It’s That Story You Like…But In Space!

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Lockout is released this week, and bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Escape From New York, with a Presidential type trapped in an anarchic future-prison and rescued by a wisecracking action man. But what other Earth-bound films have been reimagined in space? We gathered a few of our favourites together for your amusement…

*Just like: High Noon (1952)*

The plot of Outland sees Sean Connery plays a space sheriff at a mining colony on Io, who discovers a string of murders, suicides and psychotic miners, and realises that a corporate-sponsored drug is responsible. So far, so not High Noon. But the second half of the film, wherein an isolated Connery finds himself standing alone against the murderous thugs sent against him, is very much an homage to the classic Fred Zinnemann Western. That movie saw Gary Cooper as the lone lawman, betrayed by his deputy and facing the imminent arrival of killers determined to do away with him. Connery even uses a shotgun, despite presumably having lasers and lightsabers and those terrifying pants from Zardoz at his disposal to chase them off with.

*Just like: Treasure Island (notably 1934, 1950, 1972 and Muppet Treasure Island in 1996)*

In theory, this story should sail to success when beamed up to space. Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure tale has all the necessary derring-do to work as a space opera (a comic one called The Pirates Of Polaris, perhaps) and this animated effort had a great pedigree, coming from the directors of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. But somehow this didn’t quite fly, despite the gorgeous galleon-inspired spaceship at its heart. Perhaps a hip, skater-dude Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was a step too far; perhaps it was the cyborg take on the treacherous Long John Silver (Brian Murray) that rang hollow (that’ll be the metal). In any case, you’re better with the Earth-bound versions, or for preference the one involving Muppets.

*Just like: Hell In The Pacific (1958); None But The Brave (1956)*

Two enemy warriors trapped alone on a remote outpost, their mutual antagonism giving way to respect and cooperation: it’s the premise of both Enemy Mine and John Boorman’s Hell In The Pacific (Frank Sinatra’s earlier None But The Brave (his only directorial effort) told a similar story with a group). The basic set-ups are very similar, but Enemy Mine goes a little further on with the story: not only do human Dennis Quaid and the alien “Drac” Jeriba (Louis Gossett Jr.) become friends in Wolfgang Petersen’s film, but they end up raising the asexually reproducing Jeriba’s son together and continuing that close bond on through the next generation. So that’s a big difference from the Lee Marvin / Toshiro Mifune film. Ain’t no way that either of those two is going to be involved in asexual reproduction.

*Just like: Beowulf (2007)*

This wasn’t spun off the 2005 or 2007 films of Beowulf so much as the original legend itself. And it wasn’t even the first version to take the story into sci-fi realms: the astonishingly bad 1999, Christopher Lambert version of Beowulf had already given the story a post-apocalyptic heavy metal tinge. But Outlander did turn the monsters and the monster slayer into aliens crash-landed on Earth, so it qualifies for this feature on that basis. Full marks here for unexpected beheadings, ingenious monster traps and a baddie that looks like a glow-in-the-dark dragon; maybe a few minus points for, well, the dialogue. If you prefer your space age connection to manifest in the filmmaking technology rather than the story, try the Robert Zemeckis performance-captured version and its digitally buffed Ray Winstone instead.

*Just like: Seven Samurai (1954); The Magnificent Seven (1960)*

If you’ve got a good story, just keep using it! What worked in feudal Japan and the Old West can also work on the Final Frontier in this space adventure. There’s a clear plot relationship here: this time it’s an agricultural planet under threat rather than a village, but an emissary is still sent out to find warriors to help defend it against the threat of certain death (here, by means of a weapon that will turn the entire planet into a sun rather than, y’know, the more traditional swords and guns). Once again, a ragtag band are assembled and take arms against vastly superior forces. It would take a particularly committed sci-fi fan to argue that this is better than Akira Kurosawa’s classic or even John Sturges’ Western hit, but it’s an amusing twist on the idea.

Just like: *Dances With Wolves (1991)*

When Avatar exploded worldwide in 2009, the wits not lining up to make Smurf jokes were all loudly proclaiming, “It’s just Dances With Wolves with aliens!” And while the correct answer to that is, “Maybe – and?”, they weren’t completely wrong. Here’s another man isolated from his own kind following a traumatic experience, and given a second chance with another people. Like him, they’re warlike; unlike him, they still have a connection to the land that sustains them – and of course he falls in love with a fierce female of the tribe. That said, Avatar does have cooler animals, and didn’t steal Goodfellas’ Oscar, so perhaps we should give it less grief and just enjoy the spectacle.

Just like:* The Swiss Family Robinson (1960)*

These two are first cousins once removed. The Swiss Family Robinson was an inspiration for the TV series Lost In Space, which was in turn to basis for this attempt to launch Matt LeBlanc as an action hero. To be perfectly honest, they’re probably equally ludicrous. The small island on which the Swiss Family land turns out to play home to tigers, elephants, ostriches and hyenas, despite being small enough to easily walk around. And Lost In Space features Gary Oldman falling prey to terrifying space-spider thingies that have infectious bites. So, y’know, much of a muchness. Of the two, the sci-fi version is probably preferable if only for Oldman’s sneering villainy.