Forbidden Planet was part of my science fiction upbringing for as long as I can remember. It’s a favorite of my father and was in regular rotation throughout my childhood. And while some of my favorite flicks from my youth don’t hold up under the weight of three decades of perspective, Forbidden Planet is still awesome. So awesome that part of me is glad all that talk of a new Forbidden Planet remake or prequel a few years back eventually trickled off into silence. Because while I love love love Forbidden Planet, it’s very much a product of its time, and frankly I’d rather let it stand as a piece of sci-fi history rather than let it be tarnished with a coat of 21st century paint. Case in point, the above fan-made trailer, which attempts to apply modern trailer style and tropes to the 1956 original. It just feels…wrong.
Don’t get me wrong: YouTuber KeepTerminating3 does a fine enough job combining footage from the original film with some bombastic modern trailer music, but it still feels like an awkward marriage. Part of it is simply that the style and cadences of acting have changed over the decades to become less theatrical and more naturalistic. The overall effect is like seeing your eighty-something grandfather walk in wearing skinny things: sometimes generations weren’t intended to blend. (To be fair, skinny jeans look ridiculous regardless what age you are.)
My bigger qualm is that the modernized trailer is spoiler-y as hell, revealing all manner of plot points that you shouldn’t go into the film already knowing — assuming you’ve never seen it at this point.
While I’m just as happy to let Forbidden Planet stand as it is, I do have to concede that the project in the works a few years back was potentially more interesting than you’d assume. It was being developed for James Cameron to direct, back before he vanished into a decade-long vacation on Pandora. More intriguingly, one version of the script was penned by Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski…and it was actually pretty good.
That goodness can be at least partly attributed to the fact that it didn’t actually try to reboot the original, but rather would have been a prequel that set the stage for further sequels. As Straczynski told MTV at the time, “It’s not a remake. It’s not a reimagining. It’s not exactly a prequel. You’ll have to see it. It’s something that no one has thought of when it comes to this storyline.” You can read a script review our head honcho Josh did back in the day, but the short version is that Cameron and JMS’ Forbidden Planet would have focused on the film’s backstory, on the doomed voyage of the Bellerophon that eventually left Dr. Morbius stranded on the world with only his daughter Altaira and Robby the Robot for company.
If we could still get Straczynski’s Forbidden Planet movies, I’d be on board. He’s a die-hard fan of the film (B5 includes several tips of the hat to the film), his script was solid, and I’d trust him with the material. But since Cameron is busy with Avatar sequels and JMS has moved on to other projects, it’s probably better for everybody that Hollywood just leave Forbidden Planet alone.