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Posts tagged remake

Why Don’t We Remake Books?

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I watched The Firm the other day. I hadn’t seen it and something just compelled me to watch it. When I searched for it on Amazon Instant two results came up. The first was the one directed by Sidney Pollack starring Tom Cruise that came out in 1993. The other was something from 2012. I obviously wanted to watch the 1993 version.

As the opening credits rolled they read “based upon the book by John Grisham” and I struck with a nagging thought – this movie was remade and updated for the 2012 version, but the book was never changed.

Why don’t we remake books?

It’s an interesting question for which I don’t really have an answer. We remake every other form of entertainment but for some reason we don’t remake books. What do I mean when I say “remake”? Great question. It means different things in each form of entertainment.

Movies are notorious for remakes. We see them all the time, and I’ve talked about this before, but remakes are almost as old as movies themselves. Rebooting a franchise might be considered a remake, that’s a case by case thing. The film industry thrives on remaking movies and it’s hard to imagine a world without remakes.

We call remakes of songs “cover songs” or “covers.” I don’t know how song remakes got their own word, but at some point it happened. Some covers become so popular that they surpass the original recordings popularity (Clapton’s “I Shot The Sheriff,” Guns N’ Roses’ “Knocking on Heavens Door,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Along The Watch Tower” come to mind immediately but I grew up on classic rock). Just like in film I can’t really imagine a world without covers. (It’s worth noting that there are some great Tumblrs dedicated to cover songs. My favorite is Copy Cats.)

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Should The Oscars Have A “Best Remake” Category?

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Cory Allen poses a really interesting question. In more recent years we have seen an onslaught of remakes. The same way the Tony’s give an award for best Revival (read: remake) should the Academy give awards for a remade film?  They are already giving an wards for an adapted screenplay, why not a remade film? As someone who went to film school my gut reaction is to say, ‘absolutely not, this is a recent phenomenon and it shouldn’t be rewarded.’ Turns out, it’s not that recent of a phenomenon.

The art of the remake is a storied tradition that dates all the way back to 1904.  That’s right, the 11 minute 1903 film The Great Train Robbery was remade one year later with the same title.  Once the remake was born, there was really no stopping it.  You can see remakes all throughout film history (Billy the Kid -1930/1941, Forbidden Fruit - 1915/1921 [both by Cecil B DeMille],  King Kong - 1933/1977/2005, M 1931/1951).

The reason why films are remade today is the same today as it was in 1904. Brand recognition and progression in technology.  Peter Jackson wouldn’t have made a third version of King Kong if he didn’t think he could do it better than the claymation version before it. If technology can help tell a story better then why not remake it? And if we are going to remake stories shouldn’t we try and actually make them better?

Foreign films fall victim to the Hollywood remake all the time, turned out only a year or two after the original, with the thought that American audiences will not see a film if they have to read subtitles. Let The Right One In and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo spring to mind immediately but there are others.

There are tons of remakes that are terrible, and shouldn’t have been made because the original is perfect (Taking of Pelham One Two Three, 12 Angry Men, Psycho…), but there are also films that have really great core ideas, but were either executed poorly or were too far ahead of their time and needed technology to catch up. They Live has been my go to candidate for a remake since I first saw it in 2003. The film’s concept is amazing, but it was just poorly executed (sorry Mr. Carpenter…). There is word of a remake happening, and I’m super excited about it.

Remakes are not all bad. Without remakes we wouldn’t have The Money Pit, Heat, 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead, 2001 version of Ocean’s 11, or Jeff Goldblum as The Fly. Even, Tarkovsky’s Solaris is a remake, the original came out only 4 years earlier. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the similarities to the videogame industry.  This console generation has given birth to the “HD Remake.” We have seen remakes for classic games like Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, God of War 1 and 2, ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Bionic Commando, Halo: Combat Evolved, Golden Eye, (and one could argue the 3DS version of) Ocarina of Time… and that’s just off the top of my head. These games look better and play smoother than their originals. They don’t have the history behind them, that gritty feel of yesteryear but is that a bad thing?

Back to the topic at hand though. I think the quality of remakes would actually go up if there was an award for them.  People might actually try harder if they knew they could receive an award. In a time where the Oscars are nominating 10 films for best picture just to get more viewers, why the hell not include something that will actually make a better movie. Remakes are going to happen, embrace it.

-Creighton

[EDIT: I misspelled Tarkovsky. It’s fixed now.]