Five Non-Original Movies I Want to See Made

You’ve heard it all before, over and over again.

“Hollywood doesn’t have any new ideas!”

“It’s all the same stuff!”

“I liked Avatar better when it was called Dances With Wolves / Pocahontas / The Last Samurai / Fern Gully.”

“ANOTHER remake of a classic 80’s movie?  Why ruin that one, too?”

I tend to agree over all.  A modern take on a nostalgic television show is fun cinema; well-done movies based on characters once thought to be un-filmable are awesome; wiping away poorly-done franchises and starting anew is like a breath of fresh air; any one of those movies that are good are worth wanting to see a sequel from (when the story supports it).  But they can all get dramatically overdone.

It’s part of how “Hollywood” works.  The film industry isn’t first and foremost an artistic medium; it’s an industry–a business–that seeks to find customers the same way Amazon and Honda seek to find customers.  “What do people want?  Give them that!”  Sad, really, because unlike Amazon and Honda, movie producers aren’t very good at figuring out what people actually want.

Or maybe they are, and people are just idiots.

But where 20 years ago the idea of remaking a classic show was fun, and ten years ago the idea of a movie for every superhero or 80’s cartoon you could dream of was mind-blowing . . . it’s all gotten really old.  I’m mildly excited about the Avengers movie next year, and appreciate the way they’ve worked up to it, but it feels five years too late.  Rebooting Spider-Man is shameful.  Of all things, The Karate Kid did NOT need to be retold (I’d joke that Back to the Future is next, but I would not put that past them).  And why in the world couldn’t they let Pirates of the Carribean be a surprisingly decent movie without sequels?  Or FOUR movies?

I know that original ideas are risky in a business where a small film budget would feed an entire third-world country for a decade (think about that the next time you go to see a crappy romantic comedy), so I’m going to propose some films I’d like to see made based on other material that aren’t simply raping the same old corpses.  Please forgive my graphic imagery.  Let’s begin.

The Wizard of Oz

Blasphemy right off the bat, right?  You’re probably conjuring comparisons to the  new Willy Wonka movie, or Alice in Wonderland (both Burton films . . . hmm . . . okay, I declare that neither Johnny Depp nor Tim Burton are allowed within 100 feet of this movie).  But you’re forgetting about how amazing the new True Grit was, or how fun Ocean’s 11 is.  You’re also probably not thinking about how greats such as The Ten Commandments and Scarface are technically remakes, too.

But Wizard of Oz?  Judy Garland is as synonymous with Dorothy as Julie Andrews is with Mary Poppins, Stallone is with Rambo, Mark Hamill with Luke Skywalker, or *cough* Schwarzenegger is with Conan the Barbarian.  Yet I think this could be great, even though no matter how well it’s done, some people will act as if whoever the director is has tried to rewrite the Bible.  Actually, I think they’d be less concerned about the Bible.

How to do it:

They should add as little as possible to the story, and return to the book as the primary source.  Drop the songs, too.  I guess already the comparisons to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are opening up, but bare with me.
They should NOT make the story dark or gritty; nor should they leave it with a for-kids-only cheesy, cartoony air.  Make it a true family film–one the kids can enjoy but one mom and dad and teens and young adults and child-free advocates can all get through without rolling their eyes once.  In other words, don’t overdo it, but don’t be afraid that the little ones might get scared.  That’s life.

They should bring back parts like the four jumping across the river, and the Lion rushing his friends through the poppies.  Put the green glasses on the characters when they’re in the emerald city, and bring the magical hat back that controls the flying monkeys (and thus making the monkeys neutral at worst, not evil).  Include the porcelain village and the headbutting dudes, and the other parts not in the old movie.  Mention the four corners of Oz, discuss the surrounding desert.  The only things that should be added or changed are parts to transition better between scenes, as the book feels rather disjointed from chapter to chapter.  And in the end, it wasn’t all a dream.  Let Judy keep that plot change.
They should NOT
add useless and boring subplots.  Like scenes of the family of the Wizard when he still lived in America, or cut-aways to the all-community search for Dorothy back in Kansas.  Stick with the original point of the story–if it’s too short and needs to be expanded (unlikely), then do that by fleshing out the four main characters.  Make sure it comes across, unlike in the old movie, that Dorothy’s three companions all had what they sought all along.  Don’t waste time on back stories of the munchkin village.

Most importantly–make NO inferences that Wicked is canon.  At all.  Have your own opinion of that book/play, but honestly I say that the whole “The bad guy’s actually misunderstood and the good guy is actually spoiled, arrogant, and manipulative” storyline is over-done and contrived.  Moving on.

They should cast an actual young girl in the role of Dorothy, instead of a teenager with a golden voice.  The Tin Woodsman (yes, you’d need to call him that so people can distance this film from the classic) would need to be a guy in a suit (but a really good mask, maybe CGI–no silver facepaint).  The Lion will likely be CGI, but the Scarecrow would probably work well as some kind of puppet.  With CGI when necessary.
They should NOT take the George Lucas approach and do everything on a blue soundstage and CGI even the munchkins.  They especially should not even toy with the Robert Zemeckis ping-pong-balls-on-quality-actors method. They should take the Peter Jackson approach and do everything as low-fi as possible unless it absolutely won’t work without more current technology and methods.  (But that’s not a Wizard of Oz thing, really, that’s an every special effects movie ever thing).  They also should not ignore how awful Aslan looks in the Narnia movies–so watch that.

Dragonlance: The Chronicles Trilogy

One of the biggest issues I’ve had with the types of “geek” movies that have come out non-stop for the last 10+ years is that they’re really only focused on material from a few genres.  Mostly superhero comics.  Beyond that, 80’s Saturday morning nostalgia–most of which, let’s be honest–would work well as a superhero comic (and many have).  But there’s one genuine nerd genre that’s almost completely ignored:

Fantasy.

It was my main one from middle school all through high school, too.  “But they made Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and now they’re making The Hobbit!” you say.  Oh, absolutely.  And they’re great (mostly).  But LOTR and Narnia are like the Batman and Superman of Fantasy.  They’re the big names, the genre definers.  What I want now are the Iron Mans, the Green Lanterns, the Watchmen.  Those lesser-known-by-the-general-masses-but-still-completely-awesome stories.

Also, there’s something that both Tolkien and Lewis don’t have nearly enough of–

Freaking Dragons

Dragons are what any sane geek loves most about the Fantasy genre.  Only Tolkien and Lewis can get away with such a low dragon-to-fantasy ratio.

Don’t–I repeat DO NOT–start thinking about crap like that Dungeons & Dragons movie from a decade ago, and don’t immediately think of Dragonheart, either (though you are allowed to say, “I am the last one!” to your heart’s content).  Where the former is so baffling-ly bad you question the IQ of those behind it, the latter is FIFTEEN YEARS OLD.  It out-dates Titanic.  A guy I had an adult conversation with last week was finishing up kindergarten then.  I guess there was Reign of Fire, too . . . but that movie was so forgettable that I added this sentence in a week after finishing this post.  With as far as special effects technology has come since 1996, I feel anyone who likes an exciting movie should start lobbying for more dragons.  And what better place to start than Dragonlance?  It’s still only a slight step into obscurity from LOTR, heavily story- and character-based, and lots of great visual and action potential.

They should grow a pair and do it as three movies with a full-scale production and huge budget with the best special effects they can muster.
They should NOT accept CGI that looks like it belongs in the lava scene from Aladdin.

They should focus on story and character.
They should NOT  let the special effects take over.  What makes a great movie great and worth watching over again is story and good characters.  It’s why Spider-Man 2 was great and memorable, where Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was not.  Dragonlance has those things, but I can see them being looked over far to easily in favor of cheap thrills.

They should make a tasteful trailer that hints at story and teases with known, key scenes.
They should NOT do that crap with thumping dance music and quick-fade cuts to a heartbeat and shots of Goldmoon’s inevitable skimpy outfit.

They should NOT cast a woman as Tasslehoff.

They should move quickly lest we hungry fans be bombarded with more crap like this or this.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

This is where I shift from desperate movie and geek culture fan to “stuff that Braden would really just like to see.”

Over my most recent bout of unemployment, I took full advantage of living one block from a library branch and read a ton of stuff.  One book I read was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a fact that still baffles me not only because I read the whole thing but because it’s currently my favorite novel.  The thing is though, there’s never been a large-scale production film made on it since 1927.  There’s been some independent films and a made-for-TV movie back in 1987, but nothing that’s as memorable as a movie based on this book should be.

It would be a pretty daring feat to make this movie, though.  Being a 160-year-old story based around a controversial social structure (to put it lightly), it’s been twisted and abused and deformed by all sides involved.  Many black Americans have rejected it because of the tired stereotypes it started, and because of the softening and twisting to the characters in “popular culture” done since the end of the Reformation.  Many white Americans have rejected it because they refuse to believe slavery was ever as bad as the book actually insists it was.  Others avoid it at all costs because they either find it too controversial, or they were forced to read it in high school and are still bitter.

I’ve only seen small clips of two of the movies made (the 1927 silent film and the 1976 independent film, both of which you can find in their entirety on YouTube), and then I’ve read the Wikipedia section on the 1987 movie, and while the 1987 one seems to be far more accurate, the makers of that film bragged about leaving out scenes like when Elisa skips across the ice on the Ohio River.  Why would you leave that out?

They should tell the story as it was meant to be told, exactly as it’s told in the book, with the message it’s had for 160 years.
They should NOT water it down to appease those that still try to suggest that slavery wasn’t all that bad.  Nor should they toss in parallels to civil rights or gay rights or modern social agendas.  Nor should they alter any characters to avoid “stereotyping” black or southern Americans, since those stereotypes were set after (and because of) this story.

They should leave in every exciting scene, and every emotional scene, and every challenging scene.  Let audiences experience a STORY and not just a message, yet not walk away forgetting the impact this story had on America.

Maybe it’s idealistic, but I see a great production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin being a wonderful exercise in racial unity between blacks and whites.  Maybe that’s silly.  Maybe.

Final Fantasy VI

Something that everyone knows has never been done well is the video game movie.  The big problem with them is that the source material doesn’t lend well to interesting movies.  Games are mostly about action or thinking about strategy in some fashion, and it’s hard to get that to translate well to film.  And in the event that there IS a story to tell, rest assured that some arrogant Hollywood exec is going to screw it up.  So why do I wish for this one?

The story of Final Fantasy VI (originally renamed Final Fantasy III for its American release) is one of my favorite stories of all time.  It’s very Star Wars-esque with hints of Jason Bourne and even Batman . . . but really that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  There’s so much there.  The whole plot taken out of the hunting for treasure chests, bonus side quests, level grinding, and long boss fights could fill an (interesting) two-and-a-half hour movie easily.  I’d bet you actually would have to do two films.

Hey, if The Hobbit can do it, so can Final Fantasy VI.

There’s so much character development that would need to be done it’s insane . . . because you could only reduce Umaro, Gogo, and Mog to bit parts or cameos.  Strago could play a smaller part, as could Gau, but Relm is important as (spoiler alert) it would definitely need to be revealed that Shadow is her father and we would need to care.  But Cyan and Setzer have very moving stories that need full attention.  Then you have the most important ones: Locke, Terra, Edgar, Sabin, and Celeste.  They carry the biggest part of the plot.  But hey, I’ve said before that character carries a good movie, and this would need that.

They’d just need to be careful that Kefka isn’t an alternate version of The Joker.  That could be very easy to mess up.

The biggest problem, honestly, would be what to name it.  You couldn’t reasonably call it Final Fantasy VI.  There’s no 1-5, and as much as I love FFI, FFIV, and FFV, and enjoy FFII and FFIII, I don’t want to sit through movies based on those just to get to this one.

Wow.  The more I think about this, the more I think it would absolutely work.  The writers don’t have to fill in a story to make up for the loss of all the gameplay time.  The characters are deep and moving.  The plot is interesting and engaging.

I call dibs!

A Three-and-a-Half Hour Biopic on Chicago

Haha!  I thought of this originally as a joke, but of course now I think it’s awesome.  Rock/Music biopics don’t typically fail, critically or commercially, but they can be awkward and jumpy.  I think, first of all, we all need to plan to spend a large portion of our afternoon at the theater when going to see a rock biopic of any nature.

That said, I’m willing to bet one could make a really awesome movie based on Chicago, but for a band with a nearly-45-year history, and just over 20 of it really interesting, you need to pick a smaller section to focus on.  I think it would be best to focus on the span from just before their formation in 1967 to right when they make it back on top of the charts again in 1982 with the release of Chicago 16.   It’s perfect.   You’ve got humble beginnings, existing for music, pop chart success, struggles with pop chart success, sacrificing art for pop chart success, climaxing at the accidental suicide of guitarist Terry Kath, falling out of favor with the music-listening public, and then climbing back on top.  Sure, there’s another 8 years, at minimum, that’s interesting to tell, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.  And that gives it a happy ending–but you could do the last scene and last shots at a huge, sold-out arena as they play “Hard to Say I’m Sorry/Get Away,” and their faces are filled with an unmistakable mix of relief and joy, plus an uneasy caution.

I say the best way to do the music is to take the Walk the Line route, and let the actors sing the parts.  The trickier part is getting them to play the instruments . . . you can’t fake musical mastery like all those guys had/have.  Well, no mountain worth climbing is easy.

. . . man, that’s a good idea.

Dibs again!

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