Reuse, Remake, Recycle
That’s right! I’m invoking some Shakespeare for this week’s entry, and like the Chorus from Henry V, I have implored the Muse for some inspiration regarding this week’s topic. I’m to that level of desperation.
It seems that almost every film out these days is a sequel or something based on a book or a remake of a movie that was based on a book or a TV show (sometimes vice versa). A film based on an original idea comes along on occasion, and everyone celebrates how refreshing and how….ORIGINAL the movie is. Wouldn’t it be great if more films were like that?
Yes, yes it would! But Hollywood, in my opinion, isn’t all about the art. It’s usually, mostly, about the money. Don’t get me wrong. There are true artists out there who bring so much substance and love to film that I gladly hand over my money to see their work. Martin Scorsese is one of these people. Danny Boyle, Tim Burton, and Christopher Nolan are other good examples.
Where was I? Oh yeah, money. If there’s money to be made, then Hollywood will find a way to make it. Remakes and films based on books seem like a sure-fire way to make some green. Now, I love books. I read all the time, and when a book I enjoyed is made into a film, the odds are good I’ll go see it. Making a movie based on something with an already present fan-base is a safe move. Look at the Harry Potter films or The Hunger Games. I won’t mention that other series, but you know which one I mean. Safe bet!
And what about that movie that came out X number of years ago that did really well (or in some cases, poorly) that’s still stuck in the public consciousness? People sure do feel nostalgic for that. I bet we could update it or (and this is my favorite) “re-imagine” it. Yeah!
I don’t mean to come across as flippant and oh so cynical about this. Okay, maybe a little. Remakes and movies based on other material are by no means new concepts. Take one of my favorite movies of all time: My Man Godfrey. The version I love stars William Powell and Carol Lombard. It’s one of the funniest movies ever. It was made in 1936 and then was remade in 1957 starring June Allyson and David Niven.
Now, there have been some some movies that have definitely benefitted from a Hollywood upgrade: Ocean’s Eleven was pretty cool. The Thomas Crown Affair was a whole lot of fun. But I keep thinking of Gus Van Sant’s blasphemous and totally narcissistic attempt at remaking Psycho. [Special Note: Psycho was based on a book] What ever was he thinking? Was it a social experiment or did he just really enjoy doing a shot-for-shot remake of a classic film? I have no idea.
This weekend, a remake of 1990’s Total Recall comes out. The original movie was loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story, and I remember the movie being really cool at the time. While the story is still groovy, the movie now looks really dated. I’m guessing that’s part of the reason for a remake. With our special effect technology of just 20+ years since the original, we can make the future look really futuristic.
Len Wiseman is the director, and I’ve enjoyed his work with the Underworld movies. Colin Farrell steps into the Arnold role, and I know he’ll do just fine. So I’m not worried about the movie doing well or anything. I just kind of wish there wasn’t a need for a remake. Did I feel a hole in my life from the lack of a newer version of Total Recall? Nope. Not one bit.
My suggestions for remakes (if they must be done) are these:
- Do not remake anything that looks like it could be in the category of Super Classic Movie. This would include Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Casablanca, etc.
- If you must remake a film, then at least do the movie from a different angle. Don’t make the same movie twice.
- Do not make an “American” version of a successful foreign film. Most of us can read. Acquire some US distribution rights and promote the thing over here! I’m looking at you, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
- Try to remake obscure movies that could definitely go with some updating and improvement. Maybe the story that wasn’t any good then, is the perfect story to tell now.
- If you can’t find that obscure gem, only remake movies that folks might not have heard of for eons of time. I think that 1938’s Carefree starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire could be a fun modern day romantic comedy if it was done right.
Anyways, I’ve ranted and I hope I’ve made a few coherent points. In the beginning of this, I tossed some Shakespeare at you. It wasn’t for my inspirational needs. I invoked the Muse for Hollywood. Remakes are great if done right and if the demand is there. Films based on books or plays or TV shows are fun—again, if done right. But nothing beats an original story. We’ve got to have some fresh blood here! We’ve got to find a deeper gene pool for the art of film! Bring me more Run Lola Run; Star Wars; The Three Colors Trilogy; Goonies; 28 Days Later; Amelie; Inception. Fetch me some Evil Dead; Heathers;; Labyrinth; Matrix; Grosse Point Blank; Shallow Grave. I demand The Usual Suspects!!!!
I know it’s in you, Hollywood! Besides, if you make something new now, you’ll have new material to remake later. It’s a win-win situation.