Hollywood is dead set to refresh everything you’ve ever seen. I figure if I can’t stop them, then I’ll show them how it’s done. What film franchise do you wish you could take back to the drawing board? Not for nostalgia’s sake, but because there’s something worth exploring there.
Here’s how my new series will work: you give me a film franchise in dire need of repair and I’ll write you a fully realized pitch. As a former script reader, I’ve written over two-hundred coverages, as well as treatments, and script notes. Having pitched to networks and studios, sat in on meetings, and the board of the Minnesota Screenwriters Workshop, I can say I know my way around a screenplay.
Rather than criticize the parade of titles Hollywood dishes out, I want to pose alternatives. If I say I could come up with a better plot, I better have a narrative to back it up. Any mega fan can recognize where a series fell flat, but it’ll take some imagination to wrench it back up off the ground. It’s one thing to say The Phantom Menace lacked a clear protagonist, it’s another to give it one.
I’m not just going to make an abstract series of demands for J.J. Abrams to check through when he’s making the next Star Wars movie. I’m going to write a condensed outline of what that movie might be. Explaining my reasoning, I’ll show my work, and welcome objections.
I’m going to start by scraping the bottom of the barrel, the films with so many entries they’ve destroyed their own continuity. The ones that no longer resemble the classics they came from. The ones that jumped the shark, nuked the fridge, and stepped in the Eopie poop.
I’m talking about the sequels that took spec scripts and shoe horned their series mainstays in, because it was cheaper than writing a fresh script (Die Hard and Hellraiser I’m looking in your direction). I’m talking about the franchises that were ruined by investors who thought it would be a good idea to bring aliens in (Highlander fans are still pretending part 2 never happened). I’m talking about the reboots that did more harm to the brand than good (Nightmare on Elm Street is not supposed to put you to sleep).
Here’s my proposal: I want to tell new stories with new characters, in the same universe. Let’s take the best parts of fan fiction and put them up on screen. I’ll make controversial proposals that could spark heated debate. I’ll take the backbones of these franchises, and spin them on their heads. Knowing that most of these properties are already being remade, I’ll pitch something so far out of the left field, no one will see it coming. I’ll be the lightning rod to direct your nerd rage at, the spark that ignites yelling matches between geeks, the free lunch for trolls everywhere.
Here’s my stance: I’d rather refresh a franchise than reboot it. Let’s tear down the old sets and rebuild from the ground up. Forget about Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, a retelling that missed the social commentary of the original. Give me Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a familiar concept from a different vantage point, with a whole new cast of characters.
I don’t want to see a young Captain Kirk face off against the Borg. I want the series to boldly go to a plot line it hasn’t gone to before, to show us new worlds, and give us new moral quandaries. Don’t get me wrong, I love this new cast, but I don’t want to see them in another story with a Khan-like villain. Captain Picard became Captain Ahab over the course of four movies, let’s not have Kirk go through the same transformation.
We don’t need to meet a young Connor Macleod, we need to meet his Highlander brethren. We don’t need to paint the mask of irony on another Eric Draven, let’s have a Crow film starring a woman. We don’t need a found footage Jason movie, we need a Friday the 13th with a protagonist who is just as compelling.
Do we need to see what’s in the Freeling family’s closet again, or could we meet a new family with a similar Poltergeist situation?
Does Ridley Scott need to take us to the engineers’ home world in Prometheus 2, or could we take a pit stop in one of the worlds they’ve decimated already? Maybe he could introduce us to a creature in the engineers’ arsenal that makes the Alien xenomorphs look like kittens in comparison, something the Predators wouldn’t have a chance at hunting.
If Clive Barker really wants to wow me with his next Hellraiser movie, he’d make Pinhead the protagonist, and have him take on a even more malevolent foe. OR make the cenobites one of two feuding demon mobs our hero is forced to play against each other, like a grifter with a debt hanging over her head. OR he’d go back to his original concept and make the cenobites other worldly sadomasochists with no affiliation with the afterlife. These creatures aren’t moralists, but explorers in the further regions of experience.
Your job will be to tell me what series you think is broken, in the comments section. I’m not going to catalogue their problems (the rest of the internet has got that covered). My job will be to prescribe a solution, to pitch a fix, to adjust an established universe to accommodate a brand new story. I’ll write a treatment that hits every major plot point, with a logline and everything. I’ll give you conflict, a character arc, the whole shebang.
You’re welcome to come back and nitpick, to respectfully disagree, or to shout heresy until your lungs bleed.
With a little luck we’ll come up with something so cool that we’ll feel compelled to free it from its source material and turn it into its own thing.