A guest post by Ken Hoover.
Stranger Things ignited my 80s nostalgia. The Duffer Brothers transplanted my childhood into a King/Spielberg/Carpenter mashup. Once again, I was playing D&D, riding bikes with my friends, and using my psychic powers to flip secret-government vehicles. I wanted to tie a bandana around my forehead, breakdance, and wear parachute pants. OK, maybe not that last part. OK, maybe a little. What impressed me most was how fresh the story felt, while paying homage to everything 80s. The film references alone were astonishing, and it was thrilling to see a Trapper Keeper in a school locker, an Atari console, and a running reference to The Uncanny X-Men.
Since binge-watching the series, I’ve had many conversations with family, friends, and colleagues about 80s music, cartoons, TV shows, films, books, toys, and comics. With that in mind, I’ve created my own Top 5 list of 80s properties I’d like to see remade.
Disclaimer: I’ve chosen a film, a TV show, a cartoon, a book, and a comic book character to be adapted in various ways. In creating this list, I excluded titles that have been done or are currently in production, such as Miami Vice, Ghostbusters, Magnum P.I., and Highlander. And I stayed away from the titles that should never be remade, namely The Princess Bride, Labyrinth, Say Anything, The Dark Crystal, The Breakfast Club, and Big Trouble in Little China.
I know, I know. Ladyhawke should be on the “don’t touch” list. I assume everyone’s seen this one, but I’ll omit spoilers, just in case. First, it’s a gorgeous film. Second, it introduces the main characters spectacularly. Phillipe “the Mouse” is crawling through a filthy medieval sewer to escape his own execution. Then there’s Navarre, the imposing anti-hero in black, with his black horse, Goliath, a gleaming silver sword, a crossbow, and his hawk. Gnarly image. And Lady Isabeau’s entrance is full of mystery and wonder. Finally, Ladyhawke has one of the best fantasy curses ever. It’s clearly an iconic fantasy film.
If it’s so good, why remake it?
Let’s start with the music (cringe). I loved 80s synth music, but it didn’t fit the film setting then, and it’s even cheesier now. Hans Zimmer could do wonders on his worst day. Music aside, the script is pretty good, even though the film gets criticized for its stilted dialogue. But the problem, I think, is more about the delivery, not the writing. Of the three main characters, Matthew Broderick gives us a semblance of an accent, and his running conversation with God steals the show. “I told the truth, Lord! How can I learn any moral lessons when you keep confusing me like this?” But it’s hard to suspend your disbelief when you’re yanked out of the illusion by incongruous music and American accents (see also: Costner, Kevin). The trio of Broderick, Hauer, and Pfieffer were big box office names in the 80s. But we could do better today, folks. I’d be interested in your casting choices. We can continue the conversation on Twitter.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
Good ol’ Buck has been around since the 1920s in every possible media type—novels, radio, serials, comics, video games, RPG, films, and the XZ-38 Disintegrator Pistol even appears on a Foo Fighters album cover. But it was the short-lived TV show, featuring Gil Gerard and Erin Grey, which got me amped as a kid!
The premise: an astronaut is blown off course and frozen by a devastating cosmic event, only to return to Earth five hundred years later. Turns out, the dude missed a nuclear holocaust. Now Earth is united under the Earth Defense Directorate, headquartered in New Chicago. There, Buck befriends Colonel Wilma Deering, a birdman named Hawk, and two robots, Dr. Theopolis and Twiki (voiced by Mel Blanc: Beedebeedebeep). Life is good in New Chicago. There’s funky costuming, weird synthesizer music, and glow-in-the-dark dancing. If only it weren’t for those Draconians with their smokin’ military leader, Princess Ardala. Oh, and pirates, assassins, and creepy space vampires.
The challenge of a remake would be in creating the right tone, I think. The 80s show was lighthearted with bouts of deadly seriousness. Other SF franchises have been successful in portraying character-driven humor, intense action, and horror, namely the cult-behemoth Firefly, and the revamp of Star Trek. (Speaking of Firefly, who better to play Buck than Nathan Fillion?) With the quality of today’s special effects, writing, costuming, and amazing stunt work, a revamped Buck could be awesome!
The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
Because Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, and Voltron have already been redone, that leaves me with my dark horse cartoon choice. In a nutshell, the Galaxy Rangers are space cowboys with unique cybernetic powers. The captain, Zach, was gravely wounded by a pirate, and is now half-bionic, with super strength and a powerful energy blast. On his team, there’s Niko with her limited psychic abilities and superbad martial arts. Doc controls nanobot-like creatures. And Goose, a gunslinger, can adapt his body to suit his environment.
The anime action and X-Men-like powers were rad, but the unique factor was the diverse pseudo-Wild West galaxy they explored. In their brief airtime, the Rangers combated outlaws, pirates, mobsters, rogue super soldiers, mad scientists, as well as conquering queens seeking to enslave humans. My enthusiasm for the Galaxy Rangers grew into a love of Weird Western. In fact, my serial Weird Western, The Midnight Agency, coming out this winter, owes much to this 80s cartoon.
There is a definite place for Weird Western (Westworld, The Dark Tower). Considering the quality of today’s animation, I see unlimited potential for a Galaxy Rangers reboot.
It took me a while to settle on this one. Although it’s been (ahem) thirty years since I read the series, the characters won me over. Who can forget Raistlin Majere, with his hourglass eyes and fits of coughing blood, whose quest for magical power nearly killed him? Or Sturm Brightblade’s sacrifice? Or Kitiara, Tanis, Flint, or Camaron? They are all wonderfully tortured souls. And then there are the dragons, who are full characters, rich with history and knowledge and power.
The franchise spans over 200 books plus RPGs, which seems too expansive to be contained in a single film. The bad animated movie is in desperate need of a reboot. A live-action trilogy could work. With an audience who loves complex characters, magic, the undead, and dragons, Dragonlance seems poised to be a successful series. After all, it sits somewhere between Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Martin’s Game of Thrones.
Last one. Would somebody at Marvel HQ please put Logan back in a brown costume? Yellow and blue look great on college football helmets, but not this stealthy, predatory character. I cannot imagine Logan rifling through his closet and saying, “I feel like wearing yellow today.”
Ken Hoover is a mild-mannered bookstore manager, pop culture fan, and a coffee-addicted word-slinger. His stories have appeared in Bourbon Penn, Crowded Magazine, and in The Book of the Emissaries, a flash fiction anthology. His serial novel, The Midnight Agency, will be available soon via Fiction Vortex, as part of the White Event serial box. Ken lives in New Mexico with his rad family. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.