Is Hollywood’s Remake Craze Going Too Far?

Movie Remake Posters You can make a lot of arguments for Hollywood€™s creativity circling the drain. The upcoming film based on the Grumpy Cat meme for example or the plans for Casablanca 2. (Yeah, that€™s actually happening) But the biggest indication that originality is leaving Hollywood like snakes out of a plane window opened by Samuel L. Jackson is the sheer volume of remakes and reboots that are coming our way. There has been the odd remake in the past like War Of The Worlds and Godzilla (which is getting the remake treatment again next year) but in the past four or five years, the Hollywood remake machine has gone into overdrive with everything from Footloose to Spiderman getting a remake. And while some reboots arrive at the right point to improve on some aspects of the original (War Of The Worlds) or restart a flagging franchise (The Amazing Spiderman), some of them entirely lack a reason for being. Footloose was a standalone 80s movie and was very much a product of its time as well as being fairly well received. So you€™ve got to question if a remake was necessary. Total-Remake-FeaturedThe same goes for the Total Recall remake. The original was released in 1990, won an Oscar for its visual effects, and is 79th on Rotten Tomatoes€™ 100 best reviewed sci-fi films list. Last year€™s remake toned the content down so much that it was released with a 12A certificate while the original was an 18, and has a US gross of less than half of its budget. A remake that€™s a success at least has some reason for being. A remake that is both a critical and financial flop has no purpose whatsoever. If you€™re adapting a novel or comic, or basing a film on a specific character, there are loads of different directions you can go in, allowing for multiple reimaginings by different creative teams. But if you€™re remaking a specific film, what you can do is severely limited. You€™re firmly locked in by the source material because there€™s already a precedent for what you€™re trying to create, whereas if you€™re adapting a novel, you€™ve got more scope to be creative because the visuals are defined purely by your imagination. Remember Gus Van Sant€™s Psycho remake? It was almost a shot-for-shot copy of the original and had absolutely no creative spark to it whatsoever. Obviously that€™s not the best example since only a few really terrible directors will do shot-for-shot remakes but it€™s an example of how bad remakes can be and the point still stands. A remake is limited by what came before it. If not for those who make the film, then certainly for those who watch it since it will always be compared to its predecessor(s). Also, some of these remakes and reboots are coming way too soon. As a twenty year old, I think that any film made within my lifetime has not yet reached a point where it should be remade. Especially when there€™s not really a specific reason for a remake other than money. And yes, I€™m looking at this whole thing with my rose-tinted glasses firmly on but bear with me. charlieandthechocolatefactorypic But it would be remiss of me to immediately write off all remakes as unnecessary cash grabs devoid of artistic merit. In fact, some remakes can be pretty good. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory was released thirty-three years after Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory and succeeded where it had failed. Willy Wonka was produced as a marketing tie-in by Quaker Oats and became a classic family film pretty much by accident. Fast forward to 2005 and visual effects had exploded in terms of both affordability and what could realistically be achieved. Veruca Salt Comparison The remake took advantage of the time it was made in and used the advanced technology of its time as well as the bizarre imagination of Tim Burton to better capture the scale and fantastical nature of the novel. Which simply wasn€™t possible with the original film. In the novel, the room where spoiled brat Veruca Salt falls down the factory€™s rubbish chute is populated by one hundred squirrels cracking nuts. But because creating a room full of squirrels simply wasn€™t possible for a film in 1972, they were replaced with a room containing several geese laying golden eggs. But when Tim Burton€™s remake was made, it was entirely possible to create the hundred squirrels and make it look convincing. Which meant that the remake was able to be more faithful to the novel than the original. Apart from the subplot with Willy Wonka€™s dad but that€™s beside the point. Starship Troopers Now look at Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers (which is also set for a remake in the near future) as a comparison. It was released in 1997 just as the CGI boom was becoming increasingly widespread and, technically, it still holds up very well. In terms of aesthetics at least, the remake most probably won€™t be able to improve on the original enough to justify its existence. Granted, since Paul Verhoeven took serious liberties when adapting the novel (by which I mean he didn€™t even finish reading it and conveyed the exact opposite of the book€™s pro-right wing message), there are lots of ways to retell the story but the point stands that the original film can still stand on its own two feet in the modern age. If it had been made sixty years ago with dodgy camerawork, cheesy dialogue, and aliens realised through abysmal puppetry, a remake would have both a reason to exist other than making money, and some potential. But since it came out sixteen years ago and still looks great as well as being a generally enjoyable film, there€™s not really a reason to remake it other than the money. Even more astonishing are the plans to remake The Butterfly Effect, a thriller about pre-determinism and time travel starring Ashton Kutcher that was released just nine years ago. At the moment it seems like studio executives are just scanning the shelves of their local supermarket€™s DVD section and picking stuff at random to remake. Batman-vs-Superman But those and pretty much any other examples I can provide pale in comparison to the fact that the Batman franchise is being rebooted in a crossover film with Superman scheduled for release in 2015 despite the fact that The Dark Knight Rises was released to critical acclaim and enormous box office success last year. Admittedly the upcoming Batman reboot is part of a risky attempt by DC at rivalling Marvel's Avengers franchise with a Justice League film but it€™s still way too soon to do another Batman film. Batman Begins was released eight years after Batman & Robin, which is one of the most reviled films of all time. The time was right for a reboot and it was following on from something of legendarily poor quality. Christopher Nolan€™s Dark Knight Trilogy is held in high regard and the new Batman will come just three years after that. So because of that, public reaction to it is unlikely to be good since they are likely to still fondly remember Nolan's interpretation of the character and his universe, and be resistant to another reimagining after such a short space of time. Remakes and reboots are here to stay but the sheer mass of them and the fact that many of them are coming so soon after the original is disproportionate to their artistic merit (And yes, there are the rose-tinted glasses again but I€™m nearly finished). As an amateur filmmaker and a lover of cinema, I find it disheartening that the world€™s leader of film production is so lacking in new ideas and reliant on dragging out old ones. As time goes by, it€™s going to be increasingly difficult to make something completely original that doesn€™t borrow heavily from something else or isn€™t riddled with clichés, but that€™s not an excuse to stop trying. Casting the net further afield and bringing in new writers and directors with fresh ideas is crucial to stopping the film industry from stagnating with the same few franchises and films being frequently remade and rebooted. Plus if so much of the big studio money is being spent on remaking what we€™ve already seen and enjoyed, that means less cash and fewer resources that can be allotted to more original films. Plus it€™s what the public want: fresh and innovative products that keep film viewing as an ever changing pastime. Which is much better for the industry than the moneymen looking up random 80s and 90s films on IMDB and saying €œThat€™ll do. Somebody knock up a quick script, phone Johnny Depp, and hire a director who won€™t be too expensive€. The ever growing tide of remakes is something that needs to be curbed. And doing so might just be the answer to pulling Hollywood out of the growing financial and creative quagmire that it€™s beginning to sink further into. Or at least a better money-spinner than remaking films that a lot of the audience already paid to see and enjoyed between fifteen and thirty years ago. Do you think there are too many remakes on the horizon? Leave a comment...

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JG Moore is a writer and filmmaker from the south of England. He also works as an editor and VFX artist, and has a BA in Media Production from the University Of Winchester.