Wednesday, August 6, 2008

10 Genre Properties Begging To Be Adapted - Part 1

Hollywood is remake crazy these days. To be fair, it does make perfect sense. Why create something new and original (hard) when you can take something that works already and slap it up on the screen (easier!). It doesn't always work out (case in point: The Wicker Man remake. Oy), but it seems like Hollywood has less trepidation when it comes to adapting a successful property.

So, below, I give you the properties that I believe need to be fast-tracked. Some are already in development but have stalled. Some have been badly adapted before but could work with the right vision. All could be great. Here are the first five:

10 - Starblazers / Space Battleship Yamato - Debuting in the 1970's, this animated series was one of the first introductions of serious anime to North American audiences. Sure, Astro Boy and Speed Racer had been around, but they were clearly kids' stuff. Starblazers was a serious space opera where more adult themes and violence combined with space battles to create something new.

The story takes place in a future where Earth is being bombarded with radioactive bombs from alien enemies. A probe is uncovered that contains plans to a method of faster-than-light travel, as well as a message from friendly aliens who claim to have a device that will cleanse Earth of the radiation now seeping into their underground cities. The crew of a new ship has only one year to get to this planet and back to save Earth.

So, it's got a clear plot, cool concepts and space battles. A new, live-action version of this show could be as grim and gritty as today's Battlestar Galactica, or it could simply be an epic adventure. Either way, done with modern special effects and filled with kick-ass space dogfights, this could be a great ride.

9 - The Puppet Masters - An early novel from sci-fi giant Robert A. Heinlein, the story sees secret agents facing off against a parasitic race of aliens that attach themselves to the back of humans, thereby controlling them. Full of cool ideas such as secret agents continually altering their physical appearances through surgery and communication devices actually implanted into the body, the novel is one of the early "alien possession" classics, beating The Body Snatchers by a couple of years.

Sure, it's dated now, but a good writer could revise some of the more out-moded ideas and create a creepy and thrilling action film. It's been adapted before, notably into a 1994 with Donald Sutherland, but the adaptations take liberties with the story that render it somewhat cliched and lacklustre. Play up the more creepy aspect of having giant slugs attached to our bodies, as well as futuristic secret agents, and you'll have something.

8 - Daredevil - the TV Show - Yeah, yeah, it was a movie with Ben Affleck, and yeah, it was terrible. You know why? Because Daredevil wouldn't work as a movie. What it would work as is a TV show.

See, the movie made a big deal about "getting" Daredevil, but all it did was get the surface stuff. That's when comic book movies don't work. It's not about fights and costumes and super villains. Well, it's not just about that. There's a central thematic concept to all of the greats, and for Daredevil it's all about a guy who is both a believer in the system (he's a lawyer), but who also goes out and defies it by inflicting huge levels of violence on criminals. Nice dichotomy. Throw in some good Catholic guilt, a willingness to cross the line into brutality and some man-whore tendencies, and you've got a compelling central character.

The series has long been one of Marvel's darkest, ever since Frank Miller put his stamp on it. Miller took the series away from standard one-off stories and turned it toward darker, longer arcs. He created the Elektra saga, had reporter Ben Urich discover and conceal Daredevil's identity, and filled in alter ego Matt Murdock's back story. He began the epic and personal rivalry between Daredevil and crime kingpin Wilson Fisk, culminating in the "Born Again" arc, where Fisk discovers his identity and totally destroys Matt Murdock's life, leaving him a homeless, babbling wreck.

Later creative teams have pushed the envelope even further, providing years of material for TV writers. Keep it as dark and adult as the book has long been, and you'll have a winner.

7 - Ubik - Philip K. Dick has long been a favourite of Hollywood. Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly are just four of the films based on his work. His work tends towards examinations of the nature of reality and identity, and how our perceptions can define or alter them. That usually has proven too heady for Hollywood, so they've rarely fully plumbed the depths as much as Dick did in his writing.

Ubik centers around two major concepts within a futuristic society. First, the newly dead or near dead are placed into a state called "half-life", where for a limited amount of years, their loved ones can continue to communicate with them. Second, the society is plagued by telepaths who perform terrorist acts, industrial espionage and the like, forcing the development of "anti-telepaths", people who can detect and block telepaths. When a company of anti-telepaths are called to the moon on a job, a bomb goes off, seemingly killing their CEO. However, the survivors soon begin to question whether or not they were killed instead, and whether the reality they perceive is real or a shared hallucination.

Complex and twisty, but could be a real mind-fuck of a movie if handled by someone like David Fincher.

6 -Film based on the works of HP Lovecraft - Remember when the first trailer for Cloverfield came out, and there was a ton of speculation about what exactly the movie was about? The best theory I heard was that it was a movie based on the Cthulhu Mythos created by HP Lovecraft. That theory was incredibly more interesting than the rather annoying monster movie it turned out to be.

Lovecraft wrote pulp horror stories in the 1920's. He created what is now termed as cosmic horror: a sub-genre that says that life in the largest sense cannot be grasped by human minds and that the universe at large is unknowably alien. His stories featured giant idiot-gods known as "The Great Old Ones" or "Elder Things"; gigantic hideous alien monstrosities with such power that they were completely unstoppable and unknowable.

While cool and all, stories depicting a basically impotent human race encountering god-like monsters leaves little opportunity for dramatic tension. Still, you can see pockets of his stuff appear in tons of places such as Hellboy, Evil Dead and the works of Stephen King. There are successful video games out there based on his stories, and he's long been a cult icon. Perhaps a movie where a tough private eye uncovers a dark cult that is attempting to raise one of these monsters would be good; full of chills and squishy sub-monsters. You'd have to cut out Lovecraft's rather distasteful racism, though.

See you soon for Part 2, and the final five!

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