Written by Joan Stevenson—
I’m sure by now most of you have noticed the recent growing trend in Hollywood. The words Remake and Reboot are freely flowing from the mouths of studio executives and they are poised to unleash a string of remade movies over the next few years. My question is why? Why is there such a move on to revisit old material? Is it truly for the nostalgia of revisiting old cinematic friends with fondness or about totally raping and pillaging them to milk another drop out of an old cash cow? Between 2003 and 2012 about 122 remakes have been done1 and over 60 more have been proposed over the next six years or are already in some phase of development.2 This list is dizzying in the least and really leaves you thinking if there are any writers in Hollywood capable of creating original ideas.
Now with some movies, the stories are classic such as A Star Is Born. That’s a story that will translate no matter when you make it and there is a remake of that coming (Bradley Cooper is slated to direct). The original A Star Is Born was made in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. The second version was in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason. The third, and for me the most meaningful, was in 1976 with Barbra Streisand. This is a timeless story, so a remake every 20 years or so wouldn’t be too out of line. It’s interesting to see how it translates in every time period, but in the case of the Spiderman franchise, there was just a five year gap in the time between Spiderman 3 and the rebooted The Amazing Spiderman. The franchise was totally rebooted to include a new actor as the Webhead and went on to cover more of Spidey’s history. In Februruary of 2015, Marvel and Sony studios came to an agreement to let Spiderman appear in the Marvel Comics Cinematic universe, plus Sony is planning another reboot for Spidey set to hit screens in 2017 also with another actor in the role. Now don’t get me wrong, a remake every 15 or 20 years is okay, but anything under 10 years? Come on! Oh guess what? Bad news If you grew up in the ’80s: Look for the beloved films of your childhood to be violated. Poltergeist and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was just the beginning. Look forward to the rehashing of Gremlins, Short Circuit, The Neverending Story, Weird Science, Ghostbusters, and Wargames to name but a few, but the question is still why?
Could it be our fault? Are we as a movie-going public such creatures of habit, so bent on the familiar, that we won’t take a chance on seeing something new? The answer most likely comes from the studio heads themselves. Remakes keep studio shareholders happy. They are more likely to approve of something that has already been tried and tested over investing in something new they’re they’re not sure of the return. Hollywood is just following the money trail. I understand they don’t like losing cash, but would it be such a burden on writers’ resources to actually have someone come up with original stories that could quite possibly end up becoming the classic blockbuster films of tomorrow? Take a chance. I’m sure every time the words reboot or remake are used, somewhere an unemployed screenwriter’s head blows up. Actress Fairuza Balk from the 1996 modern cult classic film The Craft said this on her Twitter account about the proposed remake: “Personally, I don’t care for the idea of remakes. There are great scripts and ideas out there that have yet to be made.”
Rehashing old material is lazy—or is it? If the writers are good, they will have to be smart and creative enough to construct something somewhat new from the old that will engage an audience enough to make it worth the ticket price. But here’s the kicker: no matter the result, critics and fans will always make comparisons to the original. I can see or understand a remake here or there after so many years have gone by. It’s just when it looks like you seemingly have so many lined up out of the gun one after the other that it feels like everyone is being a little lazy by playing it safe and not trusting that the movie-going public can or would want to see something totally fresh. So as long as the masses keep flocking to the theatre, studios will keep cranking out the re-dos. The cycle continues. A similar trend is threatening Broadway, but that’s another story. Don’t even get me started on that!
I guess when it comes to movie remakes, I tend to side with Variety Magazine who had this to say about the current remake of the 1982 Spielberg classic Poltergeist: “Poltergeist remake is generally entertaining yet fundamentally unnecessary.” That in a nutshell is my overall opinion.