In our continuing series of opinion pieces, some of the Rogue Cinema staff would like to express their opinions about Hollywood remaking great old classic films…
If it’s one thing that Hollywood is short on these days, it’s original ideas. Right now, remakes of classic (and not-so-classic) films are all the rage and quite a few are due out this year (including The Amityville Horror, House of Wax, King Kong, War of the Worlds, et al.), but are they really necessary? The answer is a resounding “Hell No!” However, as much as I don’t really care for remakes, some do manage to rise above and beyond expectations and turn out to be good. This is a dilemma for yours truly when a movie I really want to hate turns out to be not only entertaining and well made, but manages to keep the spirit of the original alive. While the remakes of Psycho, Thirteen Ghosts, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre have left a bad taste in my mouth, the remakes of Dawn of the Dead, House on Haunted Hill, and The Thing turned out to be pretty damned good. My feelings about this particular topic boil down to this: I have no problem with a movie being remade, as long as it’s done right and pays proper tribute to the original.
Duane L. Martin:
Never before have I seen such a massive vacuum of creativity in Hollywood. Unable to come up with even the slightest bit of an original thought, they’ve resorted to remaking great old films in an effort to keep theater seats filled by playing off the popularity of a variety of wonderful old films.
While many may bring up remakes like House of Wax, sacreligiously starring pop culture’s most worthless individual, Paris Hilton, there’s some other lesser known remakes coming that I personally find just appalling. These films in their original form were brilliant pieces of American pop culture, as well as being a rite of passage from an age not so far separated from now. An age that was a fun time in American history that sadly was lost, sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and a cabal of out of touch liberals and religious concervatives who have created a culture that has a hissy fit any time anyone is offended even the slightest bit by anything. That’s why Hollywood will never be able to re-make these great old films. They’re from a different era, and because everyone is so afraid of offending anyone anymore, these films will suffer the horrific fate that all Hollywood films now suffer. They’ll suck.
Of all the remakes that either have sucked or will come to suck, there are three that upset me more than the others. The first is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, better known as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I’ve seen the trailers for this film, and they looked like utter crap. Normally I really like Johnny Depp as an actor, but he was just SO wrong for this particular role. Gene Wilder played Willy Wonka in the original film, and he was absolutely brilliant. I had heard tell that shock rocker Marilyn Manson had been considered for the role, and I think he would have been a far better choice than Depp. He may have even been able to save this movie simply because he could have brought that bizarreness to the role that Johnny Depp so obviously lacks. Depp can act weird, but he’s not bizarre. There’s a difference.
Another movie that will suck is the remake of Revenge of the Nerds. The original was just brilliant and fun and full of politically incorrect nonsense that made it a wonderful film. How can you remake something like that? You can’t. So why are they doing it? There will never be another group of nerds that can make us laugh or make us feel as good as the originals did. It’s a lost cause trying to re-create something that brilliant.
And lastly, one that actually has a chance to not suck, but only because of the people involved in making it. Porky’s was one of the most memorable films of all time, and now it’s being remade by executive producer Howard Stern and Savage Steve Holland, who’s best known as the creator of the films Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer, which were both great films. Holland is a great writer and Howard Stern has never cared about being politically correct, so in this one instance, they may actually make a decent film. Still, when you make a new film with a new cast when the actors that portrayed the characters in the original were all so great, it’s pretty much impossible to live up to the original, no matter how good the remake is.
If Hollywood can’t come up with fresh and original ideas for films anymore, then they need to have a serious flushing out of their creative people and replace them all with people from the independent film community, where fresh ideas continue to be released on a daily basis.
Hollywood has NO shame! Now, most of you are saying, what about that statement is news? Well, nothing really, but it drives me insane. Alright, more insane. But really, remakes usually make me crazy. Now, I’ll admit that there have been remakes in the recent past that I thought lived up to the hype, but still, how hard is it to come up with an original idea? Well, apparently pretty hard. And when your original ideas rank with The Blair Witch Project or Cabin Fever, then I’ll take a remake anyday. But for every Dawn Of The Dead remake, which I thought was very good, we’ve got to wade through a dozen Starsky And Hutch’s Or The Beverly Hillbillies! It’s just not worth it. Here’s an idea for Hollywood: Put down the TV remote and try talking to a writer once in a while!!!
With as few original ideas as Hollywood is having, they have jumped on the remake bandwagon with both feet. Unfortunately, they forgot a couple of important facts. I think it depends on whom is remaking it. The few true good remakes had talented directors and novel twists to them: John Carpenter’s Thing and David Cronenberg’s Fly. Peter Jackson is the kind of director who actually respects King Kong unlike the director of the 1976 remake.
The 1953 House of Wax was a true Vincent Price classic. Hollywood has decided to butcher it by having it directed by a music video director. How can the remake of House of Wax justify dumbing down wax dummies with Paris Hilton? Better yet, shouldn’t a horror movie have some older recognizable actor as the owner of the wax museum? Wait, old people are not cool for the spoiled braindead teenagers at the multiplex.
None of these new remakes seem to be going in a new direction other than wanting to cash in on the name popularity of a previous movie. Most of these new remakes seem more like the Larry Buchanan remakes of Roger Corman movies. Hopefully, House of Wax will be paid a visit by John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned. It can be dragged away into the land of lousy film bombs and be consoled with the TNT remake of Salem’s Lot.
Assault on Precinct 13 died a quick and hopefully painful death. No one really said much about it at first. I had some hopes for it until learning about the plot. They couldn’t have made the movie anywhere near as shocking as the original. The street gang which almost seems like a group of intelligent zombies gets replaced with heavily armored crooked cops. The mere thought that someone thought they could do a better job than John Carpenter is hard to fathom. Well, after Ghosts of Mars, I could see why they wanted to go in another direction. I have a bad feeling sooner or later hearing about some music video director has been allowed to remake Halloween as an “edgy” film.
Are there really that many more remakes all of the sudden? It seems they’re getting more publicity by being more high profile remakes than the William Castle remakes of the past few years:House on Haunted Hill and Thirteen Ghosts. The past couple of years have seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead remakes which seem to have gotten most people on one side or another of the grave digging from previous successes. The box office draws of both films convinced Hollywood to keep looking for other movies to remake.
Some movies are just too popular to be remade. I’m worried about some of the comments concerning the Evil Dead remake. It will be a new director and story for a new generation. However, it seems wrong to try to recapture the lightning in the bottle of Evil Dead. Some movies just can’t be reimagined. Having Bruce Campbell not play Ash is like knocking out the bottom of a house of cards; there isn’t a foundation left. The thought on an Evil Dead 4 is exciting! I’ve been waiting for that to be made for over a decade.
For the Hollywood honcho, the idea of a remake must be horribly tempting. Taking an old premise and giving it a new coat of paint is incredibly easy, requiring little to no creative effort. Just cast new actors, change a setting or plot twist, and voila, you have yourself another film. Not all remakes are obvious cash-ins, however, so I think it’s important to examine a few factors when determining the worth of such a project.
First of all, how old is the original movie? I have a problem with studios remaking films from the 1980s, as they are most likely too fresh in the minds of audiences. A movie must be able to age and circulate for a good length of time before someone tries to retell its story. For example, The Fly, which premiered in 1958, was remade back in 1986 with Jeff Goldblum as the star. Now audiences can expect another remake, which was approved solely on the idea of having The Fly actually fly. Should a film be remade twice? I don’t believe so, as it seems extremely lazy and redundant.
The success and quality of the original film should also be taken into account. If a movie had an intriguing premise but failed to find an audience upon initial release, perhaps it should be remade to see if a modern audience would embrace it. Movies that were criticized for story or acting problems can be remade for a better product, a goal actual work and focus could achieve.
When it comes to remaking the classics, my judgment can swing either way. I have no problem with Peter Jackson tackling King Kong, for instance, since I have faith in the director and believe the original has been around long enough for our filmmakers to see it from different angles. True, there already is a remake starring the big ape, but it failed miserably. So why not give Jackson, a man who has clearly proved his directing abilities, a shot at making it right?
Ultimately the decision to do a remake should come down to brutal honesty. Are these movies being made simply to return to the well, or is there an actual desire and enthusiasm over returning to an old film? Are the filmmakers passionate and careful in their decisions, or do their worries only involve budgets and a quick development time? The Warriors, The Pink Panther, and The Bad News Bears show the dark side of the remake, so I can only hope the trend will be filtered so that only worthwhile projects are pursued.
At heart I don’t like the idea very much at all. These are classics; they don’t need to be remade. A remake can only serve to dilute the product and lessen the impact of the original. That Hollywood feels that they have to mine these older films for material smacks of creative bankruptcy and shows how little imagination there is at work. Why take a chance on a new idea when a proven one – albeit one that has been spruced up and modernized – can make you some cash? It’s the safe and lazy route to take in filmmaking. On the other hand, some films opt for the “reimagining” path rather than the outright remake. Taking the same basic premise and going in a new direction is far better than just modernizing a classic. Still, it seems these projects are few and far in between. In the end, I say we enjoy the originals and come up with new ideas for new films.