John Scalzi – Which Eighties Sci-fi Flicks Deserve the Karate Kid Treatment? A Year-by-Year Breakdown


For fans of the eighties, this last weekend’s box office held a mixed bag: the remake of The Karate Kid kicked its way to $56 million, making it the summer’s first breakaway hit, after Iron Man 2, but the movie version of the cheesy adventure series The A-Team grossed half that, not an encouraging sign for a film that cost $100 million to make. The lesson Hollywood will no doubt take from this: remake eighties movies, not eighties TV series. Those of you with your hearts set on Family Ties: The Motion Picture or a 3-D version of Manimal will just have to live with disappointment, I suppose.

And, as it happens, in the science-fiction realm, Hollywood is already in the process of revamping or sequel-izing a number of eighties classics (and non-classics). TRON: Legacy is a hotly anticipated holiday release, while the latest Predator flick will pop out in August, and new versions of films ranging from RoboCop to The Last Starfighter are in various stages of preproduction. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your perspective; personally, I’d like more new stuff than reheated versions of what came before. Regardless, mining the past is a big business in Hollywood, and, with that in mind, here are my suggestions for eighties science fiction worth reheating, which are either not completely obvious choices or not (as far as I know) already far along in the process of being remade. To make it extra challenging, I’ll pick one from each year of the decade.

1980: This year contains one of my B-movie favorites, Battle Beyond the Stars, but the movie I think really cries out for a revision is Ken Russell’s slice of sensory-deprivation-tank weirdness, Altered States. Hand it over to Darren Aronofsky, and we’re talking huge art-house science-fiction hit, although I freely admit that not any component of the phrase “huge art-house science-fiction hit” makes any sense next to any other part.

1981: David Cronenberg’s Scanners
might benefit from modern CGI and also a script that made
ever-so-slightly more sense than the original’s did. Some people might
think this one’s an obvious candidate for 3-D, but, personally, I’d be
happy to keep exploding heads on the screen. Thanks.

1982: Arguably
the eighties’ biggest science-fiction year — with E.T., Blade Runner, TRON, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, and The Thing — but you know what? I see Michael Bay looking back at this year and saying to himself, “Hey! Megaforce.
I could totally do something with that.” And the terrifying thing is that,
if anyone could make a hit of that ridiculously stupid story about
ridiculously stupid things, it’s Michael “Look What I Did With Transformers
Bay. God help us all.

1983: The movie Brainstorm was not a huge hit this year, in part because star Natalie Wood died
during production, necessitating voice and body doubles. But this film
about using technology to share people’s thoughts is a natural for the
current special-effects era.

1984: My love for Buckaroo
Banzai
is well documented, but, given how taken audiences are these
days with zombies (or zombie equivalents), if I were a film producer I
would be giving serious thought to reviving the somewhat
underappreciated Night of the Comet, which has zombies. And, uh, comets.

1985:
If ever there were a film made for Megan Fox to star in, a remake of Weird
Science
would be it. And if Diablo Cody did the script, well,
then I think that would be just fine. Yes, I know: Jennifer’s Body.
Shut up. It’s better than you think it is.

1986: Aliens and Star Trek IV notwithstanding, not a vintage year for
science fiction. Nevertheless, I have a lot of Gen X friends who swear
by the family science-fiction flick Flight of the Navigator, so I can see them dragging their kids
to the remake.

1987: This year’s the easiest for me: I
would totally be there for an A-list remake of the alien-cop-buddy film The Hidden, because, excepting RoboCop, the original was the eighties’
it-came-out-of-nowhere-and-was-awesome surprise.

1988: People
keep saying there’s going to be a live-action version of the anime
clasic Akira, and yet it never gets done. I’m both terrified and
fascinated by the idea of it actually happening. But while Hollywood
fiddles with this, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they reheat John
Carpenter’s awesome capitalist satire They
Live
, do you?

1989: To close out the decade, a
cult classic for you: The
Blood of Heroes
(a.k.a. The Salute of the Jugger), starring
Rutger Hauer as the postapocalyptic star of the bloodiest sport this
side of rollerball. Call me crazy, but I think the remake screams
for Sam Worthington. Or Vin Diesel. Hmmm. Yes.

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