10. MacGyver (1985) vs. MacGruber (2010)
MacGyver: This clever hit TV series couldn’t be ignored by anyone alive and reasonably conscious in the mid-’80s. Secret agent MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) used his brain in place of a gun, and relied on his knowledge of science to save himself and others. MacGyver could literally design lifesaving tools from a gum and paper clips … no wonder it gained a beloved cult favorite status.
MacGruber: Counting on the popularity of the series, this is a spoof comedy, led by Will Forte’s bumbling secret agent, whose lack of skill and abundance of personal problems serve as a detriment to him—and those around him.
Winner: MacGyver, easily.
This is an example of a really ridiculous effort to build on the ’80s magic. MacGruber’s big failure is, among others, the-far fetched expectation that thirty-five- to forty-year-olds will enjoy a spoof of a series they watched when they were ten! Next time, don’t wait twenty years to make the spoof …
9. Miami Vice (1984) vs. Miami Vice (2006)
Original: One of the most popular TV shows of the ’80s, it helped define the fashion and music of the period while maintaining high-quality police drama standards. Miami Vice is a fascinating cultural document of the ’80s, as well as a stylized and exciting cop show.
Remake: This rough movie follows the violent, dangerous adventures of Crockett and Tubbs, with Miami at the center of a global drug trade. Both men continually struggle with personal demons to stay on the right side of the law.
Winner: the TV series (and actually, anyone who simply didn’t go to see the movie).
In line with the introspective, gloomy wave of 2000s remakes/sequels, this remake simply eliminated all that was exciting, fun—even campy—in the original series.
8. Fame (1980) vs. Fame (2009)
Original: The film won an Oscar for Best Original Score and Song. The ’80s TV series that followed was a huge hit. Both had lovable casts and inspired music-and-dance numbers that seem to burst forth spontaneously out of sheer irrepressible emotion. In those days, everybody hummed the main theme song, tried to dance like Leroy, loved Mr. Shorofsky, and recited Debbi Allen’s memorable line: “You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying ... in sweat.”
Remake: This modernization of the classic musical from 1980 more or less does the same, and allows students at the New York School of Performing Arts to take center stage.
Winner: The ’80s movie, obviously.
The 2009 movie was bad and redundant. As with MacGruber, producers failed to notice reality (in more than one sense): with so many reality shows like American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance?, the charm of an art school that takes common, even hard-case youngsters and make them stars, is a bit outdated. High School Musical movies and Glee knew how to adapt.
7. Hairspray (1988) vs. Hairspray (2007)
Original: This offbeat, cult music comedy from John Waters actually takes place in the 1960s. Energetic, overweight teen Tracy Turnblad wants to get on a hip local TV dance program. Her lively dance moves and bubbly personality are met with unexpected popularity, and she finds herself fighting against discrimination by black dancers, and also against angry, scheming fellow dancer Amber and her pushy mother.
Remake: While less out there than Waters’ original, the film is still quirky, thanks largely to another John, this time Travolta, playing Tracy’s overweight mother. The creators also smartly updated the original by making the remake a musical. The result was a great success.
Winner: a draw.
Each title had its uniqueness and style; this is how you make a ’80s remake. One reservation, though: maybe the fact that both movies are period titles dealing with the ’60s helped fight the ’80s-remake spell.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) vs. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
1984: “Don’t fall asleep” was the mantra of a group of small-town teenagers terrorized by a mysterious, hellish character who entered their dreams and systematically slaughtered them in their sleep. This excellent, surprisingly surrealistic genre entry became a successful franchise. Everybody remembers (and maybe even dreams about) the slashing, razor-fingered hand of the tormented Freddy Krueger.
2010: In the revival of the franchise, we once again meet slasher-film legend Freddy Krueger, once again haunting the dreams of the teenagers of Springwood.
Winner: the original.
The remake was just insulting. Why didn’t the producers learn from the failed attempts to revive Halloween and Friday the 13th?
5. First Blood (1982) vs. Rambo (2008)
First Blood: After being arrested for a crime he did not commit, a Green Beret survivor of the Vietnam War begins having terrible nightmares. This gripping, classic one-man-army movie was the beginning of the popular Rambo franchise, and raised the question: Why didn’t Rambo win in Vietnam on his own to begin with?
Rambo: Rambo is drawn back into the action when a group of idealists gets captured by the Burmese army. What follows is Rambo fighting genocide with genocide, turning men into hamburger meat with machine guns, bombs, machetes, and the most deadly weapon of all: his bare hands.
Winner: First Blood.
This is the one that started it all—an explosive movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the last, powerful frame. And we also need to thank the original, as it was the inspiration for the sweet tribute Son of Rambo. That said, Rambo wasn’t a bad action movie on its own. Luckily, it didn’t deal with Vietnam or the Gulf war.
4. Transformers (1984) vs. Transformers (2007)
1984: The Autobots and Decepticons, during the great Cybertronian War, crash-landed on earth. Millions of years later, geological activity revives the warring factions. And so ...
Oh well, who really cares about this mumbo-jumbo—it was all about the shape-shifting robots fighting each other, and everybody wanted these toys back in the ’80s.
2007: The movie is simply a massive giant-robot showdown. Thankfully, it had Megan Fox in it. Unfortunately, this time around there weren’t any shape-shifting Megan Fox toys ...
Winner: the 1984 series.
Shia LaBeouf, we do not accept your apology for the quality of the 2007 movie. If Wall Street 2 is really good, we might consider forgiving.
3. The Terminator (1984) vs. Terminator Salvation (2009)
The Terminator: One of the tightest, tensest sci-fi films ever made, this a landmark in its genre. The low-budget masterpiece was the breakthrough film for super director James Cameron, who created one of the finest action films of the ’80s, and one of the finest cinematic time paradoxes ever. Arnold Schwarzenegger will forever be known as the heartless killing machine, and of course for “I’ll be back.”
Terminator Salvation: We really wanted it to be back, but not like that! I intended to write few words about this fourth insultment—er, installment—but since it was so bad, I repressed all memory to the extent that I could write the synopsis of The Sound of Music here, and I wouldn’t know if it was right …
Winner: Terminator Salvation (is the loser). The winner is The Terminator.
James: we are in serious need of salvation! So before making another Avatar, pleeeease make a fifth and final worthy ending. You just have to.
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) vs. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Allies discover the Nazis are planning to use the Lost Ark of the Covenant as a weapon, and enlist the help of Doctor Indiana Jones, a seemingly mumbling archeologist, to locate the biblical treasure. Jones must escape evil Nazis, a nest of venomous snakes—not to mention the wrath of God. Steven Spielberg delivered groundbreaking special effects and a fabulous sense of humor, and the movie was the beginning of an extremely successful franchise, enjoyable for the whole family.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Indy tries to return to his life as a professor of archaeology, but soon finds himself fighting scheming Russians back in the 1950s. As with Terminator Salvation, it doesn’t really matter what the plot of this movie is.
Winner: The winner, by a knockout, is the 1981 movie.
Even Spielberg makes mistakes. Unfortunately, he doesn’t apologize for them. Shia LaBeouf, on the other hand, is making a career of apologizing for films that shouldn’t have been made. Once again, we’re not forgiving.
1. Die Hard (1988) vs. Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Die Hard: Hans Gruber, a sophisticated robber posing as a terrorist, storms the Takagi Corporation’s Christmas party at the Nakatomi skyscraper, intending to pull off a multi-million dollar from the company’s vault. John McClane, a cop from NY visiting his estranged, career-driven wife, is the one who’s going to stop him. Die Hard is a groundbreaking action flick, fresh and captivating to this very day.
Live Free or Die Hard: Thomas Gabriel is an evil mastermind determined to bring anarchy and chaos to the United States on Independence Day. He should have known that kidnapping McClane’s daughter, Lucy, was the wrong move …
Winner: Die Hard
The fourth installment was a very effective action flick, but you just can’t compete with the quality of the original movie. It’s like the Michael Jordan of movies. Yippie ki-yay, motherf*cker —that was one hell of a one-man-army thrill ride.
Conclusion: The winning decade is, of course, the ’80s.
The original is almost always better than its successors. But that doesn’t mean ’80s remakes and sequels won’t continue. If Hollywood decided to redo the ’80s, it’s either because audiences want them to, or because there are too many Hollywood execs in their thirties and forties with hypernostalgia.
I don’t know what about you, but despite the conclusive results, I’m looking forward to seeing The A-Team, The Karate Kid, and even Wall Street—the 2000s versions. I’m pretty sure they won’t be as good as their ancestors, but growing up in the ’80s is like an incurable disease, I guess: You can’t get enough of it …