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August 15, 2008

Why Do Some People Hate Remakes?

— Posted by John Campea

remakes-why.jpgEvery year they make up a certain percentage of the films that get released, and every time one of them gets announced a lot of people get upset. Remakes. Films that have already been made that some studio decides for one reason or another to make again.

You can’t really blame a lot of people for rolling their eyes when the possibility of a remake gets brought up. After all, the roster of remakes is filled with movies that deserve to be on the dirty end of used toilet paper. I mean with crap like:

-The Invasion (remake of invasion of the Body Snatchers)
-Poseidon (remake of the ‘Poseidon Adventure)
-The Fog (Single Handedly killed the potential movie career of Tom Welling)
-Planet of the Apes (reason #154 of why I don’t like Tim Burton)
-101 Dalmatians
-Godzilla (I like Matthew Broderick and all, but why was he in this?)
-When a Stranger Calls
-The Wicker Man (To be fair, the original sucked ass too)
-The Pink Panther (Steve Martin what are you doing?!?!)-

And many many more. As a matter of fact, even more remakes are on the boards at every studio in Hollywood. Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street for example are being developed for remakes as we speak as are dozens of others.

Now let’s balance this out. There are good remakes out there. Sabrina (hugely underrated film in my opinion), Ocean’s 11 is 10x better than the original, Scareface and a bunch of others.

So while I understand a sense of apprehension many people feel when hearing about a movie getting remade (look again at that bad list above), I’ve never understood the almost militant attitude some people have about the whole notion of remakes. Here are some arguments some people make against remakes:

A) THERE IS NO CREATIVITY LEFT IN HOLLYWOOD

Without fail, whenever I post about a remake going into production, at least one person will make some variation of the comment “There isn’t any creativity left in Hollywood”. To me, this is a ridiculous statement for a couple of reasons:

1) Source Material
Lots of movies are based on other source material. In that sense, remaking a film isn’t as different as you think from making a movie based on a book, or making a movie based on a video game, or making a movie based on a comic book (why aren’t all these people complaining how making The Dark Knight was just a lazy thing to do by a Hollywood that’s run out of creativity?)

2) Adaptation is HARD
I know a lot of screenwriters, and a many of them tell me that adapting a piece of work can actually be more difficult creatively than doing something from scratch. Doing a totally original work presents no boundaries to you. You’re free to go or do whatever you want, and so running into obstacles is no big deal because you have a million options. However with adaptations, you’re forced to think more creatively because there is an existing framework you need to stay within. I’m not saying adaptations are BETTER, I’m just pointing out that creatively adaptations can be even more challenging.

3) There Have Always Been Adaptations
For as long as the movies have been around, a certain number of them have been adaptations of other works or even remakes. YES there are more remakes and adaptations today than ever before… but that doesn’t really mean anything because there are more movies in general put out every year than ever before… almost triple the amount from just 13 years ago. I would argue that while there are more remakes today, the proportion is still probably about the same.

So there goes the argument of creativity.

B) IT RUINS THE ORIGINAL

I hear this one all the time and to this day I have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s almost as if they believe that if Uwe Boll decides to do a remake of Sparticus, somehow Kirk Douglas’ performance in the original will mystically become wooden. Somehow the original masterpiece will melt on DVD store shelves everywhere and all we’ll be left with is the Boll rendition. The fact of the matter is that if Boll does a Sparticus remake and it sucks… I STILL HAVE THE ORIGINAL! The original hasn’t been touched or soiled or sullied or “ruined” in any way shape or form. As a matter of fact, a remake will get people talking about the original again and maybe even influence more people to check out one of the best films ever made that they never would have thought about had the remake not come along.

The only exception to my argument is when George Lucas comes along and actually starts changing the originals… but that’s a blood thirsty rant for another time.

C) REMAKES ALWAYS SUCK

No, as a matter of fact they don’t. As I already mentioned, Ocean’s 11 is better in every way from the original, Sabrina just ruled, where would cinema be today without Al Pacino’s Scarface? But there are other notable ones too. Cape Fear was fantastic and is underrated for how much it has influence a lot of cinema today, Dawn of the Dead is considered by many to be superior to the original. The Fly rocked and I don’t care who says different! The point here is that remakes can and have worked.

Now… do the majority of remakes suck? YES! They absolutely do. But guess what… the majority of movies that get released in general suck, so why should remakes be any different?

Look, I’m not saying we should all jump up and down in an enthusiastic happy dance whenever yet another remake gets announced (For the record, I have little to no hope for the Friday the 13th or Elm Street remakes I the works). All I’m really trying to say here is that I don’t completely understand the massive presumption that remakes in general are a bad idea.

So if you’re someone who hates the idea of remakes, why do you feel that way? If you don’t hate the idea of remakes, why do you think some others do?

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60 thoughts on “Why Do Some People Hate Remakes?

  1. Refreshing to read a piece that examines remakes in an intelligent manner. I also believe that the hatred of remakes is largely a misplaced extension of the generation argument- “this generation loves artificiality; mine was raw, original, and clever.” It’s completely invalid, and many critics lose me when they start accusing youth of ruining cinema. Truth is, some of the originals sucked to begin with, even some of my personal favorites. Nostalgia is the greatest destroyer of objectivity, next to sports and taxes.

  2. I think a remake can work if the movie is different enough from the original that it amounts to being a different movie- the 1970′s remake of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Donald Sutherland is a case in point. Wasnt the remake of Psycho a disaster due to this reason, it merely forged the original?

    Also, Ben Hur. Enough time and technology had elapsed since the 1920′s version, so that was OK, plus you got Cecil back at work again.

    ( Wasnt there an even earlier version, from the nineteen teens? I have to look that up…)

  3. Remakes do have the strong potential to ‘ruin’ the original. They can and do sully or obscure the memory of the prior great film that came before. Today’s young consumer, on average, will view a remake and be totally oblivious that it was based upon a great film from yesteryear. These kids are dopes, mostly. People live in the moment, etc., so I guess they would never watch the original anyway, so lets stuff their heads with the inferior product- adding some more junk into a junky mind cant do that much harm…The fact that a movie exists that has stolen from the original most of its material does stink to high heaven and is a slap in the face.

    Millions of people are out there walking around after having watched the stupendous second remake of King Kong yet they will NEVER go back and watch the 1933 breakthrough effort…Analogy: Would you want to make a nice painting, have two people look at it, then its taken down and put away, and next month someone rips off your composition enough to be recognizable as an inferior duplication, and then a thousand people in your community pay money to ooh and ahh over it, and only one voice is raised in dissent?? And for years afterward, that clever forgery is used as a cultural reference point, and not the original ? Ive seen this happen…I recently watched a very popular real-life cable tv, and in this show someone came across an old movie poster for the movie Cape Fear- the 90′s remake. The people on the show raved about this find, and told the audience about how neat it was to have a piece of movie history, etc….And not one word was mentioned about how that film is a remake of a truly great film from Hollywoods golden age !!!

    Totally outrageous , its a crime, its a sin, lock them all up right now…So the viewer is left with a very warped impression of film……I rest my case. And guess what, the original Wicker Man did NOT suck…

  4. I don’t like remakes for one simple reason.

    I don’t normally watch any movie a second time. Part of the enjoyment of a good movie is not knowing what is coming next. A joke isn’t as funny when it is told again, a horror scene isn’t as scary when you watch it again, a mystery isn’t a mystery when you know who did it, a tear-jerker isn’t as effective when you know someone is going to die, etc.

    I generally don’t like movies of books which I have read since I know the plot and outcome. I don’t generally like prequels since again, I know where this is going.

    So… of course I don’t like remakes. If someone sat next to you at the theatre and kept saying things like “He is going to do this next” or “In the next scene they’ll do this” you’d want to hit the person. Well… in a remake, you are generally saying this to yourself.

    • Very few remakes are a scene by scene recreation. Yes, to some degree you know how things are going to turn out, but most films you can predict the ending (good guy always wins, sports figure wins the championship etc) but how they get there is the story, and most remakes do it differently.

      Same can be said about prequels…. yeah we know where the characters end up, but seeing how they get there can be interesting too.

  5. I don’t think people get hateful about remakes in general. Some of the remakes you’re mentioning are way too old to be part of the hatred you’re writing about (Scarface for example). The gripe people have now (including myself) is endless amount of remakes being made over the last five years or so. That’s what’s got people really annoyed. A remake here and there back in the day was fine, but now it seems there’s at least one remake out in theaters every month or so over the last few years. It seems now like every thing that’s ever been made is scheduled for a remake soon. Why remake something like Jaws when it was the biggest movie of all time when it came out. You won’t re-create that same impact. Sure the shark isn’t THE most real-looking of all time but a better special effect does not mean a better story or a better film. Every now and then a remake is fine but not every damn month!

  6. Okay, John, on the argument of creativity…there is NO creativity left in Hollywood. Yes, there are adaptations, blah blah blah, but I think the point people are trying to make here is that no one is doing anyhing from scratch, no one is making up stories on their own anymore. There are remakes because the studios like to play it safe. They already own a lot of the rights to the original, so it saves shit loads of money, they don’t have to pay anyone for the rights. Lastly, you spelled Scarface wrong. There’s no e.

    • That’s just ignorant. For every remake or adaptation that is put out, there are hundreds if not thousands of original scripts.

      LOTS of people are making up their own stories.
      Every day.

      To think otherwise is just plain stupid.

  7. I’m not against remakes but I think there are too many of them. About a quarter of the films that come out are remakes. Most remakes are unnessary, as the original was perfectly fine. Also, I feel Hollywood has a sensless need to do an updated version of everything.

    Instead of doing remakes on timeless classics like Psycho, do a remake on films that are not so classic, but had the potential to be. Than you can actually have the opportunity to improve upon the original.

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