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Remake me Beautiful

Whatever happened to originality? This is the first weekend since Wolverine kicked off the blockbuster movie season a month ago that there isn’t a sequel, prequel or reboot opening at the multiplexes in America. Despite the fact that Pixar’s Up and Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell are reviewing very strongly, most box office folk seem to think that this will be a relatively quiet weekend at the old box office, which is a shame really when we’ve got two of the best reviewed movies of the year going head-to-head. Still, what happened to Hollywood’s originality?

Brideshead Revisited, Revisited

Brideshead Revisited, Revisited

There have always been remakes and reboots – Brian de Palma’s Scarface was based on a Howard Hughes original, The Untouchables is based on the classic television show – but it has become… more pronounced lately. I don’t know which is worse – a pointless soulless remake of a story that has already had its definitive version presented on screen (looking at you, Pride & Prejudice and Brideshead Revisited) or remakes of movies that nobody noticed the first time around (like you, Flubber or Race to Witch Mountain). The latter is arguably more offensive – who wants to see a sequel to the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, which is just a slap in the face to all the work the show put into adding extra dimensions to the character and franchise? – but the latter just seems so ridiculously pointless. You have to wonder how many people went to see Race to Witch Mountain even knew it was a remake? Which, from the studio’s standpoint, undermines the reason for choosing a brand name at all – there’s no name recognition.

Sure, I was being a bit flippant when I asked about Hollywood’s originality. The movie business has always been borderline parasitic when it comes to developing movie plots. They’ve brought books, plays and even real life stories to the big screen. There’s arguably little original there. I still believe that there is an element of creativity and adventure in transitioning a work from one medium to another. The actors get to realise and conceptualise their characters almost from the page up. Directors get to visualise what had only existed as words previously. It isn’t anywhere nearly as creative as building plots and characters from scratch, but there is a huge amount of skill involved. When you remake a movie from a movie, you start with pretty much everything you need (as one assumes the original was quite successful to warrant your attention). Still, the sight of Hollywood cannibalising itself makes me a little uncomfortable.

You might make the case for adapting foreign language films, but I don’t buy it. Mainly because they are inevitably inferior reproductions (I’m thinking the American remakes of Ringu or The Eye here), but also because there should be nothing to stop the audience from enjoying the original in its original form. The same holds true for remakes of older Hollywood material – I remain skeptical of Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Benecio del Toro as The Three Stooges – why can’t audiences appreciate the earlier films for what they were? If dated technical specifications (effects, sound mix, picture quality) are the problem, then clean them up (like has been done with the original Star Trek). Don’t disregard the original or seek to replace it.

Sean Penn, Benecio del Toro and Jim Carrey... oh, wait...

Benecio del Toro, Jim Carrey and Sean Penn... oh, wait...

I also remain skeptical of all the sequels, prequels and spinoffs, as well as the reboots. Here, I’ll admit my feelings are less aggressive – there are rare cases where the sequel has matched or surpassed the original (Godfather II, The Dark Knight, The Empire Strikes Back) – but they are rare enough for me to legitimately question the volume of sequels, spinoffs, prequels and reboots coming out. Wolverine was, at best, completely unnecessary. Night at the Museum 2 was perhaps even more unnecessary. For all its faults, Terminator: Salvation looks to avoid a “lather, rinse and repeat” attitude to its predecessors (it has been a while since we’ve had a good post-apocalyptic action romp), but I still find it a little unnecessary.

The arguments in favour of a franchise are obvious from a studio’s point of view: name recognition. A recent sequel generally outgrosses its predecessor, which has built up an audience on DVD or cable or what-have-you. If it’s an older series (think Starsky & Hutch or the proposed Flight of the Navigator and Neverending Story remakes), you get the nostalgia audience. People who were kids when the original came out who will pay to see it for old times sake. I can’t understand why, but apparently it happens.

It seems that original blockbusters are becoming rarer and rarer. Excluding the anticipated Public Enemies, the only other non-follow-up movie released this summer is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and that’s based on a series of action figures. Well, at least we can look forward to awards season, what with Daniel Day Lewis in Fellini-remake ‘9’ and Benecio del Toro in The Wolf Man.

3 Responses

  1. […] means, just fun diversionary romps. I’ll concede that I am usually rather venomous towards Hollywood’s tendancy to simply remake and repackage, so why am I almost excited at this prospect? Well, because at least these horrors are better than […]

  2. […] reasons like that we get really bad horror films or nothing but remakes of concepts that already worked or nothing but remakes of really bad horror films that have already […]

  3. Along with the remake of the film, I am looking for a producer for The Neverending Story on stage at Javits Convention Center in New York City. Both an opera and ballet score have been composed by Siegfried Matthus. Please visit my website for more details by following the link below.

    http://www.the-neverending-story.com

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