The other day I saw a commercial on TV that advertised an upcoming remake of the 1990 film Total Recall which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. This got me thinking about other remakes of science fiction films I’ve seen. Here’s my opinion about ten science fiction movie remakes, in no particular order.
1. The Thing (from Another World) (1951) vs. The Thing (1982) – I liked both the 1951 version with its intelligent dialog, and the 1982 version with Kurt Russell and its excellent special effects. Both films made my top ten lists of their respective decades.
2. Invaders from Mars (1953) vs. Invaders from Mars (1986) – All I have to say is ARGH! I absolutely love the 1953 version, which was directed by William Cameron Menzies; it’s one of my all-time favorite movies. I had high hopes for the remake before I saw it. But the 1986 version is just terrible.
3. It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) vs. Alien (1979) – In my opinion the 1979 film Alien is a virtual remake of this not-too-well-known 1958 low-budget film. Both movies are very good, but of course Alien is an all-time classic.
4. The Brain Eaters (1958) vs. The Puppet Masters (1994) – Another virtual remake. The very low-budget 1958 film is barely OK but it does have one of the all-time best movie posters (below). I did not like the 1994 version very much. I’m just not a Donald Sutherland fan and the film is nowhere near as good as the Robert Heinlein source book.
5. The War of the Worlds (1953) vs. War of the Worlds (2005) – I really like the 1953 production starring Gene Barry. I like the first 30 minutes of the 2005 version with Tom Cruise but then the newer version of the movie completely falls apart for me.
6. Godzilla (1956) vs. Godzilla (1998) – A perfect example of how not to make a remake. The 1956 version starring Raymond Burr (in the Americanized version), in spite of its limited special effects, has great impact. The 1998 version, with two of my favorite actors, Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno, over-focused on special effects and somehow led to a poor, boring movie.
7. Planet of the Apes (1968) vs. Planet of the Apes (2001) – I am definitely in the minority here with my opinion; I thought the original 1968 version with Charlton Heston was OK (I give it a C+), but I actually slightly prefer the 2001 version with Mark Wahlberg (B-).
8. The Fly (1958) vs. The Fly (1986) – I kind of enjoy the cheesy 1958 version starring Vincent Price but thought that film moved much too slowly. I slightly prefer the 1986 version with Jeff Goldblum even though I think the special effects are a bit too dramatic.
9. The Last Man on Earth (1964) vs. The Omega Man (1971) vs. I am Legend (2007) – Well, I just don’t like zombie-type movies and I don’t like any of these duds. The 1964 version with Vincent Price is slow and boring. The 1971 version with Charlton Heston is slow and boring. The 2007 version with Will Smith is slow and boring.
10. The Time Machine (1960) vs. The Time Machine (2002) – Another big remake-disappointment for me. I love the 1960 version with Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux as an Eloi. In theory, the new story elements and improved special effects should have made the 2002 version starring Guy Pearce a winner, but the movie just totally missed the mark.
A Few Other Comments:
Although not exactly a remake, I really like the 2009 reboot of “Star Trek”, starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Much better than the astronomically bad “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979).
I prefer the 1953 version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to the 1993 “Body Snatchers”, although Roger Ebert, whose opinion I greatly respect, considers the 1993 version much superior.
I like both the 1960 British production of “Village of the Damned” and the 1995 version with the same title starring Christopher Reeve; I give them both a C+ grade.
I prefer the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) to the 2008 rather boring remake starring Keanu Reeves. “Klaatu barada nikto.” I can never remember that phrase correctly.
I rate the 1958 version (with Steve McQueen) and the 1988 version of “The Blob” about equal. I thought the special effects in both films were nicely done.
The 1932 film “Island of Lost Souls”, with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi, is much better than 1977’s “The Island of Dr. Moreau” with Burt Lancaster and Michael York, and both films are infinitely better than the incredibly bad 1996 “The Island of Dr. Moreau” with Val Kilmer. “Are we not men?”
Although both are rather obscure, I like “The Time Travelers” (1964) (I give it a C) much better than the remake “Journey to the Center of Time” (1967) (D+).
I don’t like either the low-budget 1957 version of “Not of This Earth”, or the 1988 version starring Traci Lords.
I find the 1936 13-part serial of “Flash Gordon”, starring Buster Crabbe, rather entertaining and definitely superior to the campy 1980 film version with pre-Bond Timothy Dalton and soundtrack by Queen (which I thought was very strange.)
I did not at all like 1998’s “Lost in Space” movie with William Hurt and Gary Oldman; but the 1965-68 TV series wasn’t so good after the first season either.
I do not like either the slow-moving “Rollerball” (1975) with James Caan or the slow-moving 2002 remake with Chris Klein.
I’m not listing any super hero movies (Superman, Batman, X-Men, Iron Man, Spiderman, Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern, and so on) — they just don’t fall into the science fiction category in my mind. I’ve also left out some films like The “Stepford Wives” (1975 and 2004) for no reason other than I don’t have a strong opinion on them.