It’s conventional wisdom that remakes are automatically inferior to the original. Sure, good remakes are possible – which is proven by the likes of The Fly, Dawn Of The Dead or The Thing – but even in those cases they’re still considered lesser films.
This critique is a little harsh, but it’s hard to disagree when remakes like A Nightmare On Elm St or The Wicker Man are floating about, and nobody is likely to choose Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes over the 1968 film; nobody sane, at least.
There are exceptions to every rule, however, and some remakes not only live up to their predecessors, they surpass them completely. In some cases, the original wasn’t even all the great to start with, and it takes a new version to do justice to the concept.
The list of movies that have pulled off this feat is a short one, but they prove that not all remakes need to be creatively bankrupt filler.
Heat was a project that was floating in the mind of director Michael Mann for years; a sprawling crime epic set in L.A. He didn’t have much luck finding a studio willing to make it, though, and he eventually decided to chop the script down and turn it into a TV pilot.
The Original: This resulted in TV movie L.A. Takedown, which was a brutally compressed version of the story. The movie is weirdly sloppy and lacks Mann’s usual precision and mood (a result of the tiny shooting schedule) and the actors are a wooden bunch. It was basically a dry run for the eventual movie version, but it’s not a very impressive one.
The Remake: A movie that needs no introduction at this stage, Heat is a modern classic. It’s got a disgustingly great cast, arguably the best gunfight in cinema, rich visuals and – of course – there’s the coffee table scene between De Niro and Pacino.
There's no debate over which version is superior.