A lot of movies are being remade, A lot shouldn’t.
Which should and shouldn’t? As they say in the movie business, “We have some notes.”
Hollywood is under pressure to deliver content that packs people in theater seats and keep their eyeballs stuck to TV screens.
As they are either running out of ideas or feel the risk of creating new stories with unknown characters is box-office death, a clear decision has been made to appeal to audiences’ nostalgia.
Hollywood is pumping out content featuring characters and stories the public already has relationships with. In their effort to recycle, TV and movie remakes are running wild.
Just to name a few:
Hanna, Akira, Aladdin, Alien Nation, Men in Black, Dumbo, Lion King, A Star is Born, The Crow and Dirty Dancing. Here’s the bigger list.
Remakes in themselves aren’t bad.
Like a song, a good remake or cover can bring new life to a song. I love They Might Be Giants’ cover of Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” A 1953 novelty song originally performed by The Four Lads. Weezer’s’ recent version of Toto’s Africa pulls an 80s song from campy oblivion into the minds of a new generation of music listeners.
Marvel and DC comics have brought back the superheroes I loved from my youth into the present with different looks and backstories. Some have come into the present with incredible success.
Iron Man was a B-level character when I grew up. Star-Lord was a C-level. Now they are commonly known and loved characters thanks to remakes and stepping on screen.
Remakes can be good. But some make you ask, “what’ was the point?”
A remake always walks in the shadow of an idea that’s a legend or at least sets a high bar. To that point, I can’t tell what actually drives green lighting remakes in, but I offer a few suggestions.
When to green light a remake.
1. Dated movie elements that can’t be ignored.
Sometimes it’s hard to get past the language of the time or movie props. The movie Wall Street does that for me. To see Gordon Gecko pull out a cell phone that looks like a bloated banana just takes me out of the moment and makes me think, “I paid 50-times less for a better phone. And he’s a billionaire” Guess I’m living better than he is.” Greed may be good. But that walkie-talkie cell phones and eighties-style suits aren’t.
2. The property or story is bigger than the last movie team’s mess up
Batman & Robin with George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to mind. That horrible version almost left the franchise for dead. But the equity around Batman is strong. So strong, people will endure the pain of bad movie makers and bad sequels to get it right.
The story is stronger than the actors, directors, and writers. That’s usually the case with movie standards. It’s why movies like Scrooge, Robin Hood, and The Three Musketeers get remade every decade or so.
3. “We can rebuild him.” The six-million-dollar man remake.
This is an offshoot of the previous criteria. A movie crashed terribly or was born lame. Yet from the box-office wreckage, you can rebuild something even better from the heart of it.
Battlestar Galactica comes to mind. The 1970s version was more of a cheesy spectacle than brilliant. Then the 2005 mini-series version came along. Wow. Not only did that version change Battlestar Galactica, but it also changed the face of TV drama as it showed a new level of drama could come to the small screen.
4. Your property needs a cultural transplant.
Bond. James Bond. To watch 007 remakes evolve is to watch the definition of male masculinity evolve from toxic masculinity to today’s more complex and modern man. Let’s start with Sean Connery that, super smooth, infallible guy. Dressed in a dinner jacket and surrounded by women presented as disposable pleasures. He was also involved in scenes that would be considered sexual assault today. The style of masculinity doesn’t hold up in the present.
Enter Daniel Craig and Casino Royale. While he, at first, didn’t look the part, his remake character captured the new culture shift on what society’s new leading man was. A fallible and tortured man powered by an indomitable will more than a breezy, smug-driven smoothness. A vision today’s man aspires to as a more realistic role model.
When not to do a remake.
1. Don’t mess with perfection.
The 1998 remake of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho comes to mind, Did a nearly frame-by-frame remake of this classic movie need to be remade? Unless it was to earn three Golden Raspberry nominations in the categories of Worst Remake. No.
2. The when culture has a “me-too” movement.
Blazing Saddles. Mandingo. Soul Man.
“What are movies that would never get made today for $1000, Alex?”
3. Remake by body transplants.
This is the act of throwing a bankable Hollywood star into every nostalgic franchise as an additional box-office insurance policy. Previous violators include Will Farrell (Land of the Lost, Sherlock Holmes). Today, the current and biggest violator: The Rock. As in…
The Rock + Baywatch.
The Rock + The Towering Inferno ( I mean Skyscraper)
The Rock + Jumanji
You get the picture. This bigger picture is that the property being brought back isn’t really strong enough on its own to warrant a remake.
Remakes aren’t going away. Let’s just hope Hollywood can make them better.