It’s easy to be disheartened by the countless remakes in the works in Hollywood these days. It sometimes seems as if they’re determined to remake everything that didn’t come out in the last calendar year, and I’m sure they’ll get around to pushing that boundary eventually. As much as we may rag on Hollywood’s allergic aversion to originality, reboots aren’t always a bad thing. While most of them prove to be pointless, occasionally you’ll get one, like last year’s Fright Night, that manages to set itself apart from the original and succeed in its own way. My first inclination is that the upcoming Short Circuit remake will fall into the “forgettable” category, but an interview with director Tim Hill suggests that he is, at least, trying to make the story more relevant for the 21st century.
The original Short Circuit, released back in 1986, told the story of “Number 5,” a military robot that gained consciousness after an electrical accident. Now calling himself “Johnny 5” and afraid that his creators will reprogram him, he goes on the lam and makes new friends, all while speaking in a cutesy voice for no legitimate reason. While the new version of Short Circuit will launch from the same basic premise, Hill sees several modern trends that the remake can comment on, including the use of military drone craft. He told the L.A. Times…
The thing that makes it so relevant is that we live in this age of robots, particularly when it comes to war. We have drones that do our fighting for us, do all these jobs men and women don’t want to do. And that’s what makes this so interesting — things like this moment in the story when Johnny realizes he’s going to be disassembled and contemplates death, and whether it’s right to terminate someone else.
Hill has been studying modern robotics in preparation for the film, and he says that the reboot’s design for Number 5 may not resemble the original. “There are computer models and labs developing real machines like this. We want to do something like that.” Hill also says that, since Number 5 does originate as a military weapon, he’s trying to find a balance between making the ‘bot endearing and ever-so-slightly menacing. But not too menacing. This is a family movie, after all.
What will remain the same is Number 5’s innocent outlook as he discovers the wider world and his own burgeoning consciousness. In Hill’s words, Number 5 will be “like an infant struck by lightning, and you see human foibles reflected in him.” On a related note, I’m betting that’s one of the first uses of the phrase “like an infant struck by lightning” in human history.
Finally, Hill says that his version of Short Circuit will also reflect on the evolving relationship between young children and technology, and the way that is changing the world.
If you look at kids and how they adopt machinery, it’s just getting tight and tighter. We’re just becoming more connected to our machines. That’s why I think this can say more about our relationship with technology than the original ever did.
Does any of that mean the Short Circuit reboot will be a good movie, or that there’s any point in making a Short Circuit reboot in the first place? Certainly not, but, as with the also-in-the-works Robocop remake, you have to at least credit them for trying something different while they’re avoiding trying anything different.