Recently, a mysterious epidemic has been sweeping across Hollywood. At first, this illness was seen only a few times a year, but now it has become a full on plague within the industry. I’m referring to the disease that causes studio executives to “remake”, “re-imagine”, or “update” older films for a new generation. Don’t get me wrong, remakes are as old as the hills, they’re nothing new, but the motivation behind them, as well as the quality of their content has changed dramatically. Remakes used to be a means of improving on the original, but at some point they became the industries crutch for easy money.
It seems like every five minutes there’s an announcement that a horror flick, action film, or slap stick comedy from the ’70′s or ’80′s is getting remade. Fans get annoyed but they deal with it, because their considered “campy” or “cult” favorites, and secretly you want to see how a new director will butcher them with their vision. But, what happens when studio’s begin to run out of modern material to feed their remake machine? What happens when they begin to turn to films that are considered “classics”?
I will make this known now, I have a soft spot for my oldies but goodies. A lot of the films that were made in the golden age of cinema are some of my all time favorite movies. Therefore, when I hear about one of them being remade one question always pops into my head, “why?” Don’t get me wrong they’re are a lot of classic films that are remakes themselves, including my personal favorite, The Ten Commandments. A lot of people think the 1956 version is the original, but it’s not. Director Cecil B. DeMille produced the first Ten Commandments in 1923, and then remade it again 33 years later. In DeMille’s circumstance, he was the original director, and he actually made an improvement on the first. That used to be a huge part of Hollywood’s reasoning for remakes, they wanted to use the more advanced special effects and camera techniques to make a good film great.
The reason for remaking a classic film today is financial: whether it be top line – capitalizing on the success of an existing property with name recognition to ‘guarantee’ an immediate audience, and/or bottom line – saving the cost it takes to find and then acquire new stories. The skeptical among us wonder whether the goal is ever to improve upon the asset, trying to make something better vs. just exploiting it for a new audience – that may never have seen the original product or has an aversion to watching old B&W movies (e.g. even if they’re made available on DVD).
When I read that the 1955 Elia Kazan classic, East of Eden was being re-imagined for the 21 century, I almost lost it. Those involved with the pending project continue to push the notion that the film isn’t a remake, but another adaptation of the James Steinbeck book. Let’s be real, when you hear East of Eden you think of James Dean. In my opinion, to this day, that film still stands up in terms of its performances and visual quality. No remake needed. According to Den of Geek, there are planned remakes for the Fritz Lang classic Metropolis, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, George Cukor’s My Fair Lady, and even Akira Kurosawa’s Rashoman. Just the thought of Metropolis being remade is terrifying! I understand that we’re in an economic crisis, and everyone is looking for a sure thing, but to remake Metropolis? How are they going to pull that off, without butchering the moral that the film teaches us?
My main gripe with remakes, has to do with their quality. The majority of the time the newer version doesn’t hold up to the original. It’s as if the essence of the film gets lost in translation. Several films illustrate this example such as 1998′s Psycho, 2006′s All the King’s Men, 2002′s Mr. Deeds, which was Adam Sandler’s take on the 1930′s Frank Capra classic Mr. Deed’s Goes to Town. None of these films hold a candle to their original counterparts, so what was the point of making them? Studios want to get rich off of the built in audiences that the original films earned, but they don’t want to put in the effort to produce them correctly.
I don’t mean to take away from the talent of anyone, but there can only be one Hitchcock, one George Cukor, and one Frank Capra. They brought their perspective to the screen, and that’s what made their films good. How can you present the perspective of one director, through another director, 50 years later, and not expect for something to go terribly wrong? Great films should be preserved and used as examples of what good filmmaking is and can be. They shouldn’t be used as financial cushions in times of a creative drought. What’s stopping producers from revamping Rebel Without a Cause, On the Waterfront, or even The Godfather?
The sheer laziness, and lack of effort has to be stopped. This epidemic will bring an end to the very thing that’s made the film industry so successful in the first place, it’s originality. My biggest fear is if Hollywood continues its focus on remaking classic films of the past, we won’t have any new ones to show for in the future.
So who is with me? The only way to stop the madness is to stop going to the theater and paying for more remakes. Don’t give into the “they might be okay” thoughts you’re having. Boycott the remakes and watch the original!
What classic films are you willing to stand up for not being re-made? Leave a comment and let us know!