Remakes: Not Just for Lazy Producers
“Another King Kong movie!?!?!”, “How are they doing Power Rangers over again!?”, “Why are they redoing Beauty and the Beast, it was perfect the first time!?”. Over the last three weeks we’ve been hit with three different remakes/reboots of successful franchises. It seems that we really are drowning in remakes this year, and it has the public wailing and gnashing their teeth while they pull out their wallet to buy their tickets. Obviously studios don’t bat an eye at these complaints as it still rakes in buco bucks for them, but let’s not let the greedy and lazy motivation for these remakes overshadow the good that they do. While they get a lot of flack for a lack of originality, remakes provide an essential surge of positive qualities into the filming industry.
Movie remakes are almost as old as movies themselves. The first movie was made in 1895, whereas the first remake came around 9 years after. It was a remake of The Great Train Robbery (1903). A mere year after the original came out, The Great Train Robbery (1904) immediately defeated one of the purposes of remaking a film, and that is to speak to a new generation. Back in 1960, The Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.), a group of the coolest people on earth at the time, played a group of cohorts aiming to rob 5 casinos at once in Ocean’s 11 (1960). These suave sons-of-guns were the smoothest things ever seen on the silver screen. Forty years later, their charm didn’t quite hold up to the modern audience. This gave us one of the most star-studded movies to date when they decided to make Ocean’s Eleven (2001) starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, and on and on the A-listers went making for a fantastic film. By putting relevant stars into a remake, they are able to preserve the memory of a fantastic film that had lost its luster from age.
Actors aren’t the only people that can be responsible for breathing life into a remake though, sometimes it’s the writers and directors responsible for the freshness of a remade movie. Take The Stepford Wives (1975) for example. While a classic, to be sure, it was made as a sci-fi thriller in the same vein as Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing (both movies with great remakes). When Frank Oz remade it in 2004, he challenged himself to completely change an already made film. Instead of searching for new ways to rekindle the thrills of the original, he focuses on the ridiculousness of the insecurities of such men to make this kind of plot, and turns it into a comedy. While essentially keeping the same story, we were given a whole new movie with a different agenda, bringing “Stepford Wife” back into the lexicon of today.
While getting new ideas and input on films is what makes the remakes fresh, probably the most exciting part for both filmmakers and viewers is the opportunity to make classic films with brand new technology. A large percentage of the remakes that have been coming out in the last decade and a half have been sci-fi, fantasy, and/or horror, and it’s because of this reason. For example, King Kong (2005) was paralleled to King Kong (1933) in the sense that they were both using cutting-edge technology to bring their beasts to life on the screen. 72 years of the progression of film-making technology is most evident when these are put side-by-side. In 1933 they were using clay-mation and stop-motion, leaving those choppy movements and toy-like quality associated with these techniques. In 2005 you can make out the individual hairs on the gorilla’s arms. While better special effects does not guarantee a better film, one can’t deny the heart-pounding that occurs in the space battles in Star Trek (2009) as opposed to the rather flat moments of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
As long as the creators are adding their own take to revive it to a modern audience, it is really not an awful idea to remake/reboot a movie. While audiences may feel protective of the original because of their love for it, they should realize that these filmmakers are people who also love their favorite movies, so much so that they were inspired by them. These aren’t the insults to the originals that they are often critiqued to be, but rather tributes made in hopes of preserving these films in order to inspire future generations of audiences and filmmakers.