Stupid weather. I have a chest cold that completely blew out my voice. So, instead of not doing anything, I figured I would do something different.
This is a subject that I’ve referenced many times in my videos, but I figured I would take this opportunity to talk about it a little more in depth.
As a general rule, I don’t like remakes. Now, as I’ve said before, I think there is a place for remakes, and every once in a while there is one that is done incredibly well that either compliments the original or updates it in a way that makes sense. Most often, the best remakes are the ones that take the basic concept of the original but form their own movie around it. The Fly is a perfect example of this. While both movies have the core of, “Scientific experiment goes wrong and said scientist is turned into a fly,” the two movies play out completely different. This is not so much the case with the current crop of remakes.
I’m not from the camp of, “Remaking this movie ruined my childhood;” I am definitely from the, “This doesn’t need to be,” grouping. When a movie is remade, it doesn’t make the original vanish. It doesn’t tarnish the sheen of the original. If anything, if the remake sucks, it just makes the original look that much better.
Right now, there is nothing that currently defines the decade. When people look back on the movies of the 2000s, they will see nothing but recycled products.
So, here are my reasons and feelings on why I think Hollywood needs to at least slow down with all the remakes.
1) They’re lazy. I understand, from a marketing angle, why remakes exist. The producers aren’t looking at the movies from an artistic perspective; they are looking at them from a business perspective. “Content A was a hit, so why not just take that, do it again, and it will be a hit again?” This is the basic mindset: just copy/paste the whole thing. Kids are the majority of theatergoers, and they’ve never seen/heard of these films. Psycho is a prime example. The two movies are almost identical, but the remake feels like a hollow shell. Even though it is essentially the same thing, you are not getting the same performances from Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche that you got from Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. Even worse, while Gus Van Sant is a very good director, he did nothing of his own and simply aped one of the greatest directors in history. This doesn’t come across as an homage; this comes across as a statement of, “I can do this better.” Well, as it was proven, he couldn’t. If he wanted to do an homage to Hitchcock, he could have at least done a movie that was “in the style of.”
2) It takes money away from unknown properties. To a producer, it is a much safer bet to go with something previously established than to invest in a property that is unproven. “How do we know if this will work? Right now, our demographics are showing that Dancing with the Stars is huge, so let’s look in our back catalog. Footloose! That was about dancing! We can just do that but add hip hop music all the kids like these days. Maybe throw in a few cover tunes of the original soundtrack for the parents.” The problem is that a movie like this just doesn’t make sense today, especially when they do it almost shot for shot and word for word. Most of the movies they are remaking fit within a certain time frame. In the 80s, there were these little pocket towns that declared stuff like dancing evil. Now, they have since moved on, and it’s not music and movies that are the big bad; video games are!
What is the point of doing a remake if you are just going to do the same thing again? Why not take the opportunity to do things a little differently? If you are just going to do the same thing over again, it’s not necessary.
I don’t understand the logic of taking $125 million and remaking a movie like Total Recall, a movie that didn’t need to be remade, instead of perhaps taking that money and churning out about 10 smaller productions. You would probably get a higher chance of return on investment, plus, there is a good chance that one of them could become the next Paranormal Activity, Saw, or Blair Witch Project. I can’t wrap my brain around the, “All the eggs in one basket” approach. How many studios have gone under following this logic? The, “If it was a hit once, it will be a hit again,” thought process has proven its invalidity. For every hit remake like Clash of the Titans, you get a major bomb like The Wolfman.
Did we really need another Spider-man this quickly? How about instead of making another origin story Spider-man you make an adaptation of Dr Strange? Mutant X? Moon Knight? X-Factor? ROM? Namor? Hell, make a Spider-girl movie! Or how about investing in one of the many other comic companies? I’d love to see big screen versions of Grendel, Preacher, The Maxx, or The Sandman. I’d also give just about anything to see something from the short-lived but much beloved (by me) Ultraverse. Give me Prime! Give me Hard Case! Give me Mantra! Any one of these could be the start of a new franchise, if done properly.
3) They dumb down foreign movies for the American market. The Ring was a huge success when it was remade for the American market. It was well done, and while they changed some of the things from the original movie, Ringu, it had a unique feel and stands on its own merits as a solid remake. I still prefer the original, but I own and enjoy the remake. Unfortunately, Hollywood misinterpreted the success of The Ring. Instead of realizing that perhaps audiences wanted creepy, atmospheric horror films, they came to the conclusion that they wanted more foreign horror! So, what do we get? Terrible reproductions of films like Shutter, Pulse, The Eye, and One Missed Call. One of the many things they failed to realize in the conversion is cultural differences. For example, in the U.S., we think of ghosts as incorporeal beings, a shape of a person or the “flying sheet with holes,” as it were. In J-horror, the ghosts they usually focus on are called onryo, the spirit of a young girl who has been killed or wronged by a man and has returned to take vengeance upon the living. They usually don’t return to go after one person in particular; they usually just linger in one location and inflict their revenge on anyone unfortunate enough to enter that space. This is why you see so many movies with young, pale-faced girls all in white with dark hair covering their faces; this is Japan’s most common perception of a ghost. Instead of updating the movies to have the American trope of what we perceive as a ghost, we get an influx of movies filled with Samara.
While sucking the J-horror teat dry, they moved on to other genres and did piss poor adaptations of foreign movies like Shall We Dance and My Sassy Girl. With those remakes, once again, they missed the cultural differences of them. With Shall We Dance, the idea of a married couple dancing in public is incredibly embarrassing in Japan, which is why the lead goes to great lengths to go to his ballroom dancing class in secret. In the Korean movie My Sassy Girl, they took the character of “The Girl,” who was a little goofy in the original, and remade her into Jordon, who was a complete mental patient. She was supposed to be quirky, not nuts.
Another thing is while altering the movie for American consumption, they often miss the point of the original. *SPOILER* In the movie Kairo (Pulse), ghosts have found a way into our world. The ghosts are trying to escape the emptiness of the afterlife but end up bringing in so much despair that the living kill themselves. While on the surface it seems like just a ghost story, you soon realize this is not the case. It’s really a tale about how much of a cultural impact technology is having upon the social structure. Even though we are all plugged in together, we are becoming a world filled with lonely, isolated people. In Kairo, Kurosawa has created a downright depressing atmosphere based on this philosophy: as humans, we are ultimately alone in both life and death. Even though technology gives the illusion of pulling us closer together, it is ultimately driving us further apart. In the remake, Pulse, the internet is full of ghosts that make people kill themselves. Also, it has about a million boo scares.
4) They take good directors and turn them shitty. Ed Wood. Beetlejuice. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Tim Burton has made some of my all-time favorite movies. They are unique, clever, and have a look that is distinctly his. Then…Planet of the Apes happened. While it wasn’t the worst thing I had ever seen, it wasn’t very good. I thought it was an interesting departure from the original, and the makeup effects were outstanding. However, it just felt off, and the ending was horrible. Still, I figured it was just a fluke. Not everything can be a home run, right? So, Big Fish was quite good, and everything seemed ok. Then, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came along, followed by Corpse Bride, which was an attempt to recapture the former glory of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Many people don’t realize that The Nightmare Before Christmas was directed by Henry Selick, not Tim Burton. Sweeney Todd. Alice in Wonderland. Dark Shadows. He seemed to be stuck in this rut where he was taking famous existing properties and turning them into movies that had the distinct Tim Burton paint job: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and lots of eyeliner. Then, he does Frankenweenie to show that he was not content with remaking others films; he has since moved to remaking his own! The rumor is that he will be doing Pinocchio next. Anyone want to guess who will play Geppetto?
Why does this very talented director seem stuck in this void of creativity? He certainly pulls in enough at the box office that he could pick and choose his scripts, and yet, he chooses to continue to remake classic properties – things that honestly don’t need to be remade. I give him credit for at least doing them in his style, but really, what else is different? The stories end up being the same; it’s just the overblown budgets of the productions and the Burton look.
5) They aren’t needed. If you need to remake something, why not take something bad and make it good? There are tons of movies that end up failing either because of the budget or many other problems. Why not take them and make them good? I’ll give a prime example: Project Metalbeast. It’s a great concept: a bulletproof werewolf in a science research lab. The original is entertaining but had a tiny budget and couldn’t pull off all the things they wanted to do. Take this and expand the story, throw a few extra bucks at it, and you should have gold.
Instead of remaking a beloved classic like Total Recall, why not remake Philip K. Dick’s Screamers? (based on the short story, Second Variety) While I am a fan of Screamers, it is not without its flaws. A remake could follow the book closer and give it the budget it deserved the first time.
6) They’re sneaky. After getting wind that the general public wasn’t happy with the overwhelming amount of remakes, they decided to change tactics. They had no intention of stopping; they just figured by changing the names of the movies, they could still remake them, and no one would be the wiser. A Tale of Two Sisters became The Uninvited. Infernal Affairs becomes The Departed. The Sons of Katie Elder is now Four Brothers. Let the Right One In became Let Me In. Can’t Buy Me Love is now Love Don’t Cost a Thing. [REC] changed to Quarantine. You get the point.
7) Remakes of remakes are unnecessary. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) > The Money Pit (1986) > Are We Done Yet? (2007)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers(1956) > Invasion of the Body Snatchers(1978) > Body Snatchers (1993) > The Invasion (2007) > Invasion of the Pod People (2007… Granted, this was an Asylum release, and shameless knockoffs are what they do)
King Kong (1933) > King Kong (1976) > King Kong (2005)
A Christmas Carol…Remade into oblivion every few years.
Remakes, when done with the right mixture of new content and talented individuals, can indeed work. Al Pacino’s Scarface is vastly superior to the original. Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes eclipses the Wes Craven version. True Lies was an outstanding action comedy, while the original, La Totale!, was just played as a comedy. They did things differently, the right way. They added to the formula, while simultaneously respecting what made the original work.
I’m not saying stop remakes; I’m just saying stop making so many of them. The same goes for reboots. Honestly, I’d rather have sequels over remakes. Why? Sequels, when done right, can greatly expand the universe within the film exists. Look at Alien. Alien is a brilliant movie and one of my all-time favorites. Then, along comes Aliens. They expanded the story of Ripley and went on to create the whole diverse hive of the Aliens. It spawned more movies, books, comics, and video games. The same thing happened with The Terminator, Mad Max, The Godfather, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Die Hard, Night of the Living Dead, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. All of these movies had amazing debuts and had sequels that brought you more into the characters that lived within those worlds. You got to know them better and see them evolve. No one would argue that, eventually, a series runs its course and needs to stop. Why? How many TV shows go on for years, pumping out hundreds of episodes? Movies each only run about 90-120 minutes and come out every year or so. Why is it so frowned upon to have a movie series release a new one every year? I don’t see this as a problem. If the series has its followers, it will continue to do well, and they will continue to make sequels. If the series starts to go south, it will show in the box office returns, and they can either try to change things up or stop completely.
I know a lot of people complain about the Resident Evil movies, but I am happy to see a new one every other year or so. I’ve enjoyed all of them, and I like that they are not exactly like the games. They took the subject matter and went in a different direction with it. I’ve already played the games; why would I want to see what I already know will happen?
Also, as much as I dislike the Transformers movies, I give them credit for continuing on with the current story instead of jumping right into a reboot. They already have the foundation set up, so incorporating new characters and storylines is a much better movie, in my humble opinion. Perhaps the series will do better with Mark Wahlberg in the lead instead of Shia LeBeouf… If not, well, I can always look forward to a glorious ripping at the hands of the wonderful folks at Rifftrax.
So, in the end, what the hell do I mean? Less. Less is more. Remakes will always exist, and I am fine with that. However, when you remake and reboot everything, you establish a creative void, and you will eventually run out of material. Invent. Create. Make new properties people will be buzzing about and buying for years. Take risks. The next big billion dollar franchise is sitting on someone’s desk, waiting to be made.