Remakes, the New Hollywood Genre
For those of you who follow Hollywood affairs, you know that there is little-to-no originality left in the film industry. For those of you who don’t, let me break it down for you. America has been producing films as a commercial endeavor since the 1920’s. It’s no surprise that after all this time, someone in some plush Hollywood business suite is panicking. They’re panicking because most every story that can be told simply already has been told.
Queue the remake. I suppose the initial idea of the remake was to recycle stories that were fresh and original in their day but may have been forgotten about modernly. It’s not a new phenomenon by any means (The Magnificent Seven, for instance, is a remake of The Seven Samurai) but it is something that has rocketed to massive popularity in today’s film industry, always to varied success.
Sometimes, remakes of older films can come out seeming refreshing and wholly original, exciting the moviegoer and generating buzzed discussion. Just as often, though, the remake can open to disastrous effects, contributing little to the existing pantheon of film and story-telling. There is a wide array of explanations to account for both, a subject that should be sparking conversations among the most basic of film aficionados..
Advances in Cinema Technologies
Perhaps the most basic and sincere reasons to remake a film is the various advances in technologies that contribute to the making of a film. All too often, over-ambition directors match wits with over-enthusiastic screenwriters and create a premise that is simply unfilmable. Rarely, however, does this stop a dedicated film crew. If it did, we would never have seen some of our most beloved screen opuses, such as The Poseidon Adventure and King Kong.
A lack of technologies can give otherwise brilliant premises and scripts a hokey or gimmicky appearance once it reaches film. This is exactly why directors and producers opt to scoop up these films and give them a second breath of life. Titanic showed us what The Poseidon Adventure could have been, and countless adventure and monster films gave us a glimpse at the possibilities in store for King Kong.
Updating a film using modern technologies is perhaps the noblest of efforts when it comes to remaking films. It is a selfless act on behalf of the filmmaking team and serves instead as an homage to the original. Remaking an over-ambitious picture with modern, capable technologies is simply envisioning the film as it was perhaps intended to be seen in the first place.
Changes in Cultural Climate
A more daring attempt at remaking a film is that of adapting it to the modern cultural climate. Often times, films are produced with the current culture in mind, and the film becomes a snapshot, an homage, or a satire to the current state of the human condition. While this can be handy when viewing the world as it had been, it often times leaves the film dated and weak in the modern circuit. Therefore, the film loses any significance it may have had as the times change and the world adapts to advances in politics, technology, medicine, and etcetera.
But every now and again, one of these dated films will come into sync with the modern cultural climate, meriting a remake. In this event, remaking the film updates it to make it fit with the modern state of the world, of economics and activism, of politics and religion. Such remakes can be a powerful examination at the apparent cyclical nature of culture and can create an interesting portrait of the world population itself.
Another possibility is when a story can be bent or manipulated to fit into the modern climate. In the case, the director or screenwriters often see a parallel or a contradiction to modern society. The remake can be built to be ironic, juxtaposing the film’s original presentation of the human condition with that of the modern presentation. These films are often useful for striking heart chords among human viewers, causing them to either fear what once was or experience nostalgia for what could have been.
The Failed Premise
No one’s perfect, not even big-time Hollywood directors. It is possible for directors to helm projects that are over-ambitious or projects so complex they simply lose themselves in the work. It’s hard to place the blame anyone on these failed attempts to make an original film, but it is also unfair to the audience and to the premise itself to force it to exist solely in its failed form.
This remake is more of an homage to creativity and the premise. The remaking film crew evaluate the successes and failures of the previous film crew, determined to keep the best and either get rid of the worst or rework it to make it work for the film. Films that meet this category are too many to name, but it’s truly difficult to find an instance where a failed film has been remade into something relevant and interesting,
Directors on the War Path
One of the worst reasons to direct a film is when the director is out to prove his or her gruff. This, sadly, is more common than it should be. This remake often includes a big-headed director who finds the most beloved, most extravagantly produced film possible and decided the only way to further his or her career is to tackle this immensely loved picture prove their worth.
This isn’t an homage or a performance of gratitude or honor. Instead, it serves as a director’s display of arrogance and conceit. These films do little to update the social relevance of the original and fail to utilize new technologies to improve the quality of the film and often come out as pale imitations of the originals.
The Flat-Lining Story
There is an instant in which a film should never be remade. This is when there is simply no room to expand the story. If a film exists in one whole, complete form and there is no way the story can be revamped, reimagined, updated, or juxtaposed to the current climate, then there is no reason for a remake. This is because the original film is already the definitive presentation of the story. Either the story is already too wholly conceived or because there is simply no where else to take it and any changes would simply be overkill.
Citizen Kane is what comes to mind in this category. The film presents an entirely expanded examination at the life of a man, and there is nothing else that can be left to ponder about. Adding anything else would simply draw on a story that is already complete. There is simply no way to adapt the story into modern times or to rebuild it in a new, updated cultural climate. The story is already complete, through and through, and any attempt to rebuild it would be a disservice to the original.
Finding a New Audience
Perhaps not the worst reason to remake a movie, but far from the best reason is to find a new audience. This remake takes the original material and changes it to fit in with modern trends. These remakes are usually to appeal to a younger audience and are therefore made to adapt to the younger generation.
This is dangerous ground because it betrays the set of fans already established for the original picture. While the franchise is collecting a new set of fans to pay their ten dollars to see the film, it’s turning away an entirely different (and potentially larger) group at the same time. This type of film can damper the reputation of a film studio and damage possible income from the fans that have been betrayed.
Cashing in on Success of the Original
Hands-down the worst excuse to remake a film is to try to cash in on financial success of the original franchise. Hollywood is, of course, a commercial endeavor, perhaps more than it is an artistic endeavor, but when studios and filmmakers make movies for the sole reason of monetary income, their motives usually shine through in finished product and the overall quality of their work.
When a project is taken on solely for box-office roundup, it becomes apparent that the filmmakers haven’t invested their hearts or personalities into the project. The resulting film is something that is pale and dull and often times can’t stand up to its predecessors. This is apparent in the popular horror film genres and Hollywood blockbusters such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.