Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thoughts on Remakes

So, I'm of two minds.

On the one hand I am pretty tired of the endless reboots/updates/revivals in TV, film, and stage. Yegads people, are there no more new ideas when you start thinking of remaking CHiPs? It feels like the people who put this stuff out there have decided that they can't really take chances with a bunch of new stuff and they know the old stuff worked so why don't they redo it, package it all pretty, and send us a brand new old thing to see.

So, we've had "Dukes of Hazard" and "Bionic Woman" and "Battlestar Galactica" and "Star Trek" and "Starsky and Hutch" and in fact the wikipedia page of remade films is so long that they had to split it in two. So, why is it that so many new films that are being released are the remakes of old ones? Why are there so many people out there writing for the movie industry whose films aren't being given the time of day because they're too busy remaking "Creature From the Black Lagoon" (to be released in 2011)? It can't be possible that all the new ideas have been used up and that no one is turning in quality screenplays. There must be more out there but we don't get to see them because so many of the programming and feature film releases are rehashings.

Having said that, there are series that died too quickly that I'd love to see have another chance. One such is Alien Nation. I just read the article that said that Tim Minnear (of Angel and X-Files fame) is writing the movie for SciFi channel and it looks like they hope to make it into a series. I loved loved the original but in true Fox fashion, they canceled it after only one season. However, it was so popular with fans that it spawned five made for tv movies. Now, on the heels of BSG's success, SciFi feels like the same can happen with Alien Nation. I wish them luck because the original series got a seriously raw deal.

This morning I read that Columbia Pictures and Ron Howard will be remaking "Real Genius." That film is a fun gem of a movie and in my opinion well enough should be left alone. There is no real reason to remake this movie except to see what you can sell from it. The story was told and told well. And I can see it now. That little googley-antenna head band that Val Kilmer's Chris Knight wore will be for sale at every Spencer's Gifts across the land. But, it will cost 10.99 instead of 4.99 because it will have the official "Real Genius" seal of approval.

"Clash of the Titans" is another example of a movie that should have been left alone. Interestingly, all the reviews indicate that it is a souped up version of the original. Part of the original's charm was that it was endearingly cheesy both in plot and execution. The new version has bells and whistles but the same cheese factor and that doesn't sit too well with audiences. It seems we want our B movies to come with B acting and B effects or we stay away in droves.

Here's where I worry about Hollywood and playing it safe. There are so many screenplay writers out there who have bright, exciting, high concept ideas. Yet, few if any, of those screenplays will see the light of day because it seems the big studios are much more interested in rehashing movies that are more sure of success because of their previous outings. This is such a shame, really, because new ideas come from the most unexpected sources and we, the movie-viewing public, get the raw end of the deal if we're spoon-fed the same old, same old.

I'd love to see bold choices by some of the big name studios. As it is, only smaller, independent studios seem to be taking chances. Seldom is a phenomenon like "Blair Witch Project" going to sweep the nation, but without a risk being taken by someone, it won't ever be released. I'm not saying that "Blair Witch" was an incredible film because frankly, I thought it was refreshing and different but not the incredible cinematic masterpiece so many others think it is. However, it was different. It was raw, and it was passionate. It was also made on a shoestring budget, and it caught people's interest and swept them up in the story. The marketing campaign didn't hurt and we all got treated to a new way of seeing and experiencing the movies. That's never a bad thing.

I do realize that like Lord of the Rings, etc., there are many books, movies, etc. that couldn't be made well before the most recent technological advances. No question. And I don't mind movie adaptations of books at all, actually. Many have been quite wonderful and I enjoy seeing someone else's idea of what the world of the book might look like. What I'm bummed about is the great number of remakes of movies/tv shows that are a rehashing of old stuff. If it's because there's something really new and compelling to say, that's one thing, but if it's making it just because the previous formula worked so they want some easy money (which I suspect was the case with the Matrix sequels, which were so poor compared to the first one), that's a problem for me.

In the end, I vote for outreach. I would love to call on the big studios to start actively seeking new talent. I know there are conferences and conventions that actively mine for new talent but I feel like the talent must give those same studios the plots whose exact formulas that have worked before and so even when we get new, we often see old.

Take a look at the romantic comedies that come out now. If I see one more movie with a female lead who is Type A and is way too busy to find romance and then she lands in a situation that is completely out of her comfort zone and has to deal with a smartass man who looks down on her because she doesn't know how to deal with suddenly being dropped in the middle of, say, Alaska (or Ireland or the Australian Outback) within this new paradigm, I will scream. Of course, the smartass man is the one who will eventually win her heart and lose his to her and he'll find her right as she's about to get on the plane and express his love almost reluctantly because it turns out he's been afraid to love this whole time and he's put up all these defenses and that's why he was treating her like crap before. And they'll live happily ever after.

I know it's a formula. I know it works. Heck, I willingly fall for it myself since I'm a complete sucker for a happy ending. But really, there must be others out there. I'm sure of it. I love movies and I will never give up on them, but right now, I don't go see them very often. Here's hoping that changes soon.


  1. Great post Izolda. For the record I don't think the Blair Witch Project was a cinematic masterpiece either. I think it just had some really phenomenal marketing mojo!

    Amanda June Hagarty

  2. Thanks, sweetie. Yeah, to me it wasn't an awesome movie but the marketing juggernaut made blaze across the sky.

  3. You don't like type A women getting together with smartasses? You don't like them being put into situations where she is out of her comfort zone, like Alaska or the Australian outback or car-camping in Europe?

    Uh oh...