According to Variety, New Dimension Films has scheduled the long-awaited re-make of The Six Million Dollar Man to crash into theaters December 22nd, 2017.
The new film from writer and director Damian Szifron “follows military officer Steve Austin, who becomes part of a top-secret government program after a horrific accident leaves him near death. With the help of cutting edge technology, Steve is brought back to life with extraordinary abilities, making him the world’s first truly bionic man.”
From ComingSoon.net, a fan-promise from Damian Szifron, who loved the series as a kid: “I couldn’t be more honored and grateful,” says Szifron. “Such a major challenge represents a great opportunity. The themes surrounding this beloved property allow for the creation of a memorable sci-fi actioner as well as a bold spy thriller. Expectations are high and I’ll do my best to deliver the strongest basis for an amazing cinematic experience.”
The SMDM Legacy of Coolness
The fabulously cool opening scene is, to this day, remarkable for its layers and transitions. Doing this on film back then was far more complicated. We get the whole origin story every episode, and it is worth watching every single time. [ Watch SMDM Opening ]
As a kid, I ran home from school making “bionic running” sounds. To this day, seeing how Steve Austin did his job as a man with a high sense of ethics and morals made an impression on me.
When producer Harve Bennett first worked on The Six Million Dollar Man, he saw that they had tried to use Lee Majors as a sort of hi-tech James Bond – a super-spy if you will. It didn’t work.
Lee Majors was rightly cast as an astronaut and athlete – and Mark Wahlberg has played the same type of roles in The Planet of the Apes and Invincible – but he could not play a believable hi-profile spy of tuxedos and elegance. Old-timers like myself will remember this aborted attempt in the early TV series.
Bennett decided that Majors worked best as a cowboy [ watch on YouTube ] – a wounded warrior re-built to serve in wilderness regions, far from city lights. He wasn’t so much a “super-spy” as a “super-cowboy.” Discovering this as a full-grown adult blew my mind. It made me re-think why I loved the old TV series. It wasn’t the sci-fi aspects. It was the American legend aspects.
He wasn’t James Bond. He was Gary Cooper. The classic “Mysterious Stranger Rides into Town” plot meme – only Steve Austin didn’t need a horse. He didn’t need a gun. He WAS the horse, the gun. He was the Texas Ranger sent to stop “dem rustlers stealin’ that microchip /targeting device/micro-reactor –that’ll allow them to destroy the world.” Lee Majors played the heck out of that role. He played a cowboy who knew personal loss and service and more loss. With that kind of emotional investment, he even led us to The Bionic Woman.
I was eleven years old, but I never forgot his tenderness as he kissed Jamie Sommers forehead as she “died”. It was the first time I ever cried watching TV. [Her resurrection was particularly well-done by the writers, IMHO.]
If Mark Wahlberg and company want to do one film, make some money and go home, they only need to play up the cool aspects of hi-tech imagery and give us a few impressive CGI scenes. But if they want to bring back Steve Austin, they are going to have to get out of Earth orbit and aim for the stars, the unchanging themes of loss, love, faithfulness to duty, self-sacrifice and honor.
I know it will be hard, but Wahlberg has the chops to do it. He himself is a man full of loss and restoration. He has a criminal record that he truly owns but has left behind. He was scheduled to fly on Flight 11 on September 11th, 2001, but missed that day of death. He was given second chance to live, and I would think that would mark a man.
He has been a blunt man, even a violent man, but has become a good one who cares and serves others. So he just might indeed give us a “Steve Austin for the 21st century” but he’s going to have to invest in this role, not just do a paint-by-numbers SF Action/Adventure version.
Essentially, if Mark Wahlberg can crawl out of the wreckage of his life and be rebuilt with help from others, he may be the bionic man we’ve been looking for.
And the best six billion dollars ever spent in fiction.