Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Remakes ! My Opinions.

Now and as a kid one of my favorite films was the Jenny Agutter film of The Railway Children based on the book by E.Nesbit, when in 2000 a new version was made for TV it was hard not to look upon this as blasphemy, how could they remake such a classic film, the remake also had Jenny Agutter in but this time playing the part of the mother. What made this different is the 1970 version that I loved so much was infact the 4th time this book had been filmed, it had been filmed for TV in 1951,1957 and 1968 with Jenny Agutter playing the part she would play again in the 1970 version. So remakes hardly a thing of modern Hollywood who have run out of ideas.

My take on Remakes is this, classic novels such as Oliver Twist, Dracula, Frankenstein have been filmed dozens of times, seriously, spoofed some have even met Abbot and Costello. Some are great versions and some are just plain awful. I love the book of Starship Troopers by Robert A.Heinlein, in fact probably my favorite novel of all time, Paul Verhoeven comes along in 1997 and makes a film of it, some people hated it, some people loved it, personally I loved it, though it wasn't a faithful adaptation of the book I still liked what Verhoeven had done to it. So if next year I heard that there was going to be a new Starship Troopers film based on the book what do I think ? Remake ? Another go at adapting the novel ? I would have no problem with another film of Starship Troopers being made, Paul Verhoeven took what was a story written in 1959 and made his version of that book just as David Lean,Carol Reed, Roman Polanski and all the other directors who've directed over 23 adaptations of Oliver Twist have done since 1909 and up to 2005's version.
The part of remakes that bugs me is when you get a film that actually started as an original screenplay and is already a perfectly fine movie. John Carpeneter filmed Halloween in 1979 at a cost of only $325,000 and went onto earn $47 million at the box office making it one of the most profitable films of all time. It also went on to not only inspire a whole new generation of movie makers but it also started a new genre of Slasher pics such as Friday the 13th, Prom Night etc... It a great film with bags of atmosphere, one of the best Horror films of then and now, and based on an original screenplay. So now in 2007 we have a remake, but it's not like John Carpenter took a novel by another author and adapted it and left bits out or changed the plot, so the new version is going to put things straight. The first Halloween is the definitive version, all the remake can do is either film the first movie, scene for scene, word for word, camera move for camera movie, so if so what's the point, or what they're doing, change the story, characters, so this is not really a remake it's an adaptation of Carpenters 1978 original.
The 1933 version of King Kong for me is still the best, it was written for the screen and is still a classic, both the 1976 remake and Peter Jackson's 2005 version aren't a patch on what they made in 1933, sure WETA's FX are great but Jackson did a self indulgent overblown version of something that even in Peter Jackson's words was one of his favorite movies.

People seem to forget that when they hear that there's going to a remake of a film like The Thing which John Carpenter filmed in 1982, that it's a remake of an original piece, but all Carpenter did was to do a new version of the story story Who Goes There? by John W.Campbell Jr which had already been filmed in 1951 as The Thing from Another World. Carpenters film even used the same opening credits effect for the burn in of his films titles. Carpenters film is said to be much closer to the original story in terms of it plot, that doesn't mean to say that the 1951 version isn't a classic adadptation of that story though.

So I'd say my opinion is this, films that are based on novels, comics, historical events are fine to be made because it's a version of that story by a director, but remakes of original films that are classics in the first place is a no no. How many people would go out in 20 years time and buy the novels of Lord of the Rings Trilogy if another author was to say, "I know I'll rewrite those novels, do a remake of them." I've not checked but I don't know of any cases off the top of my head where a book has been rewritten by another author. It's just not a done thing.

You could say 2001: A Space Odyssey is a novel so why not remake that ? The difference with that is Arthur C.Clarke wrote the novel at the same time the screenplay and film where being made, but the story it was based on by Clarke The Sentinel was written in 1948 for a BBC competition, so in theory someone could say lets do another version of that short story and take the plot in another direction than Kubrick did.

One thing I did read about remakes on a recent blog was how come in remakes of films such as the new version of George A Romero's Day of the Dead due out soon, do all the cast seem a hell of a lot younger and good looking than those in the 1985 version ? I suppose they've all got this Beverly Hills, 90120 mentality of trying to get a younger audience by making everyone good looking, you've got guys in the military and other services in these film remakes who are barely 18, it would be like doing a remake of the Dirty Dozen and making them all look like rookies as opposed to battle hardened veterans.

Anyway these are some of my thoughts, I'm sure everybody has opinions about what should be remade and why and what shouldn't be remade at any cost. Personally I'm still waiting for someone to take War of the Worlds and do the original novel justice as a film, British cast, British locations and set in the correct time period etc... even though I have liked the George Pal and Steven Spielberg versions of this story from the 5 or so film and TV attempts to film it.


allen said...

I too would like to see War of the Worlds done as the novel did...tho I too like both films already done. I guess I would like to see Hollywood do something original...I feel like our story is original and anytime we have come close to anything that has already been done, we shy away.

Great post!

Jim said...

Great post, Andrew!
I really enjoyed it and agree with your thoughts and opinions.

If they ever remake ALIEN or ALIENS, I will destroy this planet, tho. Just sayin.... :)

I. N. J. Culbard said...

The way I see it, there is zero blasphemy in remaking old movies because it makes absolutely no difference to the original movies that were made. Also, remakes often serve as an introduction to movies people likely never even heard of, and from generation to generation audiences change. Some people may even seek out the original movie and find they like that one better etc.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

I love movies from the 30's to the 2000's, I didn't have to see a newer version of The 'Wizard of Oz' when I was a kid because it wasn't made for my generation,I didn't think in 1975 boy this 'Wizard of Oz' would be so much cooler with the Bay City Rollers in it, I wish they'd remake it. A good movie will always be a good movie. Most remakes do enough Box Office to make them worth while being made and then disapear, who's ever going to remember the remake of The Fog even in 5 years, nobody is ever going to consider it a classic, remakes of films for teens are like getting Girls Aloud to remake all the Beatles Singles.

Still we all have an opinion, and obviously someone out there loves doing remakes, I suppose because it's easier to rehash and old ideas than to pay for an original screenplay which may be a gamble at the Box Office.

I. N. J. Culbard said...

What I don't understand is, how is remaking a movie such an affront?

Why is it a no go area?

You don't have to watch the remake after all. There's not a global budget for cinema which means that if a remake gets made an original work doesn't. Also there's no policy that means we erase from existence any trace of the original movie upon which the remake is based.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

It's only a no go area in my opinion, I just think it's naff when people could be making new movies. Same as an unmade bed in a gallery is art to some and a bloomin waste of time and a joke to others, no one would ever convince me it was art.

I love the remake of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' but then again it's just another version of Jack Finney's story 'The Body Snatchers' Like I said I don't have too many problems with adaptations of stories, it's just remakes of original films, it just pisses me off, but hey that's me !

I. N. J. Culbard said...

But if you don't go and see it then why should it matter?

I. N. J. Culbard said...

But isn't a film just a story? Or is it that you have a strict 'no same medium' rule when it comes to remakes?

Andrew Glazebrook said...

I just think movie wise when there's people out there who are breaking their backs and the bank to try and get an original project off the ground and having little or no success, but Hollywood are quite willing to fund a remake of a film that was fine already and only made in the last 20 years just because it's easy money.

Say you went to a film company with an original idea and were told they'd rather back the remake of 'Police Academy' because they new that would make money and your idea had no such guarantees, I'm sure it would piss you off. For every lame remake they make there's 100+ novels, comic books,original screenplays that are crying out to be made into films.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Look on points like this we're never going to agree so it'll just go around in circles ! It's good to see that you have a strong opinion about your side of this though :)

I. N. J. Culbard said...

It's something that crops up quite a bit. I've noticed it whenever a remake is announced and I've never quite understood the view point that damns it. Not really a matter of agreeing (as you clearly have your opinion and I have mine, I don't wish for you to change yours), I'm merely seeking enlightenment.

The film industry, as I see it, excels at demonstrating nonsensical judgment. The fate of a movie is often determined by someone with fancy hair who wants a giant spider in the third act (re: Kevin Smith's Superman experience). It really is little wonder that there are people with power and money who have little imagination and will hedge bets on established successes in the hope of making an easy dollar. 'making it' in movies is about proving your worth and a good film maker is a 'hungry' film maker. A lot of the films that you and I would class 'classics' really didn't do too well on their release and many films that we consider classics have tread water in a sea of remakes, films that struggle for financing bob to the surface and don't do well enough on their opening week to sate a studio but by the DVD release (or in the case of Blade Runner for example, the video release)they reap their returns a plenty and achieve 'cult classic' status at best. The remakes meanwhile keep the studio ticking over by putting handsome people in fancy clothes and throwing buckets of blood over them.

As I see it, it's getting easier to leave impressive calling cards, in both film, television and publishing, and a back door is slowly opening that undermines the guy with the fancy hair and penchant for giant spiders in the third act. Viva la creativity.

If we build it, they will come.

I. N. J. Culbard said...

"Say you went to a film company with an original idea and were told they'd rather back the remake of 'Police Academy' because they new that would make money and your idea had no such guarantees, I'm sure it would piss you off." If EVERY studio I went to said that, I'd begin to take the hint.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Mind you when I posted about the remake of Escape from New York recently your response was

"This is nuts! Where is the demand for this exactly?"

So it would seem you do have some feelings about flms being remade.I'd say the demand is today's audiences in that case :) Anyway soon I'll be posting about sequels.

I. N. J. Culbard said...

"So it would seem you do have some feelings about films being remade."

I'd have thought that was evident from my remarks about the guy with the fancy hair and penchant for giant spiders in the third act (which is the context of that response).

Andrew Glazebrook said...

It is ! :)

I. N. J. Culbard said...

But that just means that it doesn't matter. It doesn't have any effect on cinema. You said so yourself, people quickly forget about the Fog after it was remade.

Now, the reason I asked where the demand was for a remake of Escape from NY was because wasn't Escape from LA a flop?

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Yeah Escape from L.A bombed, it cost around $50m and made about half of that back. But the original Hitcher movie barely made any profit either and they still remade that. Not too sure what happened to that film, I know it got a release in the U.S but I don't think it even got to UK cinemas, unless our local Multiplex gave it a miss.

I. N. J. Culbard said...

Escape from NY grossed $25.2 million in American theaters in '81, and a total of over $50 million when all was said and done. The budget for Escape from NY was $5.5-7 million.

So, with that in mind, yeah, you can pretty much see why someone would want to remake it.

But again... who cares? And why care? The original still exists... it makes no odds.

Wolfgang said...

There are only two reasons for doing remakes: i) doing it better; ii) making money. You simply cannot justify remaking something like The Wicker Man on creative grounds, so what you are left with is screwing money out of someone else's good work and reputation. When Don't Look Now's remake comes out it will no doubt feel like someone is pimping my wife.

Moonwatcher said...

I liked the remake of Solaris with George Clooney, but then this was based on the novel like the 1972 version. I do think Hollywood has dumbed down a lot over the last 15 years or so though regarding remakes. It seems they'll remake anything these days.

kevin said...

So let me get this straight. The studios should have passed on a profit making cash cow like Peter Jackson's King Kong remake, because in your opinion it's a no-go area. Even though it lead to the restoration and special edition release of the original on DVD. But they should remake a new film like Starship Troopers, that no one went to see the first time around, just because you like the book. With thinking like that, Hollywood would lose so much money so fast, that soon you wouldn't have any new movies like or hate anymore.