[caption id="attachment_22214" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Disney"][/caption]
When the original "TRON" was released in 1982, its cutting-edge CGI animation and odd story about bits and users and data storage was a little ahead of its time for a populace whose majority had never touched a computer. It languished as a cult film for many years until Disney greenlit the splashy revival "TRON: Legacy," which brings star Jeff Bridges back onto the gamegrid in spectacular fashion.
But if Disney is willing to fork over hundreds of millions for a direct sequel to an old underperformer like "TRON," what's to stop other studios from reviving cult sci-fi properties from two decades ago?
Nothing, really (unless common sense counts as something), so we compiled a list of our favorite underappreciated '80s sci-fi titles along with our own fanciful ideas of how to expand them into a franchise.
9. '*batteries not included' (1987)
Cute family of small sentient spaceships from another planet helping some old folks in New York save their building from evil property developers… what wasn't to like? For some reason this Steven Spielberg-produced family flick never reached full-power, despite a screenplay co-written by animation master Brad Bird. We say bring back these adorable little guys for "*batteries still not included," maybe give it an "Avatar" spin and have them stop a logging company from tearing down a rainforest, perhaps the natives start worshipping the aliens like gods.
8. 'Lifeforce' (1985)
[caption id="attachment_22220" align="alignright" width="220" caption="MGM"][/caption]
Director Tobe Hooper took all the goodwill he earned making horror classics "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Poltergeist" and flushed them down the proverbial toilet with this bonkers big-budget sci-fi turkey.
Originally titled "Space Vampires," its one redeeming quality was the beautiful alien played by French bombshell Mathilda May, who spends most of the running-time completely naked as she absorbs souls and blows up London. For the sequel we suggest any of the following: Megan Fox, Christina Hendricks, Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Emma Watson… you get the idea. Va-va-va-voom!
7. 'Krull' (1983)
This quasi-medieval fantasy started as a straight-up film version of "Dungeons and Dragons" but evolved into the silly fun it is, including a spaceship that's a flying mountain, mindless cyborgs, and a giant alien that looks like Predator after a weekend in a tanning bed. It featured early roles for Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, but Columbia Pictures' expectations for a "Star Wars" to call their own were squelched by piss-poor box-office, although not before a dozen couples had official "Krull" weddings. Those magic blade-boomerang things (called Glaives) were wicked cool, though, and make us want a remake, reboot, or even see back-to-back sequels. "The Krull Supremacy" and "The Krull Ultimatum" anyone?
6. 'Innerspace' (1987)
[caption id="attachment_22219" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Warner Bros."][/caption]
Between "Dreamscape" and "Enemy Mine," it always seemed like '80s Dennis Quaid was being groomed as a poor-man's Harrison Ford. It wasn't until the sci-fi comedy "Innerspace" that he was able to create a unique screen persona, in this case a capable wildman pilot miniaturized and unwittingly injected into the body of Martin Short. Hilarity ensued!
This is one of the best-paced, most creative genre films of the 80s, the kind that leaves you scratching your head wondering why it didn't achieve "Back to the Future"-level success. An "Innerspace 2" with Quaid inside a Steve Carell or a Will Ferrell would bring the house down.
5. 'Enemy Mine' (1985)
"It's a story of friendship overcoming prejudice between an angry, marooned spaceman and a hermaphroditic alien!" Gee, with a pitch like that how did this film not set the world on fire? Hmm. Well, it had its awesome points, including a killer opening space dogfight and a fantastically strange alien creation by Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. Studio executives never understood the metaphorical title, and insisted a scene with an actual mine be added to the plot. A sequel title that clarifies this confusion, like "Enemy Mine Too," could finally give us the Dennis Quaid franchise we've yearned for all these years.
4. 'D.A.R.Y.L.' (1985)
The title character is an android made to look like a real-live 10-year-old boy who has his fair share of sweetness, but was developed with military capabilities like flying SR-71 Blackbird jets, and could probably kick the crap out of Haley Joel Osment in "A.I." His eponymous name stands for "Data-Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform," so the sequel could probably do one of those nifty sex-role-reversals and have an android girl named D.A.P.H.N.E. (Data-Analyzing Polyalloy Humanoid Nuclear Entity).
3. 'Big Trouble in Little China' (1986)
[caption id="attachment_22218" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Fox"][/caption]
John Carpenter's treasured kung-fu comic-fantasy was penned by W.D. Richter, who created another '80s cult sci-fi classic, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension."
A follow-up, which logic dictates would be called "Big Trouble in Little Italy," could feature Kurt Russell's wisecrackin', John Wayne-imitatin' trucker Jack Burton co-starring with a bunch of stereotypical gumba character actors like Michael Rispoli and Joe Pesci as they battle the evil Italian Curse. We just hope Carpenter & his band The Coupe de Villes can equal their brilliant end-credits song.
2. 'Explorers' (1985)
If "TRON" can have a "Legacy," then why not this brilliantly off-kilter flick about three middle schoolers who build their own spaceship and encounter the most bizarre dysfunctional aliens this side of "Running with Scissors." Joe Dante's film, which featured the screen debuts of Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix, was buzzed to be the big ticket of summer 1985 but got squashed by the Live Aid concert. It has the same whimsical spirit as "E.T." or "The Goonies," and an "Explorers 2" could feature a grown up Hawke teaching his own kids to be astronauts. As far as using the same CGI that gave us young Jeff Bridges to bring back River Phoenix, let's not go there, Hollywood.
1. 'The Last Starfighter' (1984)
[caption id="attachment_22217" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Universal"][/caption]
This one certainly lived up to its title. A sequel-savy producer might have called it "The First Starfighter," but Nick Castle's oddball blend of "TRON"-style early computer effects with "Star Wars" space battles fizzled when first released. It's genius idea that a video game was actually placed on Earth to find potential space pilots seems more real than ever… isn't "Call of Duty 2" required in Army boot camps by now?
"The Next Last Starfighter" could break new ground by becoming the first 4-D movie, where audiences each control one of the many spaceships onscreen with a joystick in their seat… Now that's a game changer.