Transformers: Age of Extinction is hitting theatres last weekend and despite its title, the profitable franchise is likely nowhere extinction. Even if it did die, it would only be a matter of time before it was reincarnated as a “reboot.” It’s happened before —those of a certain generation will remember the original “Transformers: The Movie” from 1986. Those of another generation might bemoan the sad fact that it was also the last film of Orson Welles, who is credited with voicing Unicron, “also known as the Lord of Chaos, the Chaos Bringer, and the Planet Eater,” and is “dedicated to consuming the multiverse.” Yep, Welles was typecast again. This week, In its apparent mission to revisit everything previously experienced by Gen X, the entertainment industry has revealed plans to remake hacker cautionary tale WarGames. In the original, a pre-Ferris Bueller Matthew Broderick hacks his grades, hotwires a payphone with a beer can pull-tab (two technologies that faced their own age of extinction) and nearly starts World War III with PC leftovers found while dumpster diving.
Hollywood trade blog Deadline.com reports that Arash Amel has been tapped to write the techno-thriller redux, though his most recent scripts include a Princess Grace bio-pic and the forthcoming war-time action-romance Seducing Ingrid Bergman, which suggests the new WarGames will likely have crossover appeal to your grandmother.
Prior to its 25th anniversary DVD release six years ago, the seminal cinematic hacker homage was screened at selected big screens throughout the nation for a single night. The re-release was actually a gambit to enhance the film’s brand equity, which MGM hoped to leverage for the release of WarGames: The Dead Code, a straight-to-DVD sequel that starred Matt Lanter of ABC’s Commander in Chief as a “feisty and troublesome computer hacker.” But, you know, with abs.
WarGames, the “original recipe,” returned to the big screen courtesy of digital distribution and theoretically could’ve been (should’ve been!) hacked but somehow the low-hanging fruit didn't inspire any real-life hackers – or anyone for that matter. “Shall we play a game?" was answered with a resounding "No." I suppose the will to mess with Gen X movies dissipates after they're remade and the futility of the endeavor proves just as angst-making as the first time.
Hollywood is also planning to bring fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons to the big screen. Coming to a theater near you – hopefully after we’ve had enough time to recover from the collective fangasm and/or morbid shame spiral of 2015’s Star Wars 7 – Warner Bros. will roll out the first flick of its official D&D franchise.
And a generation sighs. They’ve already remade Ray Harryhausen’s 1981 sword and sandal epic, Clash of the Titans (a spiritual cousin of D&D), so why not go all the way whilst raiding the childhood’s of generation? Revenge of the Colorforms, anyone? Where are the CGI tentacles of Suckerman?
After Warners acquired the D&D’s film rights it set upon retrofitting an existing script which was based on another game that, according a Deadline report last year, “was also hatched by D&D designer Gary Gygax.”
This original script, by David Leslie Johnson, is presently called Chainmail (probably because Son of a Lich is too “sixth grade”) and will be produced by the same team behind the forthcoming – dig this – The Lego Movie, which was a huge hit. Why make a D&D movie? Same reason Mallory had for climbing Everest, I suspect – ”Because it’s there.” That, and the backend money.
When you think about it, there’s a lot of “there,” lurking in the back closets of America’s 40-somethings that could be excavated for the silver screen. Like the electronic memory and mimic game SIMON. When will Hollywood dust off that hunk of hardware and make it into a movie? The slogan from its late 70s advertising just begs for cinematic treatment: “Simon’s a computer, Simon has a brain, you either do what Simon says or else go down the drain.” Now, imagine Vincent Price saying that.
The vibe anticipates both WarGames and Skynet from Terminator (also getting a reboot) and yet it’s somehow creepier. Granted, SIMON is no Dungeons & Dragons but consider this: Its gameplay is just like the studio development process – first you watch, then you copy.
Someone please buy me artist and musician Jeremiah Palecek's brillaint WarGames painting here.