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Remake This!

Anything you can do I can do better...

There's been some news about a reboot of Quantum Leap, which I am low-key excited for. It was one of my favorite shows as a kid. Basically a procedural with a time travel element, heavily infused with nostalgia and off-beat humor, and then you had these weird digressions like with the "Evil Leaper". Loved it. And I've revisited it as an adult and... it's a bit rough. Has not aged gracefully at all. But! The core idea is solid and I think a modern twist could be wildly entertaining.

And this got me thinking about some other things that would be ripe for a remake. So without further adieu, here are some movies that I think would benefit from a modern update.

Ace in the Hole

A 1951 Billy Wilder film about a journalist who tries to reinvigorate his career by turning a story about a man stuck in a cave into a full-blown media circus, prolonging the rescue in order to milk as much as he can out of it. As a rule, I hate old movies, but Wilder's oeuvre holds up, and this is no exception. So why remake it? Because the media criticism in the 1951 film is even more applicable in the era of social media and 24-hour news cycles. I think a halfway decent filmmaker could easily turn this into a tense psychological thriller.

All the President's Men

While the 1976 film is well-made and well-regarded, it's been fifty years since the scandal. The details have largely fallen out of the public consciousness, but the implications are still alive and well. There are uncanny parallels between Nixon and Donald Trump--the obsession with loyalty, the "I alone can fix it" rhetoric, the imperviousness to ethics, and the bumbling nature with which both administrations handled their misdeeds. Plus, we know so many things now that we didn't in 1976. We know that Deep Throat was really Mark Felt on a vendetta for being passed up to direct the FBI after Hoover died. Hell, we now know that even Nixon knew it was Felt while it was happening! Also, the story is wild. I recently read Garrett M. Graff's Watergate: A New History, which consolidates all of the extant information into a single volume, and it's a fascinating read. In fact, you don't make this into a movie, you make it into a six-part miniseries on prestige television, and you explicitly draw connections from the Nixon administration to the moral rot currently hollowing out the modern GOP.

Short Circuit

As I mentioned in my re-viewing review of Short Circuit 2, this is a franchise that makes a lot more sense now than it did in 1986. So I'll just quote myself here:

The robot design is endearing. He's basically Wall-E, but taller. The concept actually fits really well with modern advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as contemporary philosophical debates about the rights of machines. And tying all of that in with ideas like multiculturalism and self-determination, especially around identity, and the state of immigration in modern American political discourse--this is is fertile ground for a low-concept sci-fi comedy. I bet you could even get Tim Blaney to do the voice again.

Robin Hood (2010)

Not that the world needs another retelling of Robin Hood, but for this one go back to the original script. This version was a deconstruction called Nottingham penned by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris. It was essentially a period police procedural told from the Sheriff of Nottingham's perspective as he tried to track down an outlaw. The script was extremely hot and subject to a bidding war, which Ridley Scott won. At which point he threw the whole thing out because he "wanted to make a movie about archery". The most notable takeaway from the 2010 film is the curious casting of a middle-aged Russell Crowe in a movie that's supposed to be a prequel.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

A send-up of the old Doc Savage pulp novels, this movie is a brilliant telling of a joke that very few people understood in 1984 but that would play way better now. The gimmick here is that you're supposed to feel like you're walking into the middle of a franchise. Buckaroo Banzai is chock-full of references to previous installments in the series that don't exist. That's the joke. That's the whole joke. And the movie never bats an eyelash or winks at the audience. And not enough people in 1984 remembered Doc Savage for that to make sense. But a lot of people in 2022 have seen parts of a cinematic universe. Like, imagine seeing Iron Man 3 having not seen any of the other Marvel movies. You'd probably be a little lost in the flashbacks and the whole thing about him having heart surgery at the end wouldn't make a ton of sense, but you still have a good time with it. Make that movie. Lean into the complex backstory without ever explaining it. Have flashbacks to other movies that don't exist. And play it completely straight. People would get the joke now. And cast someone Japanese to play Buck.

Die Hard

(Note: this post was written before the news broke of Bruce Willis' retirement due to aphasia. The original Die Hard remains a classic and there's no denying Willis's talents and contributions to film, and I wish him a peaceful retirement.)

Arguably this movie has been unofficially remade hundreds of times already ("Die Hard on a _____" is an enduring elevator pitch in Hollywood). Do it for real, but don't tell anyone you're remaking Die Hard. Instead, do a more faithful adaptation of the source book Nothing Lasts Forever and even keep that title. Keep broad stroke details from the book: the main character is Joe Leland, he's retired, and he's at the Christmas party to see his daughter and grandchildren. You can even keep it set in 1979. And definitely make him not an action hero, just an ordinary guy doing his best in an impossible situation (something that the Die Hard franchise has completely forgotten was at its roots). Throw in a Frank Sinatra song at some point just as a nod to the, ahem, die-hard fans. People would lose their minds.


Okay, this is me being indulgent. This was a 1980 comedy about a CIA agent who goes rogue in order to write a tell-all book that trashes his old boss. It starred Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, and a young Sam Waterston, and it largely holds up and I just want more people to see it. It pretends to be a spy movie (while actually being structured more like a heist movie) and I think you could totally make it work. Update the geopolitics and the tech. I mean, it's basically "James Bond writes his memoirs on the run". Tell me you wouldn't watch that.