to recent news reports J. Michael Straczynski is writing a remake of the
‘Fifties classic Forbidden Planet, which will be produced by Joel Silver .
For most genre fans J. Michael Straczynski is of course
the brain behind the popular cult 1990s TV show
Babylon 5. He of course
also penned several comics including a mixed run on the Spider-man title (he penned
that notorious “it was all a dream” storyline that freaked fans a while
back). His most recent screenplay has been for the new “directed by
Clint Eastwood” movie, The Changeling.
Joel Silver is a Hollywood producer best known for his
1980s action movies such as the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard
franchises. As of late Silver has collaborated with the Wachowski brothers
on the ill-fated Speed Racer (he
produced the Matrix movies for them).
Silver is also the producer who wanted writer Kevin Smith to change
Superman’s costume and have him fight ice bears and have a robot sidekick
so that he can sell more toys. Thanks to Silver’s vacillation attempts to
revive the Superman franchise languished in development hell for more than
a decade, squandering millions of dollars in the process before
Superman Returns was finally made
in 2006. So the odds of Forbidden Planet being remade may
(fortunately) be much smaller than one would hope . . .
Anyway, the teaming of the Straczynski (a writer with
more literary aspirations as witnessed by the philosophical themes in the
grandiose Babylon 5) with the “let’s sell more toys and character
integrity be damned” caricature of a Hollywood producer will probably be a
match made in Hell.
The joke is of course that when one thinks about it,
Forbidden Planet has already been remade several times, namely as
Event Horizon (in 1997) and Solaris
(in 1972 and 2002). Of course Forbidden Planet itself is a remake
of sorts. It borrows heavily from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and throws in
a lot of Freudianism into the mix for good measure too. Released in 1956
Forbidden Planet was a rarity: a science fiction movie with a big budget
and state-of-the-art effects (back then most Hollywood science fiction
were mostly relegated to cheap B-movies). It was also a rarity in another
sense – it features a young Leslie Nielsen (Naked Gun, Superhero
Movie, etc.) in a straight role as a spaceship captain, but that is
the topic for another article altogether . . .
"Enough already with all these remakes!"
Forbidden Planet proved
to be hugely influential. Despite making the iconographic Robbie the Robot
design a part of popular culture consciousness (Robbie got his own movie
later on as well as a cameo in Joe Dante’s Looney Tunes: Back in Action
amongst others), the story practically provided the template for countless
Star Trek episodes in the years
that followed. The plot involves a spaceship crew being sent to
investigate what happened to a colony of scientists on a distant planet.
The crewmembers are confronted by a mystery: the scientists have all
disappeared, and the only people left on the planet are one of the
scientists, Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter (Anne Francis in
a famously skimpy swimsuit at one point).
Oh, and there’s the robot. And some inscrutable
technology left behind by an ancient alien race known as the Krell, and an
invisible giant monster attacking the crew members. See what we mean that
it might as well be a Star Trek episode?
Except it isn’t. It predates the original Trek series by almost a decade
and besides has so much hidden Freudianism subtext that you can write a
book on it. PLOT SPOILERS! No prizes for guessing that the
invisible monster attacking the crewmembers are in fact generated by the
advanced alien technology, which is unknowingly telepathically controlled
by the overprotective Dr. Morbius who wants to “protect” his sexually
naïve daughter from the newly arrived (male) interlopers. END
Forbidden Planet is of
course completely outdated with its very ‘Fifties vision of what
technology might be like one day (spaceships like flying saucers! golf
carts traveling at high speeds!). However that is exactly where part of
the movie’s charm lies: its very retro and quintessentially 1950s vibe.
Any attempt to update it to a more generic “modern” post-Alien
look will just be pointless. In fact a Forbidden Planet remake will
be pretty pointless in any case. Despite its somewhat sluggish pace it is
still quite an enjoyable flick today. Also, one is sure that the horror
element of the story will probably be amped in any modern remake, and what
we really don’t need at this stage is yet another “crewmembers menaced by
alien on alien planet” movie right now. Not that we think that Straczynski
will deliver a substandard screenplay, but we’re sure that Silver would
want to amp the property’s more commercial elements to the detriment of
its more intelligent leanings.
There are loads of great unfilmed science novels out
there. If Silver really wants to make a cool science fiction / action
movie, then how about acquiring the rights for Paul McAuley’s 2007 novel
Cowboy Angels? That one has “action blockbuster” written all over it. It
is a tough-as-nails Bourne Ultimatum-style actioner in which
so-called “Turing gates" allow one
version of America calling itself “the Real” to export its own vision of
truth, justice and the American way to other alternate reality versions of
America. It kicks off when an ex-CIA operative is sent to investigate why
his former partner gone renegade is killing off all the different versions
of a woman mathematician in all the other alternate universes. Now doesn’t that
sound like a movie you’d want to see? Put Bruce Willis in it and you've
got a hit, but enough already with all these