Hollywood, Back to the Future: Top filmmakers have already dipped into the sci-fi vault for 21st century remakes of “The War of the Worlds,” “The Planet of the Apes” and the upcoming “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” so what’s next on the revival list? Plenty. Here’s a list of a dozen remakes and revival projects now at various stages in the studio pipeline.
"When Worlds Collide" Steven Spielberg is one of the producers and Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy,” “Van Helsing”), infamous for his “give me more” attitude toward CGI effects, is directing. Like the original 1951 film produced by George Pal, this “Worlds,” due in theaters next year, is about the mad scramble to build a spaceship to save humanity before Earth is destroyed by a rogue planet entering its orbit. The problem comes when there aren’t enough seats for everybody on Earth.
"The Terminator" It’s not a remake, but filmmaker McG’s plan to revive the killer robot franchise with a new sequel next summer starring Christian Bale as John Connor has been circled by fans after a strong showing this past summer at Comic-Con International. “Terminator Salvation” is set in the future and shows the grim war between humans and Skynet with its murderous metallic armies. The plan is for a full trilogy — which means a certain California politician may well live up to that long-ago promise: “I’ll be back.”
"Robocop" If the Terminator can get tuned up for a revival, why not that other 1980s mechanical hero? After several fits and starts, MGM announced in March that a reboot of “Robocop” would be in theaters in 2010. Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler,” “Requiem for a Dream”) is directing the remake of Paul Verhoeven’s bloody movie about a Detroit cop who is gunned down but then put back on patrol as a cyborg with troubled soul.
"Ghostbusters" There’s talk of making a third installment in the hugely successful sci-fi comedy franchise and bringing back the original crew — Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson — as well as some new-blood, second-generation busters. Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, writers for “The Office,” are at work on the script for Columbia Pictures and Murray, in the past the most reluctant to return to the franchise, has said publicly that he’s open to the idea. There was talk of Seth Rogen being a likely cast addition but don’t bother calling him: “It sounds,” he said in October, “like the worst idea ever."
"The Creature from the Black Lagoon" Breck Eisner, the director of “Sahara” and son of former Disney chief Michael Eisner, is directing while screenwriter Gary Ross is on board to retell the story of an Amazon River expedition that crosses paths with a prehistoric amphibian humanoid. The presence of Ross gives the 2009 release a link to the original 1954 film — that Universal classic was written by his father, Arthur A. Ross. Bill Paxton’s name has come up as one of the rumored cast members.
"Flash Gordon" After the “Black Lagoon” remake, director Eisner is planning to revive Flash Gordon for Columbia, bringing back the brand that hit the silver screen in 1980 with the campy Dino DeLaurentiis production that so memorably featured the music of Queen, not to mention the unexpectedly galactic pair of Topol and Timothy Dalton. Alex Raymond’s classic space hero, originally created as a comic strip rival to Buck Rogers, celebrates his 75th anniversary in pop culture next month but it’s not clear that his retro appeal still holds. Earlier this year, Sci Fi canceled its “Flash Gordon” series, which had ratings that proved that Ming isn’t the one who is merciless.
"Westworld" The late Michael Crichton wrote and directed the 1973 sci-fi thriller about a theme park where rich visitors can live out fantasies like engaging in Old West gunfights, thanks to the park’s androids, such as the menacing robot cowboy memorably portrayed by Yul Brynner. Just like in his “Jurassic Park,” though, you know things are going to go badly for the smug and boozy tourists. Crichton had worked recently on a script for a remake (and, at one point, Quentin Tarantino was approached to direct) but the author’s death in November may mark the end of the reboot effort.
"Logan’s Run" This is a remake that can’t seem to find sanctuary even after a decade of attempts. A few years ago, Bryan Singer (“The X-Men,” “The Usual Suspects”) was all set to re-imagine the 1976 movie about a society where everyone submits to state-ordered execution parlors on their 30th birthday or gets hunted down by agents called Sandmen (the age was 21 in the 1967 novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson that served as source material). Singer dropped out to make “Superman Returns,” though, and now producer Joel Silver (“The Matrix” films) appears intent to regenerate with a newcomer as director, namely Joseph Kosinski, who has made his name in television commercials.
"Forbidden Planet" Producer Silver is also behind a planned revival of this 1956 classic that gave a sci-fi twist to Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and starred Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen long before his career tilted toward comedy. It also introduced the world to Robbie the Robot, a machine man who would show in film and television shows for decades. At one point James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Aliens”) had flirted with a “Forbidden” remake but right now it’s not clear who will be directing. In October, it was announced that screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (“The Changeling”) is on board.
"Frankenstein" Mary Shelley’s classic horror tale of science gone awry has given Hollywood shambling visions of cemetery horror for decades, among them Boris Karloff’s iconic 1930s performances and Robert DeNiro’s very different take in the 1994 Kenneth Branagh remake. Next up? Guillermo Del Toro says that after he finishes the two-film version of “The Hobbit” he will turn his attention to the gothic morality tale and that actor Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in “Hellboy”) might play the patchwork man. This one is still a long way off; “The Hobbit” films are due in theaters in 2010 and 2011. Del Toro has also talked about making a “Slaughterhouse Five” remake.
"Fahrenheit 451" It’s been 55 years since the publication of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel about Guy Montag, a “fireman,” a term for state-employed book burners of the future. Francois Truffaut brought the story to the silver screen in 1966 and there have been numerous efforts over the past decade to cook up a remake, with Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt among the stars who have flirted with the Montag role at different points. Writer-director Frank Darabont (“The Green Mile,” “The Shawshank Redemption”) is on the job now with a planned 2010 release even though his announced star, Tom Hanks, dropped out of the project in March.
"The Illustrated Man" Another Bradbury work that is planned for a 2010 release (the year the author will celebrate his 90th birthday) is this project from the “Watchmen” duo of director Zack Snyder (who also directed “300”) and screenwriter Alex Tse. “The Illustrated Man” was a 1951 book of 18 short stories (including one, “Rocket Man,” that inspired the Elton John hit) that were linked by a bizarre framing device — a bum who is covered into tattoos from the future that move and represent the characters in the tales. It was made into a 1969 film starring Rod Steiger but it’s not clear what direction Snyder is taking the property.
"Dune" Actor and director Peter Berg ("Hancock," "The Kingdom") has stepped up to wrestle with an adaptation of the late Frank Herbert’s grand intergalactic novel "Dune" and the plan is to have it in theaters in 2010, the 45th anniversary of the novel that would become the bestselling science-fiction title ever. David Lynch famously brought the story of cosmic spice wars to the screen in late 1984 (with a huge cast that included Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Max von Sydow and Virgina Madsen) but the final product left most viewers cold and confused and the "Blue Velvet" auteur himself later said he regretted the project.
– Geoff Boucher
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UPDATE: An early version of this post had an error in the Flash Gordon capsule; I wrote that Topol wore wings in the 1980 film which was wrong but it was still fun to type. I also said the drop-dead age in "Logan’s Run" was 21 which is sorta right (that’s the age in the novel) and sorta wrong (it was 30 in the movie). For all this and so much more, I am truly sorry. ALSO: I had a tidy 12 movies listed and a reader mentioned Peter Berg’s "Dune" so I HAD to add that one to the list which makes it a nice round 13. Great, thanks for that.