REMAKE THIS! ‘Buffy’ without Whedon and a new Disney ‘Navigator’ stir fans up

05.26.09 8 years ago 12 Comments

20th Century Fox

I haven’t written a “Remake This!” column in a while, because I’ve gotten almost numb to the onslaught of remake news.  It seems like every week brings three or four truly terrible ideas for remakes, and at this point, what can anyone say that’s going to slow the tidal wave of crap from coming?  It’s a business model that seems to work, so no matter what online petitions are signed or how many people send items to the offices of executives in protest, remakes aren’t going away.

I was teasing some of my fellow nerds earlier tonight when I saw them weeping online about the announcement that Disney and Mandeville are going to be remaking “Flight Of The Navigator,” a crummy 1986 sci-fi kid’s film.  If you were a child when you saw the original and you loved it, I’m not about to try to talk you out of your nostalgia.  I understand.  I think part of me is at the point where I want to teach a seminar called “Most Of What You Loved As A Child Was Garbage.”  It’s true of everyone.  What seems to make my generation and younger different from earlier generations is that we hold on to the ephemera of our childhood with a near-rabid fervor.  And we profess our undying love of it even as adults, even if we’ve rewatched it and found it lacking.  There’s something fundamentally arrested about us, and as a result, I actually saw a guy standing outside the press screening of “Transformers” screaming into a phone, so angry he had tears in his eyes, about how “they RAPED it, man! They RAPED it!”

A toy commercial.  This is what a 30-something-year-old adult is worked up over.  Okay, then.

[more after the jump]

I understand the power of nostalgia, but I am no slave to it.  I have rewatched many things as an adult that hold up to the affection I gave to them as a kid, and I’ve rewatched just as many things that are so dreadful I can’t believe I ever sat still long enough to see them the first time.  And as an adult, I can be objective enough to separate my pleasant memories of something from the reality of it when rewatched, and I’m fine with that.  I don’t need for the shows I saw as a child to be amazing now.  My identity is not dependent on the idea that every single thing I liked before my skull fully hardened needs to be as great as I thought it was then.  Not every film made for children in the ’80s was good.  Hell, very few of them were genuinely good.  But if you try to discuss that, there is a generation that will shout you down and call you names.  It’s actually sort of impressive how deeply imprinted some of these films are on them thanks to endless reviewings on cable and VHS.

“Flight Of The Navigator” mystifies me as a property to remake because the original wasn’t just a terrible movie… it was also an enormous box-office bomb.  If I remember correctly, it made a grand total of $317 in its entire domestic run at the box-office.  Not $317 million.  Not $317 thousand.  Just $317.  The only thing I’d offer up as a positive memory is that it offered Paul Reubens a little voice-over work.  Which is always a good thing.  Always.  Always.  Always.

So maybe this is a case where they can take a somewhat interesting idea and actually make a good film out of it this time instead of a lame “Witch Mountain” knock-off.  The idea is that a young boy vanishes for eight years and when he shows up again, he’s the same age, and he’s got a UFO with him.  There’s potential there, especially if you play up the creepy.  Obviously it’ll be a big FX picture, but I hope Brad Copeland is able to turn in a really strong script, otherwise there’s no real reason to revisit this one.

Copeland, for the record, was a writer on “Arrested Development,” but he also wrote “Wild Hogs.”  So I have no idea what to expect.

I do know that Fran Kazui is out of her Vulcan mind, though.  And here’s where you can feel free to call me a hypocrite, because I’ve said before that there’s no reason to get worked up over remakes.  And yet… I am having trouble fathoming what sort of profound head trauma would lead Kazui and Vertigo Entertainment to decide that now is the time to reboot “Buffy” without Joss Whedon’s involvement.

What is the point?

The show ran seven years on television, and there’s a very successful and interesting comic series running now that continues with the same group of characters.  The fanbase is rabid, but they’re rabid for that cast, those characters, that continuity.  The last thing they want is for someone to wipe all of that away and start over without any of the same characters.  The basic idea (girl fights vampires) is pretty much the definition of generic.  What made “Buffy” wonderful… and it was… was the way it took its premise as metaphor and then built a huge, rich, frequently hilarious mythology around it.  The writing and the casting made that show… not the basic premise.

Rebooting “Buffy” completely is a recipe for disaster.  You want to see a train crash?  Just watch the opening weekend numbers if they ever actually wrangle this terrible idea onto the screen.

I’ll give them this… in a town where truly jaw-dropping stupidity is the norm, a “Buffy” remake almost deserves an award for standing out from the pack.

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