Remake Rants

I have a couple of questions for Hollywood.

What happened to original material?  And how about you read a good book once in a while?  Then you’ll know what makes a story.

What’s with all the remakes?  I mean, come on.  Movies that don’t need to be remade, rebooted, and reimagined are coming out in droves.  Television shows, some really terrible, get the full treatment.  Even Avatar, which should have been a triumph, was pretty but had a story so full of tropes it was totally predictable.  Boo!

I get it; it’s about money, guaranteed sales, etc.  Stop playing it safe, Hollywood.  Chris Nolan took a chance on rebooting Batman, and it was worth it.  A very original take on familiar material.  Batman is a pretty good draw, although no amount of money will make me watch Batman Forever or Batman and Robin.  I don’t care if George Clooney comes to my house naked and begs me to watch with him.

The worst part of this trend is younger people who don’t remember the originals are stuck with the lousy remakes.  And just try to get some of them to watch.  Next time some kid says “Old movies are boring” I’m gonna slap him silly.  Now get off my lawn!

As a rule I tend to boycott remakes, especially of classic films that don’t suffer from having been made before CGI, or 3D or any other acronym of special effects wonderment.

Here’s a list of a few films that should probably have been left alone:

  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Really?  DTESS is a classic of science fiction starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal.  The political stuff alone makes it worth watching.  The world’s reaction to the saucer, and the shooting of Klaatu the moment he steps out of it don’t lose a thing with time.  Neither does Bernard Herrmann’s scary theramin music.  It’s hard to believe this film was made fifty-nine years ago.
  • The Omen (1976). Hands up if you saw this scary evil kid film when it came out or on TV.   If not, you missed something.  Gregory Peck, David Warner and the lovely and incomparable Lee Remick are outstanding in this tale of a diplomat’s son who is also the Anti-Christ.  It’s Gregory Peck, people!  David Warner will be familiar to anyone who saw Titanic; he played Rose’s boyfriend’s evil minion Lovejoy.  Two decent sequels followed.  The film’s composer, Jerry Goldsmith, won the Oscar for Best Original Score.   Who was in the remake?  Anybody remember?  Hmmm?  I didn’t THINK so!

  • The Haunting (1963). Directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom and Russ Tamblyn of West Side Story (yes, he’s Amber Tamblyn’s father), this creepy movie was adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name.   It’s the scariest haunted house movie ever.  In one scene, the characters wake late at night to a terrifying pounding noise out in the hall, moving down toward the door, which bulges inward in an impossible way.  You don’t see a thing here, but what you think might be on the other side will give you nightmares.  The only palatable thing about the remake was Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is always good even in crap.  I hope they paid her well.

  • Clash of the Titans (1981). Again with the CGI, this time also adding 3D.  The 1981 film starred Harry Hamlin, Burgess Meredith, Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall!), Claire Bloom (again), and Laurence Olivier as Zeus.  Top that!   Famous stop-motion special effects guru Ray Harryhausen did the creatures.  The original was campy and fun; according to reports, the remake had nothing going for it.  They even showed the Kraken in the trailer; way to spoil the climax of the film before anyone even saw it!  I still might watch it on DVD, but I’m glad I didn’t pay theater prices to see it.  Sam Worthington starred, fresh off Avatar, where he was pretty good despite the weak material.

SSTers, please enjoy a hilarious spoof / review here by leviathan12.

  • Poltergeist (1982). This one is just a rumor, but please, please, don’t.  Just don’t.  Forget the curse; there isn’t one.  Just don’t do it.  You can’t make it scarier than the original and I know you, Hollywood.  You’ll just go too far and bore us to death.  Too much CGI doesn’t work any better than none.  Countless people who saw this one when it came out remember it as one of the scariest films they ever watched.

A couple of exceptions to the “remakes suck” rule are worth mentioning.

  • The Thing (1982). Duuuuude.  If you haven’t seen this, rent it immediately, but don’t watch it alone.  It’s one of the few horror movies that can actually creep me out.  I’m totally jaded, but this got me in a way I can’t even explain.  The original Howard Hawks film from 1951, The Thing from Another World, is based on a novella by John W. Campbell, Jr. called Who Goes There? You can read it online here.  It’s a pretty good film—James Arness of Gunsmoke plays the Thing—but this one is better.  Ennio Morricone, great Italian soundtrack master who scored such films as The Untouchables and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, wrote some of the scariest music imaginable for this film.  It stars Wilford Brimley, Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Richard Dysart.

  • Little Shop of Horrors (1986). A campy musical adaptation of a 1960 Roger Corman vehicle, this is a delight.  It was originally done off-Broadway.  The songs are great, the story is fun and the actors enjoyed themselves hugely.  I’ve seen the original; it was Jack Nicholson’s first credited film appearance (he played the masochistic dental patient) and was hysterically funny.   Apparently, the musical had a much blacker ending than the film and they changed it, but this one is good too.  Rick Moranis, Ellen Green (who played Audrey in the stage version) and Steve Martin as the dentist star.

Both these films are a good example of doing something fresh with the original material.  We need more original screenplays or works adapted that are new to the screen.  Watchmen may have been flawed, but it was damned enjoyable.  They tried, by God.  They got good actors and really gave it a go.  Comic and other genre movies are getting a good trial right now.  If you treat the material seriously you’ve got a winner, not just from established fans but the new ones.  Look at The Dark Knight; Heath Ledger won an Oscar not because he died, but because he took an iconic character and made something out of it that was more than a cartoon.

Take The Lord of the RingsReturn of the King won Best Picture.  Let me reiterate:  a fantasy film won Best Picture.  Geeks everywhere creamed their jeans over that one.  Yes, it had loads of CGI and couldn’t have been done as well without it, but talk about using it responsibly.  Hell, yeah.  Thank you, Peter Jackson, for creating such a masterful adaptation and opening the door to a whole new world of filmmaking.  There are a ton of books out there that would make great movies, some fantasy, some not.

Grow a pair, Hollywood.   Audiences are more sophisticated than they were.  People are tired of CGI; it can’t carry a film if there’s no story, and the same is true for 3D.  Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was good but didn’t need the 3D.  Avatar did because the story was so weak.  Audiences, do your part by not paying to see lousy remakes of good films, or crappy TV shows.  Let’s raise the standards of our entertainment by demanding quality content.

Got any good remakes you’d like to suggest?  Please share in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Remake Rants

  1. One word – Bollywood.

    We have so many clones and so many spin offs and so many ‘inspired materials’ that we just don’t need remakes. In fact, there is not a single official remake of a movie in Bollywood. Of course, we take scripts and add something to it and remake the movie with new characters, added storyline etc – but no remake movie ever had the same name and the same character names and the same screenplay and stuff, get it?

    For example, there was this Dilip Kumar starrer Ram Aur Shyam which was later ‘remade’ with a gender change of the protagonists as ‘Seeta Aur Geeta’, which was later made in the 90s as ‘Chaalbaaz’. So on and so forth.

    The closest that Bollywood came to making remakes was ‘Sholay’ (literal meaning orbs of fire) which is a cult, classic movie still feeding so many advertising professionals, stand up comedians, that it should become an industry in itself. You can find more about it on Wikipedia.

    There is this nice director, Ram Gopal Verma, better known as RGV, who had the guts to remake Sholay. Now, Sholay is not a movie here, it’s an experience, it’s a romance, it’s Bollywood. Apparently the producers of the original Sholay did not allow him the use of the iconic name, and therefore he made RGV ki Aag. (literal meaning, RGV’s Fire”, yes we have had lame jokes about it) which was a critical and colossal failure. And that put an end to making remakes.

    The only remake movie which has been gold to whoever touched it is Devdas, a story of a man who drinks himself to death because of love. Various lover icons have played the role of Devdas, who fell in love with a girl and then had the pangs for a courtesan. If you like awesome Indian dresses and picturization of traditions, watch the version with Shah Rukh Khan.

    If all this is greek to you and still want to know what’s it all about, wikipedia all the names and nouns. It will be fun.

    • Thanks for the suggestions, Roy. I will take a look. I realy do enjoy Indian music, both the classical and the Bollywood stuff.

      I think the biggest problem with the Hollywood reboots/remakes is that when you take an iconic film like The Day the Earth Stood Still, if you’re going to redo it, you should make DAMN sure you have a better take on it. They very rarely do. Notice how many movies got remade when CGI became ubiquitous? It’s just a money grab.

  2. I understand what you’re aiming at. Didn’t we all experience this remake-nonsense at least once? When I read your examples I almost instantly thought of a movie which I really liked: “Bella Martha”, originally being a german movie, one of the really good ones, IMHO. So, guess what Hollywood did with that masterpiece? Right, it was remade into “no reservations” which admittedly had the more attractive leading actress with Catherine Zeta-Jones. But watching the Hollywood-version of this just couldn’t compete with the European version. Though the differences were little and might only feel insignificant to a viewer, who is used to watching Hollywood’s sugar-topped works, BUT to me it was a sacrilege, the deeper meaning of the movie had been altered. Right, Martha is a cook in a very classy restaurant and one day her sister dies in a car-crash and suddenly she’s confronted with her niece and the complicated role of being a single-mother in next to no time. Where the german movie focuses on her troubles of becoming the person she’s expected to be and the rather strange relationship between her and her niece, the Hollywood-film focused on the love-story and makes Catherine/Martha into a loving and caring person, who does not have troubles at all with the loss of her sister and absolutely being overstrained with her new role…. no Catherine Zeta is tough… *sighs* I think you get the picture…but I’m totally against remakes who don’t make a movie better! I’m absolutely with you on this

    • Drives you crazy, doesn’t it? The American remakes of Japanese horror films bug me a lot too, although The Grudge was pretty good. Usually the original is much better. I’m not looking forward to watching them butcher the excellent Swedish film Let the Right One In. :P

  3. Pingback: Inspiration: “Where do you get your ideas? « Graphomaniac – Elizabeth West

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