Brett here. Stepping in for this edition of the Greatest Movie Blog of All Time is a pretty cool piece by “Bagged and Boarded”’s Jesse Rivers! I’ll be back Monday with a piece on politics and movies, but until then, enjoy!
DON’T RETREAD ON ME
It’s over. Everything’s over. I did everything wrong. I want my life back. I want it back before everything got fucked up. I want to be a baby again. I want to be new.
– Susan Orlean in Adaptation.
It’s almost an unforgivable sin to be original in Hollywood. Sure, you have your small indie gems and surprise hits that creep through now and again, but then what happens when they become successful? They start a trend. Trends rule the film industry. Slasher flicks (”Halloween”, “Alice Sweet Alice”) became huge in the 70s and made a return in the late 90s. Movies spawned from older television shows (”The Addams Family”, “The Fugitive”) brought in some revenue. Now, we have comic book movies (”Iron Man”, “The Dark Knight”) breaking records and some old friends (John McClane, Rambo, Indiana Jones) coming back to entertain us. Most trends come and go, but there’s one that has only become more prevalent over the years. They are called, appropriately enough, remakes.
For years, I didn’t understand the concept behind the remake. Why would any studio spend millions of dollars to produce a film that’s already been made? And most of the remakes just couldn’t stand up to the originals. I even became outraged as pretentious filmmakers thought they could make a classic film even better and ended up shelling out something that would make an average film-goer avoid the superior original. If you’re going to remake something, why not take a movie with a good idea that did not completely live up to its promise. “Logan’s Run” springs to mind. The simple answer is because these remakes usually garnered a profit. I eventually learned to push my anger aside and enjoy remakes for what they are… well, some of them at least.
To me, there are four different types of movie remakes that we will explore today. I’m staying away from remakes that are not actual remakes. This usually happens with true stories, particularly major historic events. There have been quite a few films about the Titanic, but they are not actually remakes. James Cameron’s “Titanic” has nothing to do with the 1953 version of “Titanic” starring Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Wagner. With that being said, let’s move into our first category of movie remakes.
Straight Remakes – This may be the most common and the primary reason I initially had problems with remakes in general. This usually happens when a producer believes no one cares about an older film (the dreaded black & white) and hopes to make millions from audiences who would like to see a newer, glossier version. Did we really need a new version of “Gone in 60 Seconds”? Does the more recent “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” even come close to be as terrifying as Tobe Hooper’s low-budget masterpiece? There’s a trailer out there for the remake of “Friday the 13th”. This bothers me because it shouldn’t even be considered a remake. It looks like a sequel. You are going to have about twenty minutes of Jason’s origin, which everyone already knows anyway, then it basically becomes just another installment of the franchise. I don’t think this is a reboot like Warner Brothers has accomplished with “Batman” and trying to accomplish with “Superman”. The only reason to call this a remake is that writers ran out of ideas to get kids back at Camp Crystal Lake. A few years ago, it was rumored that Quentin Tarantino would helm a remake of “Friday the 13th”. Now that would have been interesting. I must admit, though, that these are not always bad. John Carpenter directed a remake that was miles ahead of the original with “The Thing”. Martin Scorsese got in on the action with the suspenseful “Cape Fear”. If done right, straight remakes can actually turn out pretty good, but they are few and far between.
One to see – “The Fly” directed by David Cronenberg
One to avoid – “War of the Worlds” directed by Steven Spielberg
One I’m anticipating – “Bad Lieutenant” to be directed by Werner Herzog
One I’m dreading – “Footloose” to be directed by Kenny Ortega
One I’d like to see – “The Night of the Hunter”
Reimagining – This is the one that actually makes sense. It’s by far my favorite. A reimagining is when a filmmaker takes the same basic concept of a previous film and provides their own take on it, sometimes even completely changing genres. I think these are especially fun when a director has a real love for the original. Zack Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead” was the very definition of bloody fun. On the other hand, Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes” was far worse than even any of the original sequels. The western genre certainly owes a lot to this (and this could easily fit into our next category, but I think it works better here). Both “The Magnificent Seven” (”Seven Samurai”) and “A Fistful of Dollars” (”Yojimbo”) were inspired from Akira Kurosawa films. The perfect example of a director’s love of a film that they have remade is Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”. Jackson took the simple story from the 1933 original and expanded on the themes he found the most interesting and ultimately made one of the best remakes of all time. An example of one that I don’t think quite succeeded is Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”. Although I was not a fan of his previous two films (”The Devil’s Rejects” had its moments), I was really looking forward to see what he could do with this. What he did was completely take away the mystique of Myers. I understood what he was trying to accomplish, but I think Zombie failed.
One to see – “Scarface” directed by Brian De Palma
One to avoid – “Guess Who” directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan
One I’m anticipating – “Alice In Wonderland” to be directed by Tim Burton
One I’m dreading – “The Road to Hell” (remake of Streets of Fire) to be directed by Albert Pyun
One I’d like to see – “Weird Science”
Foreign to Domestic – I don’t always agree with this one, but I understand it. Most American filmgoers wouldn’t watch a foreign-language film. “I want to watch a movie, not read it.” Change the language to English, throw in a big-name actor, crank up the CGI and you have yourself a bonafide hit. A lot of money has been made in recent years with this type of remake in the horror genre. Some are good (”The Ring”). Some are bad (”Dark Water”). This particular trend won’t be ending anytime soon if only because Martin Scorsese finally won an Academy Award for turning the Hong Kong action movie, “Infernal Affairs” into the Best Picture winner, “The Departed”. And please, do yourself a favor and take the time to watch Jean Cocteau’s French version of “Beauty and the Beast”. The animated Disney version will completely leave your memory.
One to see – “Vanilla Sky” directed by Cameron Crowe
One to avoid – “Godzilla” directed by Roland Emmerich
One I’m anticipating – “The Lives of Others” was going to be directed by Anthony Minghella
One I’m dreading – “Battle Royale”, director TBD
One I’d like to see – “Le Samourai”
No one will be able to do this again.
Why? – That’s the best title for this category I could come up with. This doesn’t happen very often, but I can’t help but to wonder why this happens at all. I’m referring to the rare occurrence that a filmmaker remakes one of his own movies. Alfred Hitchcock did it with “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and is the only successful one that comes to mind. Most of these could actually fit into the previous category, but I thought this deserved its own spot. Case in point is George Sluizer remaking “The Vanishing”, Michael Haneke doing it with “Funny Games” and Takashi Shimizu coming to America with a remake of “The Grudge”. And please, for the love of God, do not ever let Martin Scorsese remake “Taxi Driver”.
One to see, avoid, etc – N/A
I know that the trend of Hollywood remakes will never end. Actually, remakes of remakes are being produced including “The Thing”. I’m sure I’ll be watching remakes until the day I die, probably not even aware that some of them are remakes. I only plead that producers, actors, and directors respect the original material and do it correctly. I’m thinking specifically about the just announced remake of a beloved 80s film called “The Last Dragon” in which Samuel L. Jackson will portray the updated version of Sho’ Nuff. Or return to my original thought: Take bad movies and remake them into good ones.
Please comment below with remakes you love, hate, dread or anticipate. (Notice the rhyme?)
-Jesse Rivers is only envious that he can’t remake a film himself.
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