with a strong emphasis on paranoia. The plot remains similar to the original but the titular creature can now assume the shape of it's victims and as such creates a palpable air of distrust among the scientist of the arctic base. The film simply fires on all cylinders and earns it's place as both a sci fi horror classic and a remake that outdoes it's predecessor.
The Original: The Thing from Another World
Remake: John Carpenters The Thing (1982)
Starring Seth Brundel as The Fly
In keeping with the 50s-60s love for sci fi and monster films 1958 saw the release of The Fly. Based on a short story of the same name this creature feature focus on a tale of science gone wrong where an experiment in teleportation leads a brilliant scientist to have his head an left arm replaced with that of a housefly. While the film maybe dismissed by some due to it's antiquated special effects it remains a sci fi classic and for good reason. It's a good precursor to the "body horror" genre and features very dire circumstances and consequences. The infamous "Help me. Help me" scene is still cringe worthy for the right reasons.
Speaking of body horror, David Cronenberg is often considered a master of this and his 1986 remake of The Fly is pointed to as an example of why this is so. The remake again chronicles a scientist's (Jeff Goldblum) ill fated experiment with teleportation. Rather that a simple switcheroo of body parts the film demonstrates Seth Brundel's physical and mental metamorphosis into that of a humanoid insect. The journey is powered by "Nightmare Fuel" as body parts fall off only be replaced by others. Also this film earns it's "Hard R" rating.
The Fly (1986) trailer
So Say We All
In the late 70s Star Wars had hit the cinema hard and Battlestar Galactica came to air waves to capture the Sci Fi spirit but rather in living rooms. The series focused on the idea that "tribes of humans" had become nomadic after having been attacked and ousted from their homeworld by their robotic creations "The Cylons" the help of the traitorous Giaus Baltar . Their "ragtag" fleet was search for a new home and their folklore was leading them to the home of their ancestors...Earth. The show was (initially at least) a ratings success. With Lorne Greene as the commander and patriarch of the fleet as well as two hot shot pilot leads (Apollo and Starbuck played by Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict respectively) it quickly became a fan favorite and maintains one today. Some critics weren't swayed and the series faced some legal challenges from Twentieth Century Fox due to perceived infringements upon Star Wars. It survived this but was cancelled after one season only to be resurrected as the objectively (slashed budget, shelved cast, inexplicable setting) inferior Galactica 80, which was shortly shelved itself.
In 2003 the franchise was finally returned to the air waves in a form of a dramatically re-invisioned remake. The new based around the same basic premise of humans who had been ousted from their homeworlds by their creations (Still the Cylons) and a way more complicated version of Giaus Baltar. By complicated i mean that he was essentially duped into helping the Cylons due to his arrogance and sexually appetite. Edward James Olmose played Commander William Adama. Apollo and Starbuck are also in attendance but different. Lee "Apollo" Adama is played by Jamie Bamber and is Adama's son (did the name give it away) and the family issues are present and accounted for. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace was played by Katey Sachoff. The fact that Starbuck was female was an issue for some but a triumph for others. Regardless of gender she played this new version as well as anyone could have. The previously male hotshot pilot was still a hotshot but troubled, insubordinate and went through one of the shows most interesting arcs. If anything the 4 season long Sci Fi opera was as well known for it's writing as well as its science fiction spectacle. Did I mention that some of the Cyclons were now able to appear as human and were mono theistic? Former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine writer Ronald D. Moore took the show into places that very few would dare to tread at the time. Where it's predecessor was effectively killed off in season one this new series thrived for four years.
Battlestar Galactica 1978 promo
Battlestar Galattica Season 1 promo
Transform and Roll Out Until All are One.
To say I'm a bit of a fan of Transformers would be an understatement. I have a tattoo that kinda spells out that I love my Robots in Disguise. That said with age has come the wisdom that the original cartoon was kind of a mess. For every beloved episode there are a few others that didn't age well or made me scratch my head back when I watched it. Do you remember the episode where Blitzwing and Astrotrain decided to go rogue and take over football field and train yard respectively? As a child this was awesome but as an adult some of the more ridiculous elements of the show are more than obvious. Granted Transformers was considered an animated commercial so I can't expect too much. Some of the episodes still remain favorites of mine and the 1986 animated film remains a beloved but controversial milestone due to having killed off Optimus Prime. Following the movie and and a considerable drop in quality in the television show the brand seemly went dormant but never really lost it's loyal fanbase. Fast forward some 30 years and the Transformers brand is thriving. Granted this is due to the bloated Michael Bay films where the explosions actually overshadow the bots. Fortunately the series also has it's fair share of television interactions. Transformers Prime, is one such iteration that is both an impressive heir to the original animation's Matrix of Leadership and is a better platform for narratives than its' forbearers. It's story is very much still focused on the battle between the benevolent Autobots and the sinister Decepticons. The stow is also much more focused on the personalities and relationship of both the Transformers and humans they guard. Even as a show that is clearly aimed at children it delves into some dark subject matter but does so in an intelligent fashion. The show also utilizes a few of the voice actors from the original series such as Peter Cullen and Frank Welker as well as several voice actors who have become genre favorites for their work elsewhere such as Gina Torress (firefly) and Steve Blum (Spike Spiegel). This combination of quality voice work and focused story telling helps evolve the show from it's humble beginnings that will make people who have given up on the franchise reevaluate and take notice.
Transformers Intro supercut
Opinions are opinions
These are just my picks. I completely understand the skepticism in regard to remakes and reboots. I was in college when I established my stance on reboots as inferior and I'd say that the majority of the time this still holds true. Taking a property that exists and making a newer version that approaches beloved characters and redresses them for a newer audience is a dicey gambit. It was the Battlestar Galactica reboot that did the best work at melting my purist heart. However for every show like that there are several mediocre attempts. Anyone remember the V remake...no? There is a reason for that. Please feel free to comment. I'll brave the weeds.