The handing off of the crown jewels of American culture, Star Wars and Star Trek, to JJ Abrams, is a recognition of his powers as a popular storyteller. He understands the importance of preserving the principal elements of the story but also allows for the casual viewer to engage. The original Star Trek is fun to watch for someone like me who grew up with it, but to my sons who grew up with tablets and smartphones, the visuals don’t impress. Yeoman Rand after all carries a tablet that is thick, chunky, and pretend. They don’t can’t connect to many of the issues that drive the stories. The paranoia of the Cold War, the casual sexism, and the science love of the Sputnik generation, these are themes they have to be taught. It frankly makes for challenging viewing that gets in the way of the stories.
I’ve made a list of movies or stories that are begging for an update by Abrams. To purists, I get that these reboots are distracting, but they are far less distracting than colorizing black and white movies, reissuing new and improved directors cuts with CGI pasted in (I’m looking at you Lucas), and making lame remakes that kill the stories for a generation.
1. Logan’s Run. Originally a dark tale of the logic of youth culture run amok, the movie butchered it with terrible acting (Farrah Fawcett, I’m looking at you) and bad understanding of computers. The dystopian visuals of a World Without Us Washington, DC, were amazing. The core themes of rebellion, totalitarianism, and transitions from youth to adulthood would play well if done by Abrams.
2. Dune Trilogy. Let’s agree that David Lynch is really great with trippy psychodramas involving beautiful women and nerdy dudes but the soufflé collapsed in the vastness of Dune, both the novel and planet. I don’t completely blame Lynch because I see the hand of Di Laurentis, the producer, everywhere. It was like Di Laurentis wanted “The Space Medicis” while Kyle Machlachlan and Lynch were just redeeming their Hollywood tickets. The first three Dune novels are masterpieces and need a big budget and the resources of a medium sized country to do properly like Lord of the Rings, and Abrams should at least oversee it if not make it. Syfy channel made a bunch of miniseries based on the books but it is like seeing the Grand Canyon from inside of a box with a postcard sized hole. Land battles involving thousands should never be montages (looking at you Lucas).
3. Battlestar Galactica. The original was sold as a competitor to Star Wars, but the miniseries pilot was a proper movie on its own with strange, big ideas that no one remembers like Chariots of the Gods extraterrestrial origins of humanity. The reboot that started 10 years ago was a grim commentary about the end of a world much like ours, but got mired in awfully slow grim seasons (Battlestar Falluja?) that sought to make profound statements about our world with the sublety of a suicide bomb vest. The Cylons at the start seemed so dreadful but ended up after six seasons as a multitude of clones of the most annoying people at a office holiday party who are overlords of chrome toaster minions who have been throttled by chip modifications to be slaves, the original condition that caused them to rebel. Abrams would fix this, and return it to where it belongs -well executed space opera.
4. Speed Racer. Rebooting the recent reboot will be hard because the Wachowskis turned my beloved anime into a strange nightmare acid trip. It needed to stay true to its retro-future roots (Ascension, approving finger pointed at you) while keeping Speed vaguely Eurasian. Keep it animated and co produce it with Studio Ghibli. Major nerdgasms for a Bad Robot-Studio Ghibli reboot.
5. Six Million Dollar Man. It needs an update, and a new name because six million dollars won’t cover your basic ICU stay any more. Call it the Six Billion Dollar Man and give him prosthetic body after being decapitated by militants at the exact moment of his rescue –he is placed on an organ preservation machine and brought back for the fix. The reason –the secrets in his head that could save the world.