Over the last few years we’ve suffered through a long slog of reboots and sequels to films I used to think were untouchable. Ignoring the whole superhero reboot problem, a number of franchises have been rebooted or remade, and most have been unfortunate. Take a look at this motley crew of films:
A Nightmare on Elm Street – 2010
Clash of the Titans – 2010
The Karate Kid – 2010
Tron: Legacy – 2010
Footloose – 2011
Conan the Barbarian – 2011
Fright Night – 2011
Red Dawn – 2012
Total Recall – 2012
Evil Dead – 2013
Carrie – 2013
Annie – 2014
RoboCop – 2014
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 2014
The Transporter Refueled – 2015
Terminator: Genisys – 2015
Poltergeist – 2015
Of that list, Fright Night was OK, Tron: Legacy was mediocre, and the rest of those films are pretty awful. Most beg the question of why they even needed to be remade in the first place. Most of the originals here have something that makes them classic, whether it be the Harryhousen Claymation in the original Clash of the Titans, or the perfect snapshot of Cold War paranoia in Red Dawn, or Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime.
To be fair, occasionally reboots/sequels do work. I am a huge fan of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was much better than it had any right to be. I actually enjoyed most of the new Godzilla film, which I realize puts me in the minority. The new Mad Max was a masterpiece. That said, the list of good remakes/reboots is pretty slim, and the bad films list is only going to grow in the near future. I have zero hope that the new Ghostbusters film(s) will be any good. Was anyone asking for a remake of Point Break? Though the following projects I’m about to mention have been cancelled, why was anyone even considering remaking Dirty Dancing, or Commando, or The Neverending Story (which may still happen)? Why?
All of this begs the question of what makes a good remake? A good remake requires a story that has a kernel of timelessness about it, but was itself not a great film. It needs to have a great premise that can actually be adapted to a modern setting. A great remake takes that kernel and updates the surrounding details while respecting the original idea and characters. The less established canon there is, the easier it will be to update the material. This is where The Last Starfighter comes in.
The Last Starfighter, released in 1984, follows Alex Rogan (played by Lance Guest), an average teenage boy from a small trailer park who is recruited by an alien defense force to fight for them after mastering an arcade game that doubles as a recruiting tool. It’s as much a coming of age story as it is a movie about space combat. The movie has great humor, real heart, and what were at the time groundbreaking special effects and CGI.
The Last Starfighter is a perfect candidate for an effective “rebootquel”. At the heart of the story is a relatable main character that feels isolated and trapped, who knows he was meant for more than his circumstances allow. He’s a gamer, and is, as far as we know, the only person to have mastered the skills of the game to be recruited. His skill is what allows him to be the hero the Star League needs to be their last hope.
With this as the kernel, there are so many places you can go and tell a compelling story updated for our time. Video game culture is on the rise, and gaming is nearly ubiquitous today. The idea of using a video game as a secret recruiting tool probably isn’t as novel as it once was, but can be effective if done right (and would be a great way to erase the blight that was Pixels from our minds). So many Young Adult films these days try to frame the coming of age drama in an apocalyptic setting, so this could be a fresh alternative that also appeals to a more family-friendly demographic.
Imagine having Alex take over the mantle of his recruiter, Centauri (played by the late Robert Preston). A new crisis has arisen, and after a series of military setbacks, the Star League needs recruits desperately. Despite Alex’s dramatic actions in the original film, the Star League still distrusts humans, so Alex sets out to prove them wrong. He uses the same approach of a space combat simulation game to find a couple of new pilots, and together they once again save the day. As a film we can explore the backstory of one or more of these new pilots, who, like Alex, gets to come of age and learn to have confidence in themselves through the film. Ideally, there’d be one focal protagonist, the main character who ties the film together the way Alex does in the first film, while also leaving plenty of room for a small cast of characters to shine together. This also gives Alex the chance to play the Obi-Wan role Centauri fills so well in the original.
There’s a lot of room in this space to keep main plot serious while preserving the light-hearted comedy caused in the generational gap between Alex and the new recruits, whether or not we explore again the learning androids that ‘replace’ characters once they leave. You could also explore the forced pair interactions with all new aliens like the dynamic between Grig and Alex. We have so much room to introduce new characters and settings. We know almost nothing about who the Star League is, why they are at war, and can create/explore a universe full of new peoples and things, not to mention covering what Alex has been doing for the last 30 years. We get the opportunity for updated graphics for space combat, which people will be clamoring for with the new Star Wars films releasing immanently. In many ways, there’d be a great parallel there, since many argue that The Last Starfighter was one of the last movies to ride the Star Wars wave before that wave finally broke.
The Last Starfighter may be a cult classic, but it doesn’t have the following that many other classics have nor does it have a particularly vast canon of lore, meaning you can comment on elements from the first film in this one, but you can also write this film for a new audience without having to spend a lot of time explaining the original setting. In short, it’s got the right kernel for a timeless story, with plenty of room to adapt to a modern audience. This film deserves a “rebootquel”.
What are your thoughts? Got another idea for films that actual deserve to be remade? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.