5 Famous Movies With Insane 'What If' Scenarios
Being the blindly lustful and difficult man that I am, the only thing that can satisfy me is perfection itself. I'm always so disappointed when I read about movies that, at least on paper, seem like they would've been absolutely ideal but, for whatever reason, never got made. The five movies on this list, for example, all of which seemed destined to gallop to the top of Mt. Olympus, before ultimately slipping in shit somewhere along the way. Sure, you may have seen mutated versions of some of them by now, but they weren't what they could have been. For example ...
Honesty alert: I thought Neill Blomkamp's Chappie was an all right movie. Why? Because it beautifully ignored 99 percent of the things that supposedly make movies work. Goofy comedy juxtaposed harshly against themes being crammed down the audience's throat? Literally no likable characters? Die Antwoord in the lead roles, struggling to maintain even the loosest sense of believability? It had all of that and more, leading me to one conclusion -- Chappie 2: Warzone, please. I'll be there on opening night, and the only music I'll hear is a collective sigh of defeat, borrowed from the official soundtrack of the first movie.
Before Chappie, we got Elysium, which had Sharlto Copley playing the greatest villain of the 21st century so far ...
Everyone agrees, right?
... and a bald Matt Damon playing a character whose only motivation was wanting to stay alive for a little bit longer.
Me too, bald Matt Damon. Me too.
I can get behind that. However, Matt Damon was not the first choice for the role.
You'd think that Blomkamp would have looked for other action stars, but as we saw in his erratic progression from District 9 to Chappie, Blomkamp is not a man who indulges in the obvious. He leaves all the obvious stuff to the themes of his films, which characters inevitably recite as if they've had their scripts replaced with the movie's Cliff's Notes.
So, instead of another big-name action star, he originally wanted Ninja from Die Antwoord to take part in Elysium, but he'd have to wait through two years and at least a dozen human-shaped robots to get a variation of that wish. After he couldn't get the people behind "I Fink U Freeky," he went for the next least obvious choice -- Eminem.
Yeah, I was surprised too, Marshall.
It's one of cinema's great losses that Eminem declined to be in Elysium, but not because he would've been a better fit than Matt Damon or even that it would have been a better movie. The only way the script for Elysium could have been saved would be by finding literally any other script and turning that into a movie instead. It was going to be disappointing no matter who played "bald man who sort of becomes a robot man," because Blomkamp approaches important ideas in the same way that Eminem raps about anything. They both follow a "Speak Super Loud And Carry A Big Stick" policy, which makes maintaining subtlety a laughable pipe dream.
And, usually, when you see a rapper's name somewhere in the credits, you look out for them, because it's exciting to await Pitbull or Redman's awkward, scripted cameos opposite people who pretend to be other people professionally. An Elysium with Eminem would've maintained a kind of wonderful anxiety throughout the movie's entire running time, and we could have seen it, had Blomkamp bowed to Eminem's one simple demand: He wanted the film to be set in Detroit.
Wait, so that's not Detroit?
That's the kind of requirement I'd have Eminem request if I was writing a parody of an interaction between the director of District 9 and the star of 8 Mile, along with, "I'll only star in this movie if I'm allowed to look directly into the camera and say, 'Fuck my ex-wife,' at least three times."
Bret "The Hitman" Hart's Batman: Triumphant
It's hard, in retrospect, to imagine seeing Batman & Robin and thinking, "We can salvage this. We can go somewhere from here." But, for a short while, people did believe that. And it wasn't in their heads to improve a single thing, because, if Batman: Triumphant would've been made, it would have been a complete and total 45-degree leap. A lateral move of the highest order. Not any better than Batman & Robin, but a thousand times more oddly watchable.
For instance, in talks to play The Scarecrow were guys like Crispin Glover, Nicolas Cage, and Howard Stern. Crispin Glover kind of works, because he's acted like he's been infected with a fear toxin for most of his career, but Howard Stern playing one of Batman's most notable adversaries is something that I wouldn't conceivably consider if I was casting Batman 5 on an island populated by only Howard Stern and myself. Or maybe I would, but only after titling the movie Batman's Repeated Punch Attack.
Just so many punches.
But who would take over as Batman? If your first reply to this was Canadian wrestling legend Bret "The Hitman" Hart, then I'm sorry for writing this list entry about you, former Warner Bros. executive. Bret Hart was rumored to be a frontrunner for the chance to put on the cowl and look uncomfortable. And my assumption on Hart's acting presence is not based on nothing. The man can bend people's legs really nicely, but when he's handed a microphone, it all kind of falls apart. And who would be tasked with trying to keep up with Hart's fumbling charisma?
A returning Jack Nicholson.
"Why so ... wait, no, that sounds stupid."
The original script included a scene where Batman sees The Joker after getting hit with fear toxin. But this Joker would not be played by a Batman-era Jack Nicholson. No, this was 63-year-old Jack, whose hairline had seen its reflection and retreated back for the rest of winter. He was still a great actor at this point, but asking him to wear face paint and cackle in what is basically a dream sequence seems more like a deleted scene from About Schmidt than an un-ironic confrontation in a Batman movie.
Also, he would have been doing these things alongside Bret Hart, who would be busy staring straight ahead and imagining everyone naked so that he could get his lines right.
He would still be trying to get his lines right.
Bookend this with the puppet master of the whole thing being a burlap sack-clad Howard Stern, and you have an equation with no answer. There's no way to predict what would've happened if you mixed all of those ingredients together. You could pass it off with a "probably something bad," but that doesn't do it enough justice. It's three huge missteps all colliding at full speed, and right now, someone in an alternate timeline is talking about how awesome it was.
I want to live in that world. This one doesn't appreciate opportunity like it should.
Steve Miner And Fred Dekker's Godzilla
We've gotten two completed attempts at an American-made Godzilla so far, and with their powers combined, they almost work as one movie. The problem with both is that they are clearly afraid of being seen as campy, because Hollywood people don't really have a taste for campiness unless it's winking at them self-knowingly from every goddamn angle. Which explains how we end up with shit like Sharknado, which is less a stab at being a piece of cinema and more an executive's attempt at getting people to tweet about the Syfy Channel.
That's why it's so frustrating that, at one point, we almost got the Godzilla movie we so rightly deserved. The project, initially titled Godzilla King Of The Monsters, was to be a joint effort between Steve Miner and Fred Dekker. I accept that those names don't automatically ring any bells for a lot of people, so allow me to explain.
While he wasn't responsible for the best one (Part 4), Steve Miner did direct the second-best Friday The 13th movie (Part 2) and the one about eyeballs flying at your face.
Heads up: This technology died in the '80s for a reason.
He's also responsible for filming a scene in Lake Placid where Oliver Platt ignores giant crocodiles to tell a police officer that he adores her boobs. I was originally going to say that that was a bad thing, but after writing it out, it doesn't seem so awful, as that movie is the objective peak of Oliver Platt's career. I'm not cruel enough to take that away from him.
Fred Dekker was the man behind The Monster Squad, which is the favorite film of everyone who wishes that their friends would just shut the fuck up about The Goonies already.
Choose payphone werewolves.
If that brief rundown of their past work doesn't make it clear already, let me put it this way: These two have no aversion to campiness. In fact, they both did a great job of making it legitimately entertaining, and this was all starting to happen around 1983, when both were at or near the height of their powers. While they weren't necessarily enamored with the Godzilla character, they definitely understood that they had to embrace the ridiculousness of it in order to make it into something exciting, instead of looking at it as a way to remake movies like Independence Day and Jurassic Park in the same motion, like the American attempts at Godzilla that came later.
The film would've included an antagonist spy with a retractable blade for a hand and a hero with an eye patch, because the only way to properly do something badass is to push all your chips to the middle of the table. In one planned scene, Godzilla would have slung cable cars like a lariat to knock a plane out of the sky ...
... before eventually being killed when an experimental helicopter shoots nuclear missiles down his throat.
What could go wrong?
That's not an attempt to radically reinvent Godzilla as a super-serious metaphor beast or aggrandize his myth. That's asking yourself, "What would I like to see in a rad-as-fuck Godzilla movie that includes a guy with a knife fist?" I'm sure that there would've been the standard "Bombs sure are bad, huh?" talk that most Godzilla movies have, but it would've been surrounded by an uncontrollable urge to see San Francisco ruined by the MVP of nuclear mishaps.
Tragically, the projected budget terrified studios, and Miner eventually abandoned it. He knew that it's futile to make a Godzilla movie if you're not going to be able to go wild with it, and history has mostly proven him right.
Martin Scorsese And Lars Von Trier's Taxi Driver
No one wants to see Taxi Driver remade. No one. There is no longing to watch an old Robert De Niro cope with his further descent into madness, nor do people wish to see Tom Hardy practice "You talkin' to me?" in the mirror in modern-day NYC. UNLESS it's batshit insane. If it's batshit insane, then I totally want to see both of those things. When it comes to movies, inept craziness beats respectful boringness any day of the week.
Somewhere just now, Lars von Trier smiled as he read the word "batshit" and immediately tore his own pants off, savagely looking for the cause of his erection. Famous for things like Antichrist ...
The film that definitively answered the question, "What does the fox say?"
... and Nymphomaniac (aka The Land Of Blood And Semen), Von Trier is a fan of chaos, understanding Hitler, and strangely beautiful sequences of agony. If Captain America was ever going to face a filmmaker-themed villain, it would be Lars von Trier, whose master plan would include stealing all of The Avengers' home movies and splicing in scenes of genital mutilation.
Martin Scorsese, on the other hand, is a treasure and is considerably well-liked. So, even when there was very little forward movement on it, the idea of Scorsese and Von Trier collaborating on a Taxi Driver project was appealing. Would sad piano music play as Travis Bickle walked into a porn theater in slow motion? Would we see a naked version of Albert Brooks' character attempting to light a match with two fingers? How many black-and-white, teary-eyed close-ups would we get of Iris? We'll never find out, and maybe that's for the best. Maybe we're not meant to reach that ceiling of Bickle silently staring off into space in a taxi made of cardboard boxes.
It leaves us with something to aspire to.
Wes Craven's Superman IV
In the pantheon of bad comic book movies, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is too frequently ignored. It was produced by Cannon Films, a company that was dedicated to bringing us things like Lifeforce, Cobra, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 on an impossibly consistent basis. For any regular movie-oriented business, you'd count those films as sad misfires, but they're the high marks of Cannon's oeuvre. You can't really compare their output to the output of any other production company. And with that, I'm proud to announce that Superman IV is the winner of the Cannon Films Best Superman Movie Award. The competition was fiercely nonexistent, but somehow Superman IV pulled through and beat itself.
It beat itself something terrible.
The director of Superman IV was Sidney J. Furie, who was best known for directing Louis Gossett Jr. through three installments of the Iron Eagle franchise. Since a lot of people may be unfamiliar with the least necessary four-part series in history, let me aptly summarize it with a line from Gossett's character in Iron Eagle II:
"They brought you all here to fail!"
But Furie was the fourth choice to helm the bottom right corner of the cover of your Superman Classic Favorites DVD set.
It's a position of honor-ish.
Richard Donner and Richard Lester were both asked. Each had directed a Superman film before, but they declined.
The third, who did not scoff at the opportunity to sucker-punch Christopher Reeve's career, was Wes Craven.
Nothing in Wes Craven's filmography even slightly approaches what you saw in the original Superman series, which makes the circumstances of his near-hiring baffling. The only reason I can imagine is that someone took a poorly planned time machine excursion and saw that, one day, this article would be written. Then he warped back to 1986 and told Cannon Films that he had a strategy that was both ludicrous and would work well in the long run.
See, at the time, Wes Craven was most famous for films like The Hills Have Eyes ...
Act 1: Murder/Rape, Act 2: Crying, Act 3: Just Murder.
... and A Nightmare On Elm Street:
Act 1: Freddy Krueger, Act 2: Millions of dollars in revenue.
He'd also done Swamp Thing, but using that as your basis for hiring a guy to do Superman IV is the equivalent of shitting your pants as the basis for telling your spouse that you need to buy a new toilet. Wes Craven left the project over "creative differences" with Christopher Reeve, which amounted to Reeve not wanting a horror director to touch the messages of love and Nuclear Men that he was trying to promote with Superman IV. But, seeing as how that movie is only interesting when viewed as a science experiment to see how many fans of a comic character can be alienated in just 90 minutes, Craven would've been a welcome departure from what we got.
Regardless of Craven's actual plans, Christopher Reeve needed a movie where he ripped apart Lex Luthor for all of his misdeeds against humanity, instead of just hauling him off to a prison where Luthor is infinitely smarter than every guard combined. It would have been jarring to watch the screen turn red as Superman stood there, holding billionaire limbs, but it would have made Man Of Steel easier to stomach. We wouldn't have to deal with people talking about how out of line it was for Superman to snap a villain's neck. Instead, we could counter with, "Yeah, but remember when he took a machete to a pleading Gene Hackman? To be honest, I think a neck crunch is the least of our worries."
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