Friday, June 08, 2007

The Pop Culture Supreme Court Ruling 1: Should there be a moratorium on direct remakes in Hollywood?

A few weeks ago some of us bloggers got together and decided to create a blog to discuss and present our opinions on a variety of pop culture topics. We’ve decided to call our group The Pop Culture Supreme Court and much like the real world counterpart we will use precedent, experience and opinion to reach group decisions.

The first question we have decided to discuss is the following: Should there be a moratorium on direct remakes in Hollywood?

Before jumping into an immediate opinion…something I find myself doing far too often in the real world…I tried to consider all sides of the question, the pros and cons as it were of film remakes in Hollywood.

There have been a lot of movie remakes in Hollywood going as far back as the silent era right on up to today; they’ve remade silents into talkies, classics into moderns and foreign cinema into big budget American popcorn flicks. In fact if Hollywood can get the rights to remake a film they’ve probably done it. Arts & Entertainment has an interesting piece on remakes, what qualifies as a remake and what does not.

John Houston one of American Cinema’s greatest filmmakers once said “Don't remake good movies, remake bad ones!" but was he right? Let’s explore the possible reasons why a remake should be made:

1. To improve upon the original.

Angela Coleman thinks the only time someone chooses to remake a movie is for lack of personal creativity but that said there have been many instances where a new take on old material has given us a great movie…King Kong, The Mummy, Freaky Friday. But for every good remake there are 4 or 5 bad ones…Planet of the Apes, War of the Worlds, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thomas Crown Affair… The Hutch Report has the theory that the “copy usually isn’t as good as the original and most of the time Hollywood remakes popular television shows and old movies because there is less risk of failure when a proven idea is recreated once again.” Perhaps that’s true and the recognition factor clearly had something to do with the movie’s success.

Of course there is something else to take into consideration when you are remaking an older film: society changes. People change as time does the same and ideals, perception, relationship roles and standards all change. Is a story from 40 years ago still relevant, does it translate to today? A good example of changing a film's story to match societal changes is the 1978 remake of 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and then the 1993 remake just called Body Snatchers. All three movies changed their story and characters to make it relevant to the era’s current societal beliefs and problems. In 56 it was a communist allegory, in 78 it was an attack on the selfishness of the me generation and the 93 version focused on conformity and militarism. These are three films that did it right, there are many more that haven’t.

2. To see a new actor/ writer/ director’s take on pre-existing material.

On the surface of things this always seems like it will be a good idea to see a talented individual whom you appreciate take on pre-existing material but Kurt Russell had an interesting quote in Entertainment Weekly on the proposed Escape From New York remake “I didn’t play Snake Plissken. I created him!” and to me that is the final word on the matter. I don’t know of one instance where an actor was able to adequately recreate or rein vision a role enough to blow the original out of the water or even equal it. For example Gene Wilder will always trump Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, Sean Bean is a great actor but how can he compete with the menacing Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher. So on and so forth…

3. To modernize the look of the film, add new effects, make the story more current.

asipreynccce Suggests that modern effects cannot create the same magic that the original held and I have to agree with that. Like any movie remake or no it comes down to the story not the effects. If you don’t have a good story then you don’t have a good movie. Would a CGI Kraken make Clash of the Titans any better a movie? Ultimately no.

4. To take a foreign film and explore how the story would unfold in our culture as opposed to theirs.

In theory taking a foreign movie and adapting it to American societal ideas is intriguing but rarely are English remakes of foreign films good movies. The Japanese cultural horror film Ringu became the fatuous and ridiculously boring The Ring. The riotous yet emotionally adult La Cage Au Folles became the over the top, silly and childish The Birdcage which scored a. The hilarious, again French, Les Visiteurs en Amérique with Jean Reno and Christian Clavier became the mediocre Just Visiting oddly enough it also starred Jean Reno and Christian Clavier; but even with the same actors in the leading roles this movie could not soar any higher than run of the mill comedy. Hollywood should just stay away from foreign remakes.

So taking the previous statements into consideration I would say yes there should be a short moratorium on direct Hollywood remakes, The Moratorium Would even take that further saying lat out says Hollywood should take a 20 year break from remakes. “Walk into any bookstore and you could spend a life time going thru all the DIFFERENT stories. Why are they not adapting more books into movies? I’ll tell you why. LAZY. Why should I go thru the hassle when I can just take some funny 70’s movie and just throw some big stars in it and be done with it? ”

Ultimately the few entertaining remakes that we enjoy do not justify the mountain of terrible ones that torture us and I would say that most of my fellow bloggers agree with me.

To find out what my fellow Pop Culture Supreme Court has to say on the topic please visit their blogs.

  • MC (Chief Justice)

  • Jess

  • SamuraiFrog

  • Jim

  • Heidi

  • Nikki

  • Jeremy

  • Semaj

  • or visit the main site here
  • The Pop Culture Supreme Court

  • For more on remakes visit Movie Remakes a website dedicated to movie remakes of all types good and bad.


    John said...

    I've been wracking my brain to see if there is any case I could think of where I thought the remake was better than the original and the one that comes to mind is "Insomnia," in which I really loved the original, but was really wowed by the remake.

    Beyond that, I can't think of one and, actually, I actively avoid remakes of movies I love because they usually look dreadful to me - for instance, "The In Laws" and "Lolita."

    And I would seriously have to take issue with you about "King Kong" - the original was tight and perfect, either remake took a simple idea and stretched it out so far it just broke. What surprised me more than anything about Jackson's version was how it almost put me to sleep, whereas the original keeps my eyes open wide.

    I'm across the board against remakes. Waste of money for everyone involved.

    MC said...

    I meant to congratulate you earlier for being the voice of the dissenting side on this verdict.

    And I didn't realize until today that your blog hadn't been on my blogroll... where was my head at all these months?

    Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

    Hey Becca, can I put your Wink logo on my blog? I really dig it.

    Becca said...

    I haven't seen the original Insomnia but I've been very curious. I did see the remake and thought it was pretty good.

    Remakes overall are always so suspect. I really don't understand why people insist on remaking good movies. I can see trying to breath life into something that had potential but wasn't carried out well...otherwise there are so many ideas in the world so why remake.

    Thanks for the congrats, I think this is a great way to explore these pop culture questions. Next time I promise to proof read much more carefully! Gosh so many typos!

    And thanks for the add, I didn't even realize I wasn't there.

    Dr. Monkey-
    Absolutely you can put my logo on your site as long as you link to the Wink site. It's so nice of you!

    PIPER said...

    This is a great idea. If one of the members should grow old and become senile and make no sense, or simply just die off, I would gladly throw my hat into the ring as a replacement.

    You forgot to mention the awful remake of La Femme Nikita with Fonda in Point Of No Return.

    A girl I dated in college went to go see Point Of No Return in the theaters. When we walked out, I said that La Femme Nikita was so much better. She had never seen it, so we went back to my apartment and watched it. She said she liked Point of No Return better. Our relationship didn't last much longer.

    Anonymous said...

    I have to ask, how many orginal movies do you think are bad to good. In my opinion it seems to be about 5 or so bad ones to one good one. If that is the case, and remakes are 4 or 5 bad ones to 1 good one, then isn't that really no different than doing originals?


    Becca said...

    I really feel like if a movie has already been done well and you don't have some terriffically interesting ideas to add to the original concept then Hollywood should refrain from remaking a movie.

    A great example of a remake with something to say is the version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers from the 1970's. The original from the 50's was an allegory for the communist red scare and the 70's version was about the self help generation and how it effected America. They had something new and interesting to add and that's what I mean by only remaking a movie unless you have something to say.

    So many times current/ past remakes have had nothing of consiquence to add so why bother expending energy on that? Try something new...create a new classic or failure...

    I also hate how the studios make crap movies that alot of times they realize from the get-go are crap but bank on making money off the name recognition. Don't you feel a bit cheated or used when they co-opt something you love just to make a quick buck?

    But that is just my opinion of course...