Thursday, December 09, 2010
I had a lengthy discussion about movie remakes and wanted to say my two cents worth here about when a movie remake should be made and when it shouldn't.
First of all, the overall rule of thumb should be on movie remakes is that it should be an improvement in all ways (not just special effects) over the original. It used to be easier, when films transitioned from silent to sound and black and white to color. These breakthroughs somewhat necessitated a remake, otherwise a film like "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) may not have been made. In this case, the previous films were quite inferior and in most cases black and white and silent.
"The Wizard of Oz" is a classic and it is not one that should be remade. Sequels may be fine, but to remake the original at this point would be a risky proposition. As far as sequels go, they should remain in the vein of what was successful. For example, while "Return to Oz" (1985) had elements of what was good, but they added this creepy backstory of Dorothy going through shock therapy.
That is one of my complaints about most remakes, film makers seem to want to tell us the origins of everything. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966) was an excellent TV special based on the 1957 book by Dr. Seuss. When they made the Jim Carrey "Grinch" movie (2000), they were stretching the half-hour show into a 90-minute feature by adding a useless backstory as to how and why the Grinch became bad. I liked it before, where this information was shrouded in mystery.
Like the three recent "Star Wars" films. I don't care why or how Darth Vader came into power or why he was evil. He just was. Now, we have to contend with three movie that show Vader (to borrow from Patton Oswalt) "as a kid".
The Coen Brothers (two of my favorite filmmakers) are currently doing a remake of "True Grit" (2010). Usually, I balk at this because the John Wayne one, although dated and a bit superficial is fine. But, I trust the Coens to make a different type of film. In this case, I welcome a remake. Now if it sucks, I'll be a bit disappointed like I was with their version of "The Ladykillers". I must admit that many people never saw the original, so if you were that way, you probably liked the film better. It's just that Tom Hanks is no Alec Guinness.
Many remakes suck because all they do is take the title of something good and then make an awful movie with no connection to the source material. "The Avengers" (1998), "The Spirit" (2008) , "The Shadow" (1994) and "The Wild Wild West" (1999) come to mind.
I like it better when movies are remakes in disguise. That way, when they blow it, it doesn't seem to be so glaring. Good examples of good remakes this way are "West Side Story" (1961) ("Romeo and Juliet") and "Clueless" (1995) ("Emma").
Recently, I was watching "A Song is Born" (1948) with Danny Kaye. As I was watching I felt I had seen this before and indeed I had. It was previously made as "Ball of Fire" (1941) with Gary Cooper. This is the way they SHOULD do remakes.
Above all else, I always say this. If you don't want to see a remake of your favorite film, just don't go see it. Hollywood will continue to make them as long as there's an audience.