“In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly excaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, till wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem. If no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire….The A-Team.”
That was the lead in for one of my favorite television shows in the eighties. In fact, I don’t think I’m alone in my love for that little show where everything blew up and nobody got hurt. Actually, it wasn’t until I was an adult that realized how many guns were shot and how few bullets hit their target. As a kid, all I knew was that The A-Team meant action.
While other kids loved Mr. T, my favorites were H.M. (Howlin’ Mad) Murdaock, and John “Hannibal” Smith. I loved the antics of Murdock, and I too loved it when a plan came together.
With all of the remakes and reinventions and television shows brought to the big screen, it seems about time for an A-Team movie.
Now, let’s be honest, most of the television shows made into movies haven’t really worked. Most enjoy a strong opening weekend fueled by the nostalgia of casual movie goers, but the numbers drop off quickly because people leave the theatre so disappointed. Why? There are several reasons:
1. The fans of these television shows truly enjoyed the shows and remember them as good television. Even though reruns in syndication on cable remind people that maybe these shows weren’t so great. Maybe it is kind of funny to watch and see what passed for cool or action packed. Fans of the shows still watch these shows with fondness and, while they may make a joke or two about the shows, respect.
2. The studios insist on taking the television shows and making them parodies of the shows off which they are based. STARSKY AND HUTCH anyone?
3. The studios insist that if the characters are updated then they must be so much different from the characters off of which they are based that they are recognizable only in their names? DUKES OF HAZZARD? MIAMI VICE?
4. It seems that movies based on television shows are seen as throw away films therefore, the makers of the movies rely on one or two shots or moments and let the rest of the film just go to pot.
While I’m not a huge fan of the movies, the Charlie’s Angels movies did a great job of adapting the television show to the big screen. Those movies are topped by the Mission: Impossible films only because movie makers took Mission: Impossible so much more seriously.
Why do those two franchises work?
1. There are references to the original shows that aren’t jokes…they’re homages.
2. The heart of the television show is there in the movie.
3. By not making a parody, there is a respect for the people who worked hard to make those shows successful, and the fans who spent so much time watching the shows. So the movies end up not only well recieved by fans, but by those who were involved in the making of the television shows as well.
I’ve said all that to say this:
The first step in making a successful A-Team movie is taking it seriously. Have fun. The A-Team is nothing if it’s not fun, but don’t MAKE fun of the show. The minute you do that, you cut your legs out from under you.
Secondly, the movie has to be action packed. We don’t need a lot of digital special effects, not a lot of green screen or blue screen work, just a lot of ammo fired and explosions.
Then there’s the script. The movie should start with this crack commando unit being tried and convicted for crimes they didn’t commit. Then, Hannibal and the team (behind bars) discuss their need to escape from the maximum security stockade in order to get outside and prove their innocence. The opening action sequence is the team breaking out. Then, as they have made their escape, we get the opening credits with the A-Team theme. The whole movie can revolve around them helping someone out of a jam while trying to avoid General Stockwell and Colonel Decker, and eventually discovering that it was those men who framed the team for the crimes they were convicted of. Throughout the movie there are action beats after action beats. Then, in the end, the team is in dire straights due to being captured by Decker. They pull together to put some contraption together to not only escape Decker’s clutches but put them in a position to get the evidence they need to exonerate themselves. Along the way, there’s fun, there are jokes, but the stakes for the team are real, and we invest in them because they aren’t parodies or characatures, they are good characters, over the top a bit, but solid characters.
Who would bring this vision to life? Who could make this be all that I, and the Geeks in the Hall of Geekdom, think it can be? Well, I think you turn to Dreamworks and Exec. Producer Steven Spielberg. Go ahead and get Michael Bay to direct it. The man knows explosions. It has to be him or Bruckheimer. These guys can do over the top and make it good.
Then there’s the cast.
Let’s start with the big question. Who could play B.A. Baracus? Who could fill Mr. T’s shoes? The honest answer is…nobody. Now, my friend Jared from The Jared, Steve, and Jesus Jamboree says that if Sylvester Stallone can do Rocky and Rambo again, then Mr. T can do B.A.. While I don’t disagree, I also don’t fully agree. I think that there are two people who may be able to pull it off. First, there’s the idea of Michael Clarke Duncan. He’s big, he’s black, and he’s an incredible actor. The thing about Duncan though is that he’s almost too smooth the be able to play the character of B.A. I loved him as the Kingpin in DAREDEVIL, he was moving as John Coffey in THE GREEN MILE, and he was even great in THE WHOLE NINE YARDS. I don’t know, I just don’t see him as the smack talking, fool pitying, tough guy with a big heart that is B.A. Who do I see? Well, after much deliberation, and thanks to my friend Josh (a reserver from the League of Geeks), ladies and gentlemen, my pick for the role of B.A. Baracus? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Here’s a guy who’s got it all. The guy can talk smack, but he can do it while being a really good guy. He can look as tough and as scary as he needs to be, but he’s got a warm smile that kids won’t run from. He’s a big guy and I can see him working on the van or using a huge torch to weld some scrap iron together to make some kind of big vehicle. And can’t you hear him saying, “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane Hannibal!” Or “Murdock, you fool, you’re crazy I ain’t your friend.” I mean, just let him improv some of the stuff he says to Murdock and you’ve got movie gold. Jared, I’m sorry buddy, but the more I think about it, the more the Rock gets my vote. He can pull off the character of B.A. better than anyone in Hollywood that I know of at this point.
Next up, let’s get Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck (a.k.a. Face) out of the way. While Dirk Benedict won’t go down in history as one of the greatest actors of all time, he had a charm and humor that went well with his good looks and Bond-like obsession with the ladies.
Now, understand that the casting I am putting forth for this movie is a dream casting, and it would require the filmakers to really invest in the concept of the A-Team. (and suddenly, I realize how seriously I’m taking this thing. I started out to be funny. Oh well, I’m on a geek out roll….why stop now?) But, to pull off Face, you need an actor that is not only good looking, but can play the action beats well, and have a good time with the character. Who? Who is out there that can pull this off and be believeable? Who has the looks? Who can do the action? Who can handle the ladies? to paraphrase Alan Rickman from Die Hard, you ask me for Face and I give you Matt Damon. Think about it. It would work. He’s Matt Damon. He’s young. The ladies like him. He is a terrific actor, and we’ve seen from his performance in the Bourne trilogy that he can do the action stuff. Just imagine him getting to do the action with suaveness of his character from ROUNDERS. So, not only do we end up with the intense Matt Damon running through a field with a shot gun to take down another product of Treadstone, but we also get the wise cracking Matt Damon from the first date in Good Will Hunting….all rolled into one big Face character. You gotta admit, it’s gold. It’s GOLD JERRY!!!!!
Then there’s the pilot and true comic relief of the team. Howlin’ Mad Murdock. Murdock was always an interesting character because he remained locked up in a mental institution. The question was always, “Is he really crazy or just acting?” Obviously he was just acting crazy, but he did it so well. Dwight Schulz did an outstanding job with Howling Mad Murdock. Whatever the script writers wanted Murdock doing on any given week of the show, Schulz pulled it off. Whether it was thinking he was a super hero, or talking to a sock on his hand, it was always funny and it was always well done. There is only one man in Hollywood today that I can think of who could pull off, with the same insanity and scene stealing ability of Dwight Schulz, Howling Mad Murdock. We haven’t seen it from him in a while. In fact, the last time I really remember him letting go and just going a bit nuts on the big screen was LIAR LIAR. After that he went TRUMAN SHOW(which was a good movie) and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (or whatever that title was) on us. Of course, I’m talking about Jim Carrey. I mean, come on! Who in their right mind thinks that the guy who pulled off Ace Ventura can’t do Howlin’ Mad…I mean, Ace Ventura is Murdock. He is. I would love to see Jim Carrey piloting a plane that The Rock has to be drugged to get onto. I would love to see Jim Carrey improv against the Rock’s ad libbed smack talking. Who wouldn’t?!?
Finally, the leader of the team. The man with the plan. The guy who can get out of anything and is somewhat of a master in disguise. Col. John “Hannibal” Smith. Originally played by George Peppard, Hannibal was the brains of the team and while the guys never quite knew what he was thinking, they knew to trust him. Peppard brought a certain weight to the role, if for no other reason than his acting experience leading up to the role. While Mr. T was the most popular, Peppard was the elder statesman on set. I know, I know, there was all kinds of turmoil backstage. Peppard wasn’t a big fan of Mr. T. Peppard had just been asked to leave Dynasty. (Depending on who you ask about the situation.) But that never came across on screen. The man was a proffessional and his character was absolutely wonderful. So, who could pull off this role? Who can have a big enough on screen presence to not be completely outshone by The Rock, Jim Carrey, and Matt Damon? Who can lead this group? Well, there was a moment while writing this very post that I thought about George Clooney. The problem is that he doesn’t transcend these other guys. He’s a fine actor mind you. And I think that he could do it. But honestly, one of my first choices was the man who made us all want a wookie to be our best friend, who found the lost Ark, escaped the Temple of Doom, and drank from the Holy Grail, this man has been a jerk who lost his memory, a President who won’t negotiate, a pilot who crashed with Anne Heche (we try to forget that movie), a doctor on the run and has had many other roles that have just sizzled because he was there. Of course, I’m talking about Harrison Ford. (By the way, Indiana Jones 4 is officially Indiana Jones and the Kingoms of the Crystal Skull.) Think about it. Ford can play cocky. (Han Solo) He can play adventure and action (Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, and President James Marshall). He can play a fugitive. (The Fugitive) He can do it. I think he’d like to do it. Has anyone asked him? They should. Because I promise you, if you get Harrison Ford involved, Matt Damon, Jim Carrey, and The Rock should be no problem. The picture even looks like he loves it when a plan comes together.
So, I know this would be expensive, I know that it would be a huge undertaking, I know that it will never happen. If there is ever an A-Team movie made, it will with Johnny Knoxville as Murdock, the guy who played Van Wilder as Face, some random big guy for BA and Willie Nelson as Hannibal. The whole plot will be one big push to make fun of the show. And, like so many other movie adaptations of television shows, it will probably do a decent opening weekend and fall off the charts the next. And studios will keep force feeding us rubbish…and we’ll take it.
The A-Team though could be a great success. It could be a fun summer action flick that throws back to those great action movies of the eighties without suffering from the same problems. It could be fun, it could be edge of your seat, and ultimately it could blow you away. If if were me, that’s “How I’d Do it.”