For the last several years Hollywood has been pumping out one terrible remake/reboot/retread after another. The “R” words are constantly on everyones tongues. It’s like there’s some strange disease spreading in the studio production offices that’s wiping out the last bits of creativity and integrity Hollywood has. Then again, Hollywood has always been about commerce over art. Lets face it, if every movie they green-lit was a remake and still pulled in the cash, that would be alright with the bigwigs in the studios. The problem is for many of us who love films, especially the classics it’s not alright. In fact, every time we hear the “R” words we get severely irritated.
The earliest remake I was aware of as a film fan was A Fistful of Dollars (1964) which was a retelling of Akira Kurosawa‘s Yojimbo. Director Sergio Leone took the Japanese tale of a lone samurai warrior who plays two warring factions against each other and transplanted it into a western atmosphere with Clint Eastwood taking over the part of Toshiro Mifune‘s lead character. The great thing with Fistful was Leone didn’t just do a straight up remake, he basically reinvented the Western with his post modern/Italian conventions and made his movie something that was a totally different animal. He was a true cinema visionary. He wasn’t calling his film “Yojimbo” and just doing a pointless copy with different cinematography and new actors. NOTE: The story was actually retold again in the 90s by Walter Hill with his film Last Man Standing starring Bruce Willis. While not as well known as its predecessors it was a well made movie by a great director.
John Carpenter‘s The Thing is one of the most popular remakes in the film geek community. Whenever you mention this film on Twitter or Facebook, people immediately begin hailing it as a masterpiece and talking about their favorite scenes. That’s because it is a masterpiece. Carpenter’s spectacular reinvention of the Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby sci fi thriller is what all remakes are supposed to be about. Taking an original concept and giving it a brand new life while paying homage to it. It’s NOT about capitalizing on a film title people know just to get some quick money.
Where alot of the remakes of the past were done with a true ambition to honor the films they were based on (like the ones I mentioned), there has been a major perversion in modern productions of this kind of film. Most evident is in the horror film reboots by the explosion obsessed, high concept commercial director Michael Bay and his production company Platinum Dunes (that name alone shows you where his interest in cinema lies). The sheer level of disrespect Bay shows films that, while are not critically acclaimed, yet are still held in high regard by those of us in the cult film fan community is unfathomable. Regardless of what big name critics think, genre films like Friday The 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street do have a place in cinema history just as much as classics like Citizen Kane and The Godfather. Yet producers like Bay and his team of cut and run cronies obviously see these films as a way to make easy cash based on the popular titles and iconic characters. What Bay has basically done is brought a sub-neanderthal mentality to cinema reinvention. Movies that fans have loved for years are being scavenged of their unique cult qualities and given a stillborn, short term life on the box office market. In the end it’s a waste of time and money. To make matters worse, the studios usually hire young directors without experience who are in the same robotic mindset as Michael Bay and let them helm these productions while disregarding an entire community of fans these films have. Who said that the original films weren’t worthy of being shown again in theaters? Wouldn’t it save Hollywood millions to NOT do sub-par remakes but instead simply re-release the original films in remastered form and introduce younger generations to them? It could work if handled correctly.
Calling attention to the older films through remakes is another side to this argument I’ve heard and processed. While it does seem like a positive thing on the surface, it actually isn’t enough of a reason for studios to waste excess amounts of money to remake classic movies that are benchmarks in film history. Its simply unnecessary and downright moronic.
I understand Hollywood functions from a constant flow of revenue but it should also be about integrity, quality and respect for the very films that made such a great impact on the art, business and the movie-going public.
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