4 Reasons Why Remakes of Sci-Fi Movies Are Doomed to Suck
Did you hear? The new RoboCop remake debuted its shiny first trailer, giving nerds around the globe yet another chance to freak out because they made an iconic character black.
And if you're expecting us to tell you that this movie will suck because 99 percent of all remakes are doomed to be terrible, you're dead wrong. Nope, this movie's gonna suck because 99 percent of all sci-fi remakes are doomed to be terrible. Don't believe us? Consider the evidence ...
They Aren't Very Good (and Don't Make Any Money)
Quick: Name a good sci-fi remake that wasn't the glorious Jeff Goldblum/cat-baboon vehicle The Fly. Remember, Star Trek was technically a reboot/sequel. And 12 Monkeys isn't really a remake, you snob, it's just inspired by a half-hour acid trip. Come on, there's got to be at least one.
Maybe you actually liked Spielberg's War of the Worlds (or John McTiernan's magnum opus Rollerball), but the numbers say you're in the minority: Out of the 50 highest-grossing sci-fi films ever, only four of them are remakes -- and zero of them touch the top 20. Compare that to the horror genre, where the numbers are doubled and there are two remakes in the top 10. To show you how hilariously inept sci-fi remakes are at making money, the list of best-grossing examples since 1977 has Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor at #5, with $128 million.
Any list with a fat suit in the top five isn't a good list.
This is why we can already rule out RoboCop for creating a pile of cash. But what is it about these movies that makes them stink?
They're Taking Us Farther and Farther Away from Original Concepts
Despite the fact that 2011's The Thing failed to make its budget back, there have been murmurs that Universal thought it might be fun to also remake They Live, no doubt to complete some kind of "Fuck John Carpenter" box set. Oh, and they also announced that they would probably get rid of the signature alien-detecting sunglasses, i.e., the biggest draw of the original.
Instead, it'll be an iPhone app that -- wait, Universal, that was a joke! No, come back! Noooooo!
It sounds outrageous, but this is actually rather normal when you consider that pretty much every sci-fi remake has to change shit to make it more contemporary -- taking us farther and farther from what we liked in the first place. Arnie's Total Recall changed the original story's ending, and the 2012 version changed the changed one. The original plot of The Island of Dr. Moreau has been so diluted through all its remakes that the improbable-yet-real upcoming one will inevitably be about a furry convention at a tropical resort.
"This summer, it's just what the doctor ordered."
But, you know, what does it matter if they change the cosmetic elements as long as the underlying message is the same? Well, about that ...
Their Message Wasn't Meant for Us, Ultimately
Along with showing us cool shit and three-boobed hookers, most of all sci-fi is supposed to be a product and a reflection of our current culture, only with more laser guns. Look at some of the great sci-fi films from the '50s and '80s -- Body Snatchers was about the communism scare, The Day the Earth Stood Still was about the Cold War, and RoboCop was a satire of '80s culture.
And a clear reaction against the long national nightmare of '80s hairdos.
Then look at the remakes: What the hell are they about? A half-baked environmental or anti-corporate greed theme doesn't make up for taking away the entire reason the original was made in the first place. They're trying to sell us the product of another era hastily repackaged as our own. On the other hand, if these movies can't reflect the present anymore, at least we have better CG technology to depict far-flung futures now, so there's that. Right?
Remakes Don't Inspire Us to Dream About the Future
Sci-fi is important because it doesn't just imagine the future, it creates it, from Mary Shelley writing about creating human life centuries before we even knew what cloning was to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which featured the first-ever computer tablets back when playing Angry Birds still involved a stick and a pissed-off sparrow. That's how inventions happen. After all, you think engineers and scientists found their calling watching rom-coms?
Now go watch the RoboCop remake trailer and try to ID a single original technological concept. We'll wait.
No, Sam Jackson's toupee doesn't count.
See the issue now? When asked how the new RoboCop is going to be different from the old one, even the freaking star said the main change is the fact that the technology isn't new anymore. In fact, it's almost retro. Even the Star Trek films stopped coming up with new gadgets -- they don't have futuristic communicators in the new films, they have regular cellphones. Sci-fi remakes are inherently regressive -- we're dredging up the past to teach us about the future, which happens to be right now. By this standard, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas is the next Blade Runner.
"Wait, Madea's a replicant? Fuck, movie posters these days spoil everything."