We’re not conservatives here at Flavorpill — we marveled at Avatar like everyone else, and we’re huge fans of modern CGI and motion capture techniques, and constantly in awe of the previously unimaginable cinematic possibilities they allow. We’re sure that there are some old-time filmmakers who’d kill to get at such technology — can you imagine Alejandro Jodorowsky let loose with CGI, for instance? But equally, there are some films that work precisely because of the archaic technology they used, and that we reckon wouldn’t be improved with glitzy modern makeovers. The latest questionable remake — Matthijs van Heijningen’s take on John Carpeneter’s The Thing — is out this week, and with Hollywood looking more and more to the past for inspiration, we’re pre-emptively warning them off the films after the jump. What are your untouchable classics?
The Dark Crystal
Anyone who’s seen The Muppet Show can testify to how uncannily expressive Jim Henson’s puppets were. But we think his work reached its zenith with this classic, a surprisingly dark piece of fantasy that was a massive part of Flavopill’s childhood. The Skeksis are frightening even today, while protagonist Jed and his fellow Gelflings manage to be both cute (without being, y’know, cutsesy) and genuinely sympathetic characters. We can’t imagine either aspect of the film would be improved by replacing the puppets with computer-generated versions.
Star Wars — A New Hope
Or either of the other films in the original trilogy, for that matter. George Lucas’s appetite for tinkering with his films apparently knows no bounds, and while the idea of a Star Wars remake seems outlandish, we wouldn’t put it past the man who thinks it’s a grand old idea to go back and insert unneeded dialogue (and Jar Jar Binks) in films that were perfectly OK the first time round. Part of the startling realism of the original trilogy comes from its use of models instead of CGI — when the transition was made to the latter with The Phantom Menace, the results were decidedly underwhelming.
Even in 2011, the monster from Alien is scary as hell. Why? Because the HR Giger models and costumes that Ridley Scott used still look scary as hell. For all that the CGI aliens that appeared in Alien Resurrection were technologically impressive, we don’t think they have quite the same impact as the ghastly predator that stalks Ripley et al in the original film.
Like Alien, part of the reason why Jaws was so frightening is that so much was left to the imagination. This wasn’t entirely intentional on the part of director Steven Spielberg — the mechanical shark used in the film was unreliable and expensive, and thus Spielberg shot scenes where the creature’s presence was implied rather than made explicit. It worked a treat, and we can’t imagine that a big-budget modern interpretation with a photorealistic CGI shark would show similar restraint, or have anything like the same effect.
Similarly, vintage horror films often worked because you couldn’t really create hyper-realistic zombies/ghosts/etc — you had to work with what you had. The fact that these days you can create entirely realistic sequences that involve convincing gore and crazy-looking zombies doesn’t necessarily mean you should — a point amply demonstrated by the god-awful 2006 remake of Night of the Living Dead, amongst others. Anyway, the proto-special effects used in this film are surprisingly effective, and again, we can’t imagine that a modern remake would retain anything like the campy charm of the original.
2001 — A Space Odyssey
Just imagine Michael Bay making this. And shudder.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Francis Ford Coppola apparently took great pleasure in firing every CGI wizard that the studio foisted upon him during the making of this film, insisting on filming the entire thing using exotic make-up, detailed scale models and nifty camera techniques. The film itself is definitely one that polarizes opinion — but whether you love it or hate it, we’d hate to see someone rampage through with a blood-drenched CGI vampire and make a mess of it.
Sure, we can’t imagine that there’s much danger of Hollywood letting loose on this 1950s French classic any time soon, but on the off chance that some studio does discover Jean Cocteau’s interpretation of the myth of Orpheus and decide it could do with a modern sprucing-up — it couldn’t. Its remarkably ahead-of-their-time effects are still just fine, over six decades later.
ET — The Extra-Terrestrial
Somewhere out there, there’s a Hollywood executive thinking to himself, “Hey, what if we get Andy Serkis to play ET?” Don’t. Please don’t. We have nothing against motion capture or Andy Serkis — indeed, we’re big fans of both — but some things are better left alone, as the “digitally enhanced” 2002 butchery of this film demonstrated only too well.
Actually, we doubt that even modern supercomputers could deal with the task of reproducing David Bowie’s crotch.