Exhibit C: Iffy Films That Can Only Be Improved By Being Remade
To a certain generation, for whom the idea of more than one TV channel was science fiction and ‘computer games’ meant waiting for Ghosts N Goblins to load onto their Commodore 64 for the best part of half an hour, Disney’s Condorman brings back warm memories of sitting in front of the TV on Bank Holiday Mondays in the mid-1980s (just before Bergerac). It’s a snug, insulating feeling…that fades quickly away when you succumb to a contemporary re-watch.
However, despite the laughable back-projection work used in Condorman’s combined 58 seconds of actual flight, despite Michael Crawford’s what-the-hell-is-that-American accent, and despite the 1981-specific awfulness of his Condor-Car, the whole tired shebang is based on a perfectly fine plot.
A slightly delusional comic book artist is roped into aiding a vital defection by the CIA and uses the mission (and the CIA’s money) to bring his most famous creation to life. ive that premise to James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Guardians of The Galaxy) and I’m sure you’d receive a hugely entertaining screenplay in return. Just keep the ‘Triple Istanbul Express’ bit in. I still like that.
The Last Starfighter (1984)
The Last Starfighter is 1980s in tooth and claw, from the Spielbergian suburban setting to Catherine Mary Stewart’s hair to the concept of other people getting excited about someone else’s high score on an arcade-machine (not to mention the word ‘arcade-machine’). Despite the fact that it was a box office disappointment on its debut, its sheer charm, which it has in abundance, eventually won round an army of loyal fans and its echo can be felt in films like Galaxy Quest and Guardians of The Galaxy.
The primitive CGI effects, hugely innovative at the time, have not aged too well, and with an unmemorable villain to boot, this is best filed alongside Battle Beyond The Stars as one of those films that forty year-olds still love, but no one else quite understands why. Yet the central notion – lonely teenager going nowhere dreams of a life of adventure and gets his wish – is as potent today as it was back when a young Luke Skywalker couldn’t even get time off work to pick up some power converters.
If the CGI didn’t swamp the charm, this could be a huge blockbuster. Alas, it seems that the rights are currently caught up in such a tangle that even Steven Spielberg hasn’t been able to untie them.
The Rocketeer (1991)
A lot was expected of Disney’s The Rocketeer when it opened in the summer of 1991. Premiere magazine claimed that ‘The Mouse sees this as a potential franchise, the Indy of the ’90s with lunch-boxes, theme-park rides and sequels in store. Bill Campbell, by the end of the summer,’ they continued, ‘will either be a late-model (Harrison) Ford or just another Yugo.’ That fact that you can’t quite place the name Bill Campbell tells you how the story panned out – though no one can take away its claim to boasting one of the greatest one-sheet posters of the 1990s.
There was never anything especially wrong with The Rocketeer. The ’30s setting was well evoked, it had a goofy charm to it, Alan Arkin was a droll mentor and Timothy Dalton was a ripe ham of a villain. It just never really, ahem, took off.
The flying effects weren’t exhilarating, as they should have been, it was amusing but not funny and the central romance – with Jennifer Connelly – never swept you off your feet. The success that director Joe Johnston enjoyed when he went back in time again to do battle with the Nazis with Captain America: The First Avenger gives one an indication of how The Rocketeer might look and feel if he got his hands on the property for another crack at it.
Next up: The Stone Cold Classics – the films which SHOULD NEVER be remade