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ARE MOVIE REMAKES NECESSARY?

Updated on July 5, 2018
John Lavernoich profile image

JOHN LAVERNOICH is the author of six published books, as well as a significant number of published short stories and articles.

A scene from the 1954 remake of A STAR IS BORN, starring Judy Garland.

In an issue of Time magazine from several years ago, there was an article focusing on ten hit films produced in almost the past half-century which might be candidates for being remade. But the question that we really should ask is: should those films be remade? In some cases, that's not an easy question to answer -- especially when you don't know if the remake will be as successful as the original.

Remakes have always been an essential part of the motion picture industry, going back to the silent era -- the idea was if the first film version was successful, the odds were that it would be worth remaking more than one for those new generations of audiences who were either too young or weren't born when the original version first debuted in move theaters (or, for that matter, the first few remakes). And yet, despite our high hopes for any new movies (and, to a certain degree, TV shows, stage plays and musicals, books, and music albums), we still don't know how successful they'll really be -- even in today's digital age.

Of course, when you do make a feature film -- there are certain expectations that are always present which remain essential to either its success or failure. Most film critics expect every movie to be of high quality (though it's not always possible) -- the corporate executives who run the major film studios (and not just in Hollywood) expect all movies to make a profit (and not just in movie theaters) -- and audiences expect all movies to be entertaining, otherwise they might discourage anyone else from actually seeing it for the first time, based on the lack of quality (and possibly logic) in most of them.

When you do remake a classic movie, infusing it with quality is important, including remaining true to the original source material (while updating it to give it a sense of both realism and relevance). The original 1937 film version of A Star Is Born inspired two remakes over the next forty years -- with the first remake, the 1954 version, being far and away the best of the two, given the talent that was involved in the making of that film, including stars Judy Garland and James Mason, and director George Cukor, a reminder that when it comes to movie remakes, Hollywood can get it right. (A third remake of A Star Is Born, starring Bradley Cooper [who also directed it] and Lady Gaga, is due in theaters in early-October 2018.) Even remakes of films that are now considered classics but weren't successful when first released (like 2005's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, a remake of 1971's Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory) can be as good as the original -- and sometimes better -- again, with quality playing an essential role in their production, as well as how critics and audience will respond to them.

And the remakes of classic films that aren't as great as the original -- like say, 2002's Mr. Deeds, a remake of director Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936)? There are those who say that many classic films shouldn't be remade -- not only because they were unique in terms of storytelling techniques, characterization, and the commentary of the times, but also because they were, and remain in the minds of generations, the definite version which should remain untouched, thus insuring their continued popularity, which is why I hope that there's never a feature film remake of a classic like Gone With The Wind; the original versions have already stood the test of time -- and should be seen and appreciated by all generations of audiences who definitely know quality when they see it (and who are smart enough to avoid a remake that was produced and released solely for profit's safe).

It's highly unlikely that Hollywood will stop producing remakes of past films anytime soon -- if only because motion pictures are and remains a multi-billion dollar industry. But at the same time, if filmmakers and producers -- both established and upcoming -- want to really stay ahead of the curve, you certainly can't go wrong with creating original and high-quality feature films that might become classics someday, alongside those that have long achieved (and deserved) that status.

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