Movies that Should be Remade [Think Tank]

Movies that Should be Remade [Think Tank]

Because it didn’t quite make the cut the first time around.

Belinkie, The Last Starfighter

I have to disagree with Mlawski about Dave; I’m a big fan. When I was in middle school, this was my mom’s favorite movie, and she watched it on a bi-daily basis.

Wait, does bi-daily mean twice a day, or every other day? Because I mean twice a day.

I didn’t love it quite that much, and would often sneak into the other room to watch Beavis and Butthead. But I happen to like Dave quite a bit. It’s got a latter-day Mr. Smith Goes to Washington vibe. If only a real, actual human being could be put in charge, he could single-handedly redeem our sordid little cesspool on the Potomic.

Then again, it may just be that I associate Dave with a simpler era in my life. Possible topic for a future Think Tank: pop culture that you will always like, for reasons having nothing to do with its merits.

Greetings, Starfighter.

Greetings, Starfighter.

But Mlawski and I do agree on our approach to remakes. Remakes are for movies with great premises and wobbly follow-throughs. And one of my favorite premises of all-time is The Last Starfighter. This is a sci-fi space adventure from 1984, a time when anything related to Stars and Wars could get greenlit. Lance Guest plays Alex Rogen, a teen working as a trailer park handyman, dreaming of a life anywhere else. Alex has one hobby – an arcade machine call Starfighter, which he turns out to be really good at. I mean, really good at. In fact, better than anyone else on earth.

Which normally wouldn’t mean much, except for the game was actually a test placed on earth by an alien looking for pilots to fight in a massive interstellar war. Through a somewhat implausible Act 2 twist, every single other qualified pilot in the galaxy is wiped out in an attack while Alex is in transit, leaving him the only person who can save the human race from total enslavement.

For every boy who grew up playing videogames, this is possibly the greatest premise in history.

The movie does some things right. For instance, the alien in disguise who takes Alex into space is played by the great Robert Preston, who was Harold Hill in the Music Man movie. This was Preston’s final film role, and he’s clearly doing a riff on his most famous role:

I must congratulate you on your virtuoso performance, my boy. Centauri is impressed. I’ve seen ’em come, and I’ve seen ’em go, but you’re the best, my boy. Dazzling! Light years ahead of the competition! Centauri’s got a little proposition for you. Are ya interested?

It’s a great part, and Preston has the easy charm of an old pro. In any remake, you’d be hard pressed to find someone better.

There’s also the score, which you’d almost certainly have to steal for a remake. It is just one of my all-time favorites. The main theme is this ridiculously epic, heroic thing, that will make you bitter you don’t have wings.

So what’s wrong with the movie? Mainly, the special effects. They are only “special” effects in the way that the Special Olympics is special. This was one of the first movies to lean heavily on CGI, and it was way, way too soon:

If your entire movie is about cool space battles, you better deliver the goods. The movie never makes me believe that Alex really does have the greatest reflexes in the universe, and certainly not that he can single-handedly take out Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.

But the real reason this is due for a reimagining is that video games have changed. People don’t feed quarters to arcade machines anymore. They play on tricked-out PCs and consoles, in their own homes. And nowadays, if you become the best in the world at a particular game, you might very well be a minor celebrity for a certain culture.

Let me ask you a question: are there any good movies about gamers? Just The Wizard, right? I feel like there’s some interesting territory there. People who are dysfunctional losers in the real world, but absolute gods online. People who base their whole self-image on being the best at a videogame. It’s a complete waste of time, right? Or is it? I could see a remake focusing on a group of gamers – either friends who play together as a team, or maybe rivals who are all taken to space together. And yes, I realize you’d have to change the title if there were more than one starfighter. I’m thinking The Last Squadron.

Wait, I can come up with a tagline. “On earth, they’re losers. In space, they’re our only hope.” Eh?

What Movie Needs A Remake?

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9 Comments on “Movies that Should be Remade [Think Tank]”

  1. Sean from Aus #

    Dr. Zhivago had a really good remake in 2002. It’s definitely worth a look.

    My vote is with Dave. However, given the three options:
    1. A real farce would be “Harold and Kumar take over the White House”
    2. Making it more fish out of water-ier would make it too reminiscent of King Ralph
    3. Making it a real satire would work. However, rather than basing it in 2001, base it in 1997 and make it so that Bill “did not have sex with that woman” – Dave did.


  2. UK_Wanderer #

    I love the quote from Dave whilst he’s messing with the Robot Arms…..

    “once I caught a fish………..this big”

    Some films it would be impossible to remake. Certain classics like “the searchers” without John Wayne would just not work.


  3. Saint #

    Desperately Seeking Susan should be remade.

    As awesome as it is to watch Madonna wander around pre-Giuliani Greenwich Village in what is probably the only part she was ever qualified to play, she was never charismatic enough to justify the premise. Rosanna Arquette was cooler as a Jersey housewife than Madonna as a proto-club kid.

    Jackie Stacey’s essay “Desperately Seeking Difference” outlines a feminist psychoanalytic interpretation of Arquette’s homoerotic female spectatorship that turns the film into a lesbian version of The Talented Mr. Ripley.

    On that note, Single White Female should be remade, too, but with two good actresses instead of a good actress and Bridget Fonda.


  4. Mark #

    I wonder if there’s a measurable spike in bittorrent downloads of old, relatively-obscure movies you mention when you post one of these.


  5. Jonathan #

    On Dave’s darker remake premise:

    Why do 2001 when it can be 2009? Same things apply right? Charisma over expertise?


  6. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Jonathan: To be fair (and depressing), you could probably set Dave any time in the past 50 years and get across the same theme.


  7. Equinspire #

    I voted Starfighter. Partly because it would be awesome, and partly because I’ve been wondering what that movie was called for aaages! I’ve only ever seen the start of it because the videotape died back in the day…

    Speaking of remakes, I’m still astonished that the ad I saw for Pink Panther 2 on the side of a bus wasn’t an April Fools’ Day prank!


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