About a month ago, I turned 30 years old. The big Three-Oh. Outside of attending the live RiffTrax screening of Manos: The Hands of Fate and a decent party the following weekend, the event and the day itself was relatively anti-climactic. I imagine I’m not alone in this feeling, and, in fact, I’d be willing to believe that every single person who asked me if I felt any different knew what my answer would be before they even opened their mouths. Then I did what everyone else does, too, and I began reflecting on my childhood and the things I learned or took for granted throughout my adolescence, how kids today were learning the same things — and, if they’re old enough, reading in textbooks things that I can still remember rather vividly. Simply put, it’s the march of time, inexorably moving forward to a hopefully brighter future. My parents had Vietnam and Nixon and The Beatles; I had the Gulf War and Clinton and Nirvana. No matter how much things change in the granular, they really do remain the same in the outline.
With my thoughts already drifting along these lines, I thought it might be interesting, if not mindhole blowing, to see what the biggest movies were from the year I was born, 1982. From Box Office Mojo, here’s a list of the top ten films from that year, and I think you’ll agree that the number of downright classics released is actually brain-meltingly awesome:
1. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
3. An Officer and a Gentleman
4. Rocky III
6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
7. 48 Hrs.
9. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Those don’t even account for The Dark Crystal, Blade Runner, Gandhi, First Blood, Conan the Barbarian, Tron, Sophie’s Choice, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pink Floyd: The Wall, The Thing, The Secret of NIMH, and so many more. Obviously, it’s too early to tell, but how many movies have you seen this year that you’ll still be watching, or talking about, or thinking about, 30 years on? With that in mind, I began to wonder, What if in some alternate universe to ours time began exactly thirty years later than it did in ours, would the movies of 1982 instead be made today? And if so, what would they look like, who would they star, and how would different directors handle the same material?
These films wouldn’t be re-makes, because in this imagined world, they weren’t made until right now. The multiplex today is a lot different, to be sure, but I believe that most of our favorite movies from yesteryear, wouldn’t suffer much from the time discrepancy. In fact, some of them might be even better. Below you can find three examples of films made in 1982 with What If… casts and directors from 2012 blockbusters, with an art assist from my friend and frequent comic collaborator, Jordan Taylor, to help bring this thought experiment to life. I don’t know about the rest of you, but these please me more than I even imagined they would. Enjoy!
(Header image courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse. Click the images to embiggen.)
Blade Runner meets The Avengers
Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring: Chris Evans as Deckard, Cobie Smulders as Rachael, Tom Hiddleston as Roy Batty, Scarlet Johansson as Pris, Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Tyrell, Mark Ruffalo as Gaff, Samuel L. Jackson as Bryant, Clark Gregg as J.F. Sebastian, Chris Hemsworth as Leon, Jeremy Renner as Zhora, and Stellan Skarsgard as Hannibal Chew.
Joss Whedon would no doubt have brought his experience with darkly-themed science fiction to bear on his adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. This director would no doubt sprinkle in a healthy dose of humor to the script and some humanity to the non-replicant characters where previously there was very little. While nobody could ever replace the genius of Rutger Hauer as the sympathetic villain of the piece, Tom Hiddleston could definitely bring his own delightfully sinister touches to Roy Batty that would be oh so much fun to watch. And while Harrison Ford is irreplaceable as a national treasure, Chris Evans could handle the beaten down Deckard with aplomb, while possibly adding some of the pathos he evinced as Captain America here in our present reality. Filling out the cast, Smulders, Johansson, and Ruffalo seem just about the perfect thespians to capture essentially the same performances of Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, and Edward James Olmos without losing a thing in translation; Robert Downey Jr. could arguably be underused in the small-ish role of the tycoon Tyrell, but his motor mouth and self-awareness would make the master manipulator even more threatening by not being the obvious big bad. Everyone’s favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Clark Gregg, would make for an awfully sympathetic toymaker, while Hemsworth and Renner would be imminently believable as rogue killing machines. (With the added benefit of Renner in drag!) Whedon’s sci-fi noir would undoubtedly have more action than the classic that we know and love, but it wouldn’t sacrifice any of its intelligence or mystery along the way. His version wouldn’t necessarily be better than Ridley Scott’s, but I damn well want to see it. Hey, speaking of…
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan meets Prometheus
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender as Captain Kirk, Noomi Rapace as Ms. Spock, Idris Elba as Lt. Uhura, Logan Marshall-Green as Lt. Saavik, Charlize Theron as Carol Marcus, Rafe Spall as David Marcus, Kate Dickie as Dr. “Bones” McCoy, Sean Harris as Scotty, Benedict Wong as Sulu, Emun Elliott as Chekov, Guy Pearce as Captain Terrell, and The Engineer as Khan Noonian Singh.
Ridley Scott’s distinct aesthetic and sense of operatic grandeur would bring something entirely new to Gene Rodenberry’s “Wagon Train” in Space concept. Admittedly, that could quite possibly be disastrous, but the closest we’ve come to seeing Scott’s style lacquered over the Star Trek universe was probably First Contact, and that worked out pretty well for almost everyone. The original Wrath of Khan is still the best of the Trek films, but if any of the series could be improved with a sense of the operatic, it’s this tale of revenge and redemption. Imagine Michael Fassbender as Captain Kirk, cracking wise and saving the day alongside Noomi Rapace’s reserved-but-never demure Ms. Spock, with an assist from Idris Elba’s gender-swapped Uhura, replacing Dr. McCoy in the holy Trek trinity — no offense to Kate Dickie, but her (equally gender-swapped) Bones probably would mesh as well as Deforest Kelley’s. Charlize Theron would scorch up the screen as the scintilating and utterly capable scientist, Carol Marcus, a love interest for Kirk who could appeal to both his brains and his brawn. Meanwhile, Guy Pearce’s doomed captain of the doomed Reliant would undoubtedly be just as memorable, and less unintentionally hilarious, as his Peter Weyland; and Logan Marshall-Green won’t have to stretch himself much in another gender-swapped role of the Vulcan Lt. Saavik. Throw in the idiot scientists from Prometheus as heavily accented Scotty (Sean “Fifeld” Harris) and extraordinarily whiny David Marcus (Rafe “Milbourne” Spall), as well as the two navigational crew members as Sulu and Chekov, and it’s almost like Scott wanted to make a Trek movie all along.Though, turning the proto-human Engineer into the ubermensch Khan likely wouldn’t be as charmingly evil as Ricardo Montalban’s, he would be a hell of a lot scarier and even more physically imposing. Instead of First Contact, this movie could have been the Alien of Star Trek.
Rocky III meets The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Rocky Balboa, Marion Cotillard as Adrian, Christian Bale as Apollo Creed, Tom Hardy as Clubber Lang, Anne Hathaway as Polly, Michael Caine as Mickey, Morgan Freeman as Duke, Gary Oldman as Al, Daniel Sunjata as Thunderlips, Matthew Modine as Clubber’s Manager.
Christopher Nolan certainly seems to have figured out how to craft gigantic pop corn movies that people aren’t generally ashamed to admit liking, even adoring, but it’s fair to say he hasn’t yet made a film that could fairly be labeled as “crowd pleasing.” Not in the sense that Sylvester Stallone’s punch-drunk Rocky series were, or any sports film that followed the original did. But in this bizarro world, Nolan’s record breaking trilogy would have been a gritty, genre-driven boxing drama instead of one man’s comic book war on crime while dressed as a bat. This series would have starred JGL as the young, naïve up-and-comer Rocky Balboa vying against the experienced, churlish champ played by Christian Bale — which is at least spiritually true to their relationship in The Dark Knight Rises. Here, Marion Cotillard would play Rocky’s wife rather than Bruce Wayne’s enemy, and Anne Hathaway would translate her athletic skills to Rocky’s best friend and co-trainer, Polly, our final gender-swapped role. Hey, call it progress, ya mooks. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman get to keep schooling older actors typecast as mentors everywhere as Mickey, Duke, and Al, respectively, and Tom Hardy still gets to be the charismatic antagonist as Rock’s new rival, Clubber Lang. Continuing to use cameo skills, Daniel Sunjata (the quickly dispatched special forces agent in TDKR, “Rescue Me”) as MMA, rather than WWF, legend Thunderlips. Finally as Clubber Lang’s manager, Matthew Modine is ever the butt hole. Since it’s not exactly in Nolan’s wheelhouse, there’s really no good way to proffer what sort of Rocky movie Nolan might have made, but he’s still yet to make a terrible movie in our realm so he’s got the benefit of the doubt. Yet, with this cast, it isn’t hard to imagine any one of these incredibly talented people accepting a golden statue on this parallel universe’s 2013 Oscar night.
Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He nearly included the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man in Tootsie and The Hunger Games in First Blood, but he didn’t want to be ridiculous.