Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When is it appropriate to remake a film?

Confessions of a Junkie: When is it appropriate to remake a film?

By: Brian Cotnoir
     Film remakes are a very touchy subject.  Some people think they are good for the film industry because they can improve upon classic films and help them reach a new generation of film watchers, while others claim that they are unnecessary and taint the legacy of great films.  Whether you like or despise them film remakes seem to be here to stay, but when is it appropriate (or even necessary) to remake a film?  I’ve done taken some time to look at various films and there re-makes, and I think I’ve reached a sensible enough conclusion as to when it is and is not appropriate to remake a film.  Keep in mind this is all strictly my opinion, so if my ideas of whether or not a film should be made is different your ideas of whether or not certain films should be remade, just keep that in mind that this is all strictly opinion.                 
One of these things is not like the other...
You know it’s interesting how I find some film remakes to be very good, while others make me absolutely furious.  I review mostly Horror films, so let me talk about two of my favorite Horror films that have been remade.  Pyscho” (1960) and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920) are two of my All-Time Favorite Horror Films, and both have been remade in the past twenty years, and both are virtual shot-for-shot identical remakes of their original films, and yet I have very different opinions on their remakes.  I can’t even make it through the whole remake of “Psycho” with Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, because it launches me in to a furious blinding fan-boy rage, but yet, I have no problem at all with the remake of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (2005).  Why would I feel differently about both films instead of hating or liking them both equally?  Well, the thing is I already viewed Alfred Hitchcock’s original version to be perfect, while Gus Van Zant’s remake I view as being totally unnecessary, because it the film didn’t need to be told in color, and Vince Vaughn is nowhere near as talented an actor as Anthony Perkins.  As opposed to the remake of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” which has the added benefit of sound (the original is a silent film) and HD picture.  It doesn’t really make that much sense now does it?  If I hate one film for doing it one way, shouldn’t I hate the other in turn for doing the same?            
Were subtitles really that bad of a thing?

     What about remakes of Foreign Films?  A while back I reviewed the vampire film “Let Me In”, and Americanized remake/reboot of the popular 2008 Swedish film “Let the Right One In”.  Let the Right One In” is another one of my favorite Horror films, and I was outraged the first time I watched “Let Me In”.  They took all the dialogue from the 1st film and just translated from Swedish to English, and I counted a total of 42 shot-for-shot scene recreations. Again, why does this bother me if it’s a virtual shot-for-shot remake?  If they two films are so similar shouldn’t I like them both equally?  Well, I have a problem with “Let Me In” being released only 2-years after the original.  Two years, is too short of a span to remake a film for American audiences.  This isn’t the only foreign film to be remade within a couple years of it’s released; there’s also “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Old Boy”, and “The Grudge”.  I can understand subtitles can be a b!tch to read while watching a foreign film, but come on people don’t be so lazy!  Most DVD’s of foreign films feature English voice over dubs.  Don’t wait a couple years for them to remake a foreign film entirely in English see the original and enjoy it for what it is.    
A remake that's as good (if not better) than the original :)
Remaking a film too soon can have negative consequences, but waiting the right amount of time can be very beneficial to a film remake.  A film like “Dracula” has been remade and retold since its original adaptation in 1931.  The films studios back then obviously didn’t have the big budgets and special-effects that today’s have, so they were forced to work with what they had.  Flash forward 60 years and the story of Dracula is retold again by Academy Award Winning Director Francis Ford Coppola with “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” a film with larger budget, an A-List cast, superior special effects, and grand settings throughout the entire film. It is just a remarkable how far the story of “Dracula” has come since Director Tod Browning’s first film version in 1931.  However, not all films remakes are better after time.  For example, the 1999 remake of “The Mummy”—another remake of a classic Universal Monster Movie—relies overly on Computer Generated Special Effects in their version.  Just because you have better special effects in your film does not mean your film remake is of a better quality than the original.  In fact, I would say that I prefer the original 1932 version with Boris Karloff to the 1999 remake.                              
     However, a film remake should also make sense at attempts.  Last House on the Left” was a wonderful horror film for the time it was made in 1972, however the remake felt very out of place and unrealistic.  In the original the idea of a family being so secluded that no one can call for help is very believable for its time, but the 2009 remake doesn’t seem very plausible at all. It’s hard to believe that in a time where cell phones and internet access are available practically everywhere that this girl and her family were so secluded that they could not find or reach help.       
Yes, you were awesome and worth it
Now, when is it okay to remake a film?  Well a certain amount of time is needed before a film is remade, in most cases, at least 15-20 years should have passed before a film is remade.  Secondly, if you’re going to remake a film, you should not pick a film that was already successful, if you’re going to remake a film then please pick a less successful film to make a better version of.  For example, “Judge Dredd” and “RoboCop” were ripped by critics upon their release, but their remakes faired very well with critics and audiences alike.  It only makes sense to remake a film that was a commercial failure because then  you can improve upon what you did wrong, I wouldn’t be surprised if someday there was were remakes of films like “Waterworld”, “Catwoman” or “Battlefield Earth”.     
      Now there are other times its acceptable to remake a film.  Sometimes when a director is making a film they have to compromise parts of the films plot or have to make unwanted changes to it (usually due to things like budget, timing, or pressure from the studio).  So the director’s final vision for the film is never fully realized.  If the film is successful (even with the unwanted changes) the director will sometimes make a “Sequel” to the film, but it’s not a traditional sequel that’s a continuation of the plot from the first film.  Take for example, films like “Hostel II” and “Evil Dead II” are almost identical to their first films; plot wise.  There are only a few subtle differences to between the first film and the second film.  Sequel remakes, typically are bigger successes with directors and producers, then with fans, but they do hold some merit and validity in the film community.         
     Whether you like film remakes or hate them is up to you. Film studios are going to keep producing them as long as they’re out of original ideas or want to make a quick buck.  As long as they leave the classics alone and improve upon films that didn’t live up to their full potential, I don’t think they can do any major harm.

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