Monday, September 13, 2010

Attack of the Remakes


I'm not here today to talk about a particular film, but to address a cinematic phenomenon that's plaguing the Silver Screen lately...I'm talking about the Remake.

In the past several years, remakes have popped up like weeds in the yard that is Film. It seems like there's more remakes than original productions these days. There are remakes of older films, and even worse, films that are remakes of old TV shows...really, did we need a Dukes of Hazard or an A-Team movie?



Many of the films that have been remade were classics from the 70s or early 80s. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and Dawn of the Dead are just a few of the films that fall into this category. Besides the fact that most of the people in charge in Hollywood seem to have a definite lack of originality or imagination, I think that name recognition is a main factor in these films being remade. The other is that the main demographic of cinemagoers, that is teens, have probably not seen these films.


I've only seen one of these remakes, that one being Dawn. At the insistance of a friend, I watched it. Was it terrible? No. Was it a total waste of time? No. Was it as good as the original? No. Was it at least good enough to warrant its existance? I think not. If the filmmakers just made their own zombie film, I probably wouldn't have a problem with it. But to call it by the same title as the original classic, well, that's calling a firecracker a cannon....call it what you will, it just don't measure up. It was just unneccesary.


I know that some probably prefer the remakes over the originals. I read a book on zombie films recently that went so far as to say the remake of Dawn was better than George Romero's original undead opus. The writer of that book may truly believe that, but I believe that sometimes critics try to make a name for themselves by stirring the pot, and one way to do that is to attack established heroes and innovators of genres...I think they also get some kind of kick out of pissing fans off ( I've seen it in literary circles, too, where authors that have a following are slagged for whatever reason...Robert E. Howard, for example).


You can probably guess where I stand on the issue of remakes...but there are , as with all things (pun intended), exceptions to the rule. Two such exceptions that come to mind are John Carpenter's The Thing and David Cronenberg's The Fly. These were remakes done in the 80s instead of remakes of films from the 80s. Both films took their 50s sci-fi film source material as a mere starting point and made radical departures from the original source material. Carpenter's film was an excercize in paranoia , gore, and shape-shifting horror, and Cronenberg's film was , like most of his work, a tale of body horror . What makes these remakes stand head-and -mutated-shoulders above other remakes? First, they're both very well-done films. They took a films that were, let's face it, not all that great ( James Arness in a hokey monster suit and a guy with a big fly's head) and made masterpieces . The respective filmmakers took the material and put their own distinct spin on it. My problem with the Dawn remake is that the source material wasn't improved on ...unless you think fast-running zombies are the shit, then congrats, I got a movie for you. I suspect the same holds true for the other remakes lurking about.
The other remake trend I need to address here is that of the American Version Of A Great Foriegn Film. Case in point: Let Me In, the completely and totally unnecessary remake of the brilliant Swedish film Let The Right One In. The original, if you haven't seen it, is a wonderful movie...the best vampire film I've probably seen, and a damn good film in general. I think I can pin down the reasons this (and other foriegn films) is being remade instead of being put into wider release. Reason #1- Too much subltety, and dare I say it, artisticality( Is that even a word? Must be the Woodchuck hard cider talking). There are scenes of violence and gore, but they're interspersed with scenes of beauty and quiet, which aren't associated with Big Box Office Bucks here in the U.S. Reason #2-SUBTITLES. Gods forbid if we have to actually read while at the movies...might have an embolism or something. Hollywood makes assumptions on what we, as moviegoers, will watch, or want to watch.
So here's where I want your input, people. What do you think of remakes? What do you like to see in films? Are subtitles a deal-breaker for you? Is Hollywood correct in their take on the great unwashed masses waiting to watch movies? Do you think that your average American moviegoer wants something original, or the same old shit? What do you want? As for me, there's only so many hours in the day, and I'd rather watch some clever low-budget film , a Japanese-made splatterfest with cute girls and ridiculous body weapons , or a Norwegian Nazi Zombie epic ,than yet another remake of a classic (or not so classic) 70s/80s fright film. Talk to me, folks.

12 comments:

Heff said...

I concur.


Didn't care for Rob Zombie's "Halloween", either.

Romero's Dawn Of The Dead is a CLASSIC.

Scott said...

Heff,

I haven't seen Zombie's 'Halloween' films...I thought they might be an exception to the rule also, but I haven't heard anyone say so that's seen it.

Romero's 'Survival of the Dead' was good, review coming soon.

Good hearing from you!

Seven Hare said...

One of the reasons studios remake older films it to retain the intellectual property rights. Titles as well as characters are trademarked and maintaining the rights to those marks is contingent upon use; the owner of the mark has to file a Statement of Use with the US Patent and Trademark Office at specified intervals or they will lose the rights thereby allowing anyone to use and profit from characters and titles they created. Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ as well as the remakes of ‘Scarface’, ‘Cat People’ and ‘The Fly’ were all commissioned by the studios primarily to retain the intellectual property rights (interestingly enough they are all very good remakes). I don’t know if you’re familiar with the spaghetti western ‘Django’ films, but the studio that produced them neglected to trademark the name and as a consequence filmmakers began using the name ‘Django’ in titles that had absolutely nothing what so ever to do with the character. They do it in comic books too, Neil Gaiman’s reimagining of the ‘Sandman’ character was done so DC could maintain the rights to the character and older incarnations of Sandman pop up throughout Gaiman’s books. I work for intellectual property attorneys and sadly, I cannot unlearn this stuff.

That said, I mostly hate remakes and I could not agree more about the remake of ‘Let the Right One In’, that film is perfection.

Scott said...

Seven Hare,

True, I had forgotten about intellectual property laws. I have seen the first Django, and I loved it...haven't seen the sequels for reasons you've stated.

A. K. said...

Remakes... I hate em.. But I would love to watch a remake of my favorite porn movie.. LOL!

Paul R. McNamee said...

I think you summed it well. Even if a remake isn't bad, it rarely seems like it was worth the production. The good exceptions (e.g.; 'The Thing') are few and far between.

Unfortunately, this trend will not go away anytime soon. One of the Disney execs declared they will not produce "non-branded original ideas that have no pre-awareness."

Sounds like remakes to me - or, more formulaic redressing of previously told tales.

Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't mind the DAwn remake but it was fairly ho hum. 99 percent of the time they seem like such waste of times. A Hulk remake for example? WTF. No on the A team as well

Scott said...

A.K.,

Porn remakes would be O.K. on my book.

Paul,

Not surprising news from Disney...sad, but not surprising.

Charles,

Yeah, the 'Dawn' remake had a few good moments, but not enough to warrant its existence, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Christiejolu said...

I love Japanese horror films subtitles and all...They are way creepier than the remakes!

I think Hollywood is just out of ideas!

Lana Gramlich said...

I'm just amazed at not only the remakes, but the sequels set to come out (Ghostbusters 3, TRON Legacy, a continuation of "Soylent Green," etc.) There's NO originality worth a crap anymore, it seems. Did we really need another "Footloose," "Fame" or "Clash of the Titans?" I mean, REALLY?!? I'm just glad I grew up in the era of GOOD, ORIGINAL films.

Love to Magni!

Scott said...

Christiejolu,

I agree, the originals are the best, especially the ones from Japan. Thanks for stopping by, come by anytime!

Lana,

Yeah, the amount of remakes/retreads/sequels is dizzying. There are still some good films being made, but they're hard to find at times in the Cineplex Wasteland of remakes, bad chick-flicks, and Matthew McConeghay films. Magni says 'Hi'; I have some new pics of him coming soon!

OFFICER DONNA said...

scott ! i still remember the time you sent heff the beast gran tru ale !

he got so shitfaced. what a tool, lol/