The Rise of Movie Remakes
What Once Was Old...
Movie remakes have been a part of the Hollywood norm, well, for a long time. A great movie, or even a mediocre movie, seems to scream out for someone to remake it, either to pay homage to it, or improve upon it. Sometimes this is a good thing, often, it's not. And it seems that in recent years, Hollywood has squeezed every last drop of creative juices that they possibly can, and are looking back to the days when those juices flowed a little more freely. Movie remakes are all over the place these days. Is it necessarily a bad thing? No, not really. A little trip down memory lane is good every now and then, but I don't think it's fair to charge outrageous ticket prices to see a movie when you already know how it's going to end. Maybe it's just me. I know that eventually, just about every story will be told. Like the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun...
I guess in an attempt to be more environmentally friendly, movie studios have decided to recycle old ideas, rather than create some of their own. Is a movie remake always a bad idea? Not really. It just seems that in recent years, a larger number of movies are remakes of older movies. Some of them, you may not even realize are even remakes. I, too, have been fooled. A remake of a rather obscure movie that you may have never heard of, may lead you to believe you are seeing something entirely new. Other times, a clever new title brings new life to a story and plot that has already been done before.
I like the term recycled cinema. In this age of green energy, a company called Terracycle (they make new products out of what is basically garbage), and websites like Freecycle (where you can offer up items for free, find items for free, etc, rather than have them end up in a landfill), it is only fitting that the movie industry follows suit and jumps into the trend of recycling movie ideas. I just wish that they had a little bit better taste when choosing movies to remake. I mean this on several levels.
I wish they were a little more careful in their choices of movies to remake. Either they remake some movies that weren't all that great to begin with, or they remake really great movies, and the end result is almost an insult to the original movie. Some remakes stand well on their own, considering the different slants the movies take, but others just tend to fall flat.
It's Dejavu, All Over Again
Yes, I am quoting the great Yogi Berra...had to. Back to the point at hand, though. Some remakes have been decent, but most don't live up to the hype. Whether the motive is to cash in on some good, old-fashioned nostalgia, to pay respects to great, classic movies, or for lack of the guts to try something different, movie remakes have been churned out of theaters for decades, but more recently, the trend has almost become ridiculous.
Some movies were not meant to be remade. Some were just way too bad that you wonder how the original even got made in the first place, let alone a remake. Who thought it was a good idea to remake Piranha? And then to put it in 3D? And not only did they remake the movie once, they remade it twice!! Granted, no one really expects much from a Roger Corman movie, but to remake the movie not once, but twice just is too much.
Another in the same vein is the movie My Bloody Valentine. It was a terrible B-horror movie when it was made in 1981, and despite making the 2009 version in, you guessed it, 3D, the movie was still terrible. Yet remakes of horror movies, good and bad, seem to keep showing up. I will admit, some have been good. I particularly liked Rob Zombie's take on the Halloween movies. He took a slightly different, and darker approach to the movie that I found very interesting.
Some movies were not meant to be remade because they were just way too good to begin with. Take the movie Psycho, for instance. The original is a classic. Hitchcock was a genius and the movie was amazing! And, despite shooting the entire remake, frame by frame, exactly the same way Hitchcock did, the movie was terrible. Since it couldn't be blamed on the identical script or the identical cinematography, the only things you can blame it on is the acting and the basic fact that any one can figure out. A photocopy is never as good as the original image.
Another movie that was never meant to be remade is the classic holiday movie about redemption and love, It's A Wonderful Life. It's a family tradition in my house to watch this movie every year. I used to hate it when I was a kid, much preferring to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, or anything else, it is now one of my favorite movies to watch at Christmas time. Despite, or maybe because of, the love for this classic, someone felt the need to remake the movie. Of course, they were a little more clever. They changed the title of the movie to It Happened One Christmas.
Who Knew It Was A Remake?
Some movie remakes sneak in under the radar. You often don't even know they were a remake. I was surprised to find that some movies I love, are actually remakes of older movies. Some movies I hate also turned out to be remakes, which makes me wonder...what was the original movie like? Was it just as bad? Did they ruin a perfectly good movie? I guess there is really only one way to answer that question, and that is to go back and watch the original versions of the movies.
The Departed is one such movie. It was a very well received movie, that I actually enjoyed. I never knew that it was a remake of another fairly recent movie titled, Infernal Affairs. I Am Legend is another movie that I liked that I had no clue was a remake. In fact, it was the second remake. The original was titled, The Last Man On Earth from 1954, and the first remake was The Omega Man in 1971. And despite the fact that they have the same title, I was surprised to see that Gone In 60 Seconds was a remake of a movie made in 1974.
Other movies that have reappeared in different incarnations, have left me wondering what the people involved were thinking. Some remakes have been truly terrible. Does anyone remember that awful movie starring Queen Latifah? Apparently, Last Holiday is a remake of a movie of the same name, starring Alec Guinness (best known for playing Obi-Wan in the Star Wars movies). I don't know what possessed the studio to remake this movie. The premise is interesting, but only once.
Meet Joe Black was another movie that wasn't very good, that I had no clue was a remake. The original version was made in 1934 and was titled, Death Takes a Holiday. I think I rather like the original title much better, and despite the fact that I love Brad Pitt, Meet Joe Black just wasn't that great of a movie. Anthony Hopkins is another favorite actor of mine, but after Silence of the Lambs, it really is hard to see him as a nice guy.
Trailer for remake of Fright Night
Recent and Future Remakes
There have been some recent theatrical releases that are just rehashed material from years ago. Some of it good, and some of it bad. Arthur is an example of the bad. The original from 1981 starred Dudley Moore as the title character, and while that movie was annoying at best, the remake, which came out this year, starring Russel Brand, was even more annoying. Sorry Russel, it really was.
The Karate Kid is another recycled offering from Hollywood. I loved the original movie. It was a fun movie, and despite being a girl, I still liked it. The sequels were not so good, but that is a subject for another day. The recent version of The Karate Kid stars Will Smith's son in the role of the student and Jackie Chan as the teacher. I haven't seen this recent version, and I am almost afraid to. I get that way with remakes. I hate to see a remake, hate it, and have the memory of the original movie tarnished in my mind because of it. It just isn't fair.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is another remake I feel the same way about. I am not sure if I want to see it, or not. I am told it is good, but really, how good can it be if Robert Englund isn't playing Freddy? In my mind, and the minds of most fans of the movie series, he will always be Freddy Kruger. No one else would be the same. It isn't the face, because make-up and special effects do wonders. It's the eyes and the voice. Those are hard to copy.
True Grit is another recent movie that I was shocked to find out was being remade. How on earth do you remake a movie that starred John Wayne? That just doesn't even make sense. The strangest part is that it is actually good. Not John Wayne, but still very good. I guess that just goes to show, that even a good movie that shouldn't be remade can still end up being a pretty good movie. Some movies are like that. The story is just that good, it often doesn't matter who is in it, or how many times you tell it. Other movies...not so much.
Some of the movies soon to be released, or still in the works, have me wondering if Hollywood has lost their minds. A remake of The Creature From The Black Lagoon? Are you serious? They are also remaking a classic film from the 80's that I love to watch to this day. What movie might that be? Well...it's Footloose...yep...you heard me right. I am not sure where they plan on going with that one. It might have been interesting had they got Kevin Bacon to play the role of the Reverend, but nope. They chose Dennis Quaid instead.
The ones that really got me, though were the upcoming remakes of Fright Night, Robocop, and Total Recall. Those are the ones that have really left me questioning the sanity of the movie execs out in Hollywood. Fright Night was a pretty bad vampire movie from the 80's about a vampire that moves in next door to a high school kid, Kid has to prove that the guy is a vampire, and save his girlfriend...blah, blah, blah. The fact that someone felt the need to remake that movie is astounding.
Then there is Robocop and Total Recall. Where do I start? The first was a decent movie, at best. I know...it's a guy movie, and I know a lot of guys who watched Robocop when they were young, and still love that movie to this day. I really don't know why. The acting wasn't that good, but who am I to judge? I love a lot of really awful movies. Now let's look at Total Recall. The original starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone. Can't get much better than that, despite the fact that Arnold can only say a few phrases coherently. "Get down!" and "I'll be back!" being two of them. Who did they get to star in this remake? Well, Colin Farrell is taking over Arnold's role, Kate Beckinsale is filling the role first played by Sharon Stone, Bryan Cranston is taking the role of the bad guy in the movie, and the cast is filled out with several fairly well known names, including; Jessica Biel, Ethan Hawk, John Cho (Harold from Harold and Kumar...) and Bill Nighy (Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies). I am not sure what to think of this remake or it's cast. I am a fan of a few of the actors, and really not a fan of a few others. It could be good, or it could be like a lot of the action movies to come out of Hollywood lately; lots of pretty special effects with no real substance.
Where Have All The Ideas Gone?
The sad fact is that nostalgia sells. It's really everywhere these days. A few years back, they re-released the original Cabbage Patch dolls that first came out in the 80's. I found one that looked exactly like the one I had when I was a kid. I was tempted to buy it. Why? For pure nostalgic reasons, and that is all. It isn't worth more than I would pay for it. I could give it to my daughter, but she's getting a little old for that sort of toy. I would have bought it solely for the reminder of my childhood. And I am not the only one.
It really is true that what was once old is now new again. You see it with everything. clothing trends come and go, and then they come back again. I was horrified to see neon spandex at the store recently. What the heck are they thinking? That didn't look good when I wore it when I was a kid. No reason to bring it back now. I guess the same goes for movies.
Hollywood studios want to cash in on that feeling of nostalgia, that connection to our youth, when things were simpler, the country was in much better shape than it is now, and no one had ever heard of Al Qaeda. It makes sense to remind us of a time when things weren't so messed up as they are now. Movies are about escape, but to be honest, if I am going to shell out that kind of money to go to a theater and see a movie, I would really like to see someone putting in some real effort to put out something that hasn't been seen before, that hasn't been done before. And, to be honest, it isn't even just the movies, or entirely relegated to remakes.
The Smurfs is turning out to be a bigger movie than I had thought. A movie like The Smurfs is an easy choice for a studio. The movie has built in advertising, and merchandising potential. It's a win-win, even if the movie doesn't do well at the box office. Television shows are even following suit. I have seen recent incarnations of several older shows, including My Little Pony, Scooby-Doo, and Loony Toons. It is remarkable how little original thought comes out of Hollywood. The only place I really see fresh, original, and interesting work coming from is from the smaller, independent studios. Unfortunately, those movies don't often make it into your local huge multiplex movie theaters. Instead, they will devote three different screens to the same movie, in order to maximize the number of people able to see that movie, thus maximizing profits. Independent movies are harder to find, you hear less about them, and they don't receive the advertising that the big budget movies do. It really is a shame.
Katy Perry as Smurfette
© 2011 Anna Marie Bowman