Over the past couple of decades, remakes gained the ire of the entire movie-going public. The issue seems to have Approach full circle now, & a reimagining of an existing idea will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, some science fiction ideas have the strength & complexity to carry multiple Huge-screen adaptations.
Everyone has a short list of acceptable remakes. John Carpenter’s The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born, & so on. These days, so many remakes, reboots, & reinterpretations Approach to theaters or streaming services that some of them are bound to be decent films.
War of the Worlds
The alien invasion used to be the only kind of science fiction that mass audiences were interested in. It was all the rage in the late 1800s & early 1900s, & though the idea has never really gone away, the average attack by extraterrestrials is a lot more nuanced today. H. G. Wells’ 1898 novel & Orson Welles’ 1938 radio play made War of the Worlds one of the seminal works in the subgenre. The story has been adapted to film five times, but the most recent iteration deviates heavily from the source material. Steven Spielberg changed the story about a scientist struggling to discover any weakness in the Martian invaders to focus on a dockworker trying desperately to survive. It’s more of a family drama with the nightmarish alien aspect as a tense background element. As such, Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is a solid science fiction adventure that brings unique ideas to a familiar story.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Phillip Kaufman’s 1978 adaptation of Jack Finney’s 1955 novel was not well received upon its initial release. The film sold fairly well, but critical opinions were mixed. Over the past three decades, however, Invasion of the Body Snatchers has earned its rightful title as one of the best remakes of all time. It deserves to st& alongside The Thing, but it’s rarely mentioned in the same breath. The 1956 film is a classic, but the 1978 remake st&s as a powerful story in its own right. One could learn a lot about the evolution of cinematic language over the decades by watching the two in sequence. Both tales of the pod people deserve all the praise they receive, they’re both incredibly solid sci-fi films that built their own subgenre from scratch.
Science fiction doesn’t always have to be about deep ideas & existential horror. Sometimes it can just be a dystopian action extravaganza about the grim future of reality television. The 1975 original starring Sylvester Stallone might be a better film overall, but that doesn’t make the 2008 remake by Mortal Kombat & Resident Evil director Paul W. S. Anderson any less entertaining. In the gr& tradition of The Running Man & The Hunger Games, Death Race forces criminals to compete for their freedom in high-speed contests of speed & skill. The social commentary is simultaneously less present than it is in the original & better suited for the time. The action is silly, overblown, & chaotic, but that’s part of the draw. It’s a Huge dumb popcorn movie, but it’s a pretty good one. Its three sequels, on the other h&, are genuinely terrible.
This controversial 2001 Tom Cruise vehicle is an adaptation of Alej&ro Amenábar’s Open Your Eyes, which came out only four years earlier. Like its source material, the film is overwhelmingly the creative output of one man. Vanilla Sky is written, directed, & co-produced by Cameron Crowe, of Fast Times & Jerry Maguire fame. Uniquely, this remake features an actor who reprises their role across iterations. The film stars Tom Cruise as a wealthy playboy who is disfigured by a jealous lover. The film plays with reality, teasing the audience with the idea that nothing around Cruise is true. It’s reminiscent of Total Recall, but the focus is on romance, rather than action. It’s a mind-bending journey with at least five canonically appropriate interpretations. Cruise turns in a solid performance, & Cameron Diaz delivers a career high-point in her brief appearance. Vanilla Sky definitely has problems, but it’s a unique & ambitious film that invites a closer reading.
Terry Gilliam’s thrilling time travel journey is actually a remake of a French short film called La Jetée. The film borrows concepts from Chris Marker’s 28-minute sci-fi film, but it also adds enough to feel like a new experience. 12 Monkeys tells the tale of a prisoner who is sent back in time to prevent the outbreak of an apocalyptic plague. It’s a stellar showcase for Bruce Willis & Brad Pitt, as well as a fun absurdist sci-fi experience. The film is surprisingly dark, but it’s also dipped in Gilliam’s sardonic sense of humor. Most fans haven’t seen La Jetée, but 12 Monkeys is a bona fide classic.
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