This Is The Remake, Part 1
Most of you probably know, we’ve got lots of remakes on the horizon. This isn’t going to be one of those “ughhhhh there are no new original ideas in Hollywood anymore maaaan!” because honestly, I don’t believe that. It’s called the film business, not the film charity or the film party or the film arty arty art art because at the end of the day the American film industry is set up to be a money-making venture. The quality of the story and the opportunity for revenue should theoretically be on the same side, and usually they are. The key here is balance. When you’ve got money guys with the story sense of an ostrich stepping into quality assurance or, conversely, quality filmmakers with free reign and no concept of boundaries, financial or otherwise, we’ve got problems.
I’m not going to lump remakes together because just like every type of film, it really depends on who is doing the remaking, why, and how. Done right, there can be some very valid reasons to remake a film. Here are a few:
1. The original left something to be desired.
-In film school we were given an assignment to pick a movie we’d like to remake and explain why. I picked Beat The Devil, a John Huston film starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones and Gina Lollobrigida. I can’t recall the details about why I wanted to remake the film but I remember feeling like it was a unfocused and given 20/20 hindsight could be a springboard to something really great. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a “Why I, A 17-Year-Old Who Knows Nothing About Anything, Would Make This Movie Better Than John Huston” type of paper. It was interesting for me to, for the first time, look at something that I thought was so on the verge of being one of my favorite films ever and see if I could figure out what might make it better. There are lots of films like this in our history. I am all for it.
Good Example- I’d love to see a remake of Beat The Devil directed by someone worthy.
Bad Example- House On Haunted Hill. The old one was great and totally holds up. The new one makes absolutely no sense and is terrible.
2. The original, while great, is dated and no longer appealing to its intended audience.
-Kids don’t like black and white films. Kids find it difficult to tolerate movies wit dated special effects. Some kinds of humor have an expiration date. These are facts of life. There are films that are great but aren’t connecting with their intended audiences anymore and I think it’s fair to take a stab at giving a new generation the joy you felt from some particular story line or character. This is a serious responsibility though and if you’re going to do it, you better be ready to do it right.
3. The original is great and totally still stands up, but you want to put a new spin on it.
-This is iffy territory. If you’re going to do this, you better make sure it’s done right. Otherwise you’re not only going to have a bunch of pissed off fans, you’re also going to be considered an egomaniac for thinking you can improve on something that needs no improvement.
Let me tell you what’s not a reason to remake a film- subtitles. Listen, I know Americans don’t like subtitles because reading is super hard, you guys. But I don’t care. If a foreign film is so good you want to expose it to a wider American audience that audience already won’t mind the subtitles. Let me use my arch-nemesis, Zach Braff as an example. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Zach Braff? Yeah the Kickstarter thing was obnoxious but other than that he’s adorbs’. Don’t be fooled. Zach Braff thinks it would be aces, daddy-o (or whatever hipster douchebags say these days) to remake one of my most absolutely favorite films ever, a Danish film by Susanne Bier called Open Hearts (Elsker dig for evigt), starring Mads Mikkelson, Sonja Richter, Paprika Steen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas. Are you freaking kidding me right now? He
watched this film and instead of reveling in such an honest story and fantastic performances he thought “Imma do that too!”. WHY? What can he possibly bring to the table? This film is close to perfection and –here’s my key point here- will connect with the same audience regardless of the language it’s in. The only thing Zach Braff can do is screw it up and soil the name of the original. Go watch this film and if you run into Zach Braff please flip him off for me.
This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Next we’re going to talk about some past remakes – the good and the bad. Stay tuned!