We are entering a dimension of both familiarity and surprise, of exhaustion and excitement, of vague hopes and managed expectation.
We’ve just crossed over into news that “The Twilight Zone” is to again be a movie: Leonardo DiCaprio and Warner Bros. are bringing Rod Serling’s classic TV series to the silver screen.
My immediate thought on hearing this was that Leo is trying to win a new generation of tween fans by attaching himself to something with “Twilight” in the title.
Surely it must go deeper than that — but what a new “Twilight Zone” will offer is anyone’s guess.
It could be a name-only reboot in which a character or characters wind up in an interpretation of the titular time-space continuum.
And that’s something I’d definitely see, especially if it was scripted by the likes of Charlie Kaufman with David Cronenberg directing.
But the safe money is on the new “Twilight Zone” being an anthology movie featuring a trilogy or quartet of twisted tales.
We don’t know if they’ll be new scripts or reimaginings of original episodes. Last time out, back in 1983, John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller went for a mixture, with three remakes, a new story and a freaky-funny framing device.
The results weren’t bad – underrated, actually.
Dante and Miller’s remake episodes translated the originals’ wicked spirit through their own kinetic directorial style.
Spielberg’s effort, meanwhile, erred to the saccharine, while Landis’s was always going to be eclipsed by the long shadow of the production tragedy that saw actor Vic Morrow and two child actors killed when a helicopter crashed during filming.
That bitter controversy, along with mixed reviews, meant that “The Twilight Zone” wasn’t the success WB had hoped. The film grossed $29.4 million, coming in 25th for the year.
I frequently rail against remakes but I’m not sure “The Twilight Zone” falls into this category.
It’s highly unlikely that DiCaprio and Co. will remake the same episodes. New versions of the most successful — Miller’s “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet” and Dante’s “It’s A Good Life” — would suffer by comparison.
More probable is retooling other classic instalments.
And there are plenty to choose from.
“The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” could be updated to the post-9/11, social-media era, with a Twitter frenzy stoking fears of an imminent alien-invasion apocalypse.
And “The Eye Of The Beholder” might work even better in today’s gym-ripped, Botox-obsessed culture.
While I’m not sure you’d get away with a new version of “To Serve Man”, a future-predicting camera (“A Most Unusual Camera”), time-travelling to prevent a Presidential assassination (“Back There”) and thieves escaping a heist via suspended animation (“The Rip Van Winkle Caper”) are all premises that could work again.
There are dozens upon dozens more.
For a remarkable, spine-tingling 10-minute recap of the entire 156 eps (spoiler alert), check this out:
But whether they’re new or old stories, the key to this reimagination is which filmmaker(s) come on board.
Last time, “The Twilight Zone” attracted four directors who were at the top of their games and who’d grown up with the series and classed themselves as fans.
Here’s hoping DiCaprio can lure similar talent in possession of similarly genuine affection.
So far he has Rand Ravich, best known for writing and directing 1999’s “The Astronaut’s Wife” and for creating the well-received NBC show “Life”.
Ravich also tried in 2002 to reboot the 1960s TV hit “The Time Tunnel” but the pilot wasn’t picked up.
It’s here we find the Serling link because in 1976, the maestro also tried a “Tunnel” re-start with “The Time Travelers” – and with no more success.
I’m willing to play wait-and-see but I do wonder why DiCaprio has elected to take “The Twilight Zone” to the silver screen instead of returning it to television. Surely a high-profile HBO or Showtime series could draw big talents behind and in front of the cameras.
Yes, I know “The Twilight Zone” was redone in the mid-1980s and again in 2002-03 with so-so results, but it might be a different proposition now that “True Blood,” “Dexter”, “Battlestar Galactica” and others have shown just how smart, classy and cinematic the genre can be on TV.