Forget more James Bond — this is what Amazon should do with MGM
Robocops and Carries and Charlie Chaplin homages, oh my!
It might be time for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to revive its old motto, with a twist: More IP than there is in heaven. At least that seems to be the appeal for Amazon, which gobbled up MGM in a blockbuster deal on Wednesday.
Now the legendary Hollywood studio — the one with the roaring lion logo, that was once the home of Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Spencer Tracy — will add its 4,000 films to Amazon's roster. Though the deal cost the tech giant a pretty penny ($8.45 billion, in fact), the streamer, which has historically struggled to produce movies or TV shows that can compete with what's on Netflix or WarnerDiscovery, now has quite the trove of intellectual property to mine for future hits.
Most of the talk on Wednesday centered on MGM's James Bond and Rocky franchises now falling under the Amazon umbrella, but Metro has nearly a century worth of films it can dust off. So here is a (only somewhat ironic!) wish list of projects that Amazon should consider now that it's in possession of one of the most storied libraries in Hollywood.
Note that while we would also love a gritty reboot of The Wizard of Oz, all MGM films made prior to 1986 actually belong to WarnerMedia, including Gone With the Wind and Singin' in the Rain. Meanwhile the United Artist catalogue, which merged with MGM's in 1981, is now housed at Amazon.
What it could be: An extended universe
When Amazon made its announcement about acquiring MGM on Wednesday, it singled out a number of franchises that it's most excited about — James Bond, of course, but also Legally Blonde, Tomb Raider, The Pink Panther, Stargate … and Robocop. There have already been a number of unsuccessful follow-ups to the hyperviolent 1987 original about a cyborg police officer, but the news that Amazon is potentially eyeing more is especially exciting in light of the fact that MGM already announced that it's working on a RoboCop origin TV series. While the world definitely doesn't need more cop shows, there is an opportunity for Amazon to build a new franchise that offers the same biting satirical commentary on police brutality and capitalism as the original. A Robocop extended universe, if you will? I'd buy that for a dollar.
Stella Dallas (1937)
What: A prestige miniseries
It's hard to top King Vidor's fantastic 1937 drama about a working class woman, Stella, who fights for the best for her daughter even amid her crumbling relationship with her high-society husband. But the best remakes don't try to imitate, and there are plenty of ways to approach a retelling of this story — such as in the format of a prestige miniseries, à la HBO's Mildred Pierce. While it might be too much to ask for Todd Haynes to direct this one, too, an hour-long drama that respects Stella's complexities and stays away from the original's period stereotypes would be Emmy bait, pure and simple.
The Bride Wore Black
What: A gritty remake
François Truffaut's 1968 film about a bride avenging her murdered groom has inspired lots of imitators over the years (including, it would seem, Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series, although he's denied it). But there's a good reason that The Bride Wore Black has been copied so many times: It's a fantastic, and extremely cinematic, story. A stylish reboot shouldn't preclude watching the original (which will hopefully be more readily available now that Amazon has acquired MGM), but it's also not a story that's been exhausted yet. Someone call Cathy Yan and see if she's available.
What: An origin story
United Artists helped bring Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's psychological thriller, Persona, to the United States, where it's been baffling viewers ever since. In the original film, Bibi Andersson plays a young nurse named Alma, who is tasked with taking care of a stage actress, Elisabet (Liv Ullmann), who has mysteriously willed herself to stop speaking. Bergman is having a moment — director Mia Hansen-Løve's forthcoming Bergman Island, starring Mia Wasikowska and Vicky Krieps, is set on the island where Persona takes place — and now would be the perfect time to give the director's classics another look.
What: A (good) horror franchise
Brian de Palma's Carrie is so good that people keep trying to remake it. In fact, there have already been two different mediocre remakes this century, not to mention The Rage: Carrie 2, a 1999 sequel about Carrie's younger sister. C'mon, we can do better than this! Carrie is one of the great female horror characters, and she deserves more than having her story rehashed over and over again with basically nothing new added each time. After all, even de Palma's famous final jump scare suggests she has more unfinished business…
The Great Dictator (1940)
What: A contemporary remake
A movie like Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator could never be remade or rebooted today. Chaplin began work on the satire, which poked fun at Adolf Hitler and extolled the virtues of democracy, in 1938, when Hitler was Time magazine's Person of the Year; only later, "once the horrors of the Holocaust began to be known, Hitler was no longer funny, not at all," critic Roger Ebert wrote in his review. Part of the success of the original Great Dictator was not only Chaplin's recognition of the threat of Hitler before it was accepted as a given, but his comedic genius in undermining the dictator with mockery and scorn. While a funny Hitler movie might not sit right in 2021, tragically the film's overarching themes remain relevant, and the threat to democracy is no less urgent today. Done just right, there might be a chance for a director to be prescient again.