Monday, December 1, 2008

Remakes: The Modern Plague

Haven’t people these days heard the saying “Don't fix what's not broken”? Movie executives must turn the music up and jam the earplugs in tight whenever this sentence arises.

On what seems to be a week-by-week basis Hollywood gives the green light to a new remake. While the concept of remaking films is certainly not new, it has become a disturbingly tired and trendy occurrence. No film is safe in this modern era of filmmaking categorized by countless remakes that double as cheap money grabbers. Everything is at the risk of being remade – from science fiction classics such as The Day the Earth Stood Still to smaller films with strong cult followings such as The Crazies.

In the past few months remakes have gone too far. Quarantine attempted to become one of the quickest remakes in recent history as it remade the superior 2007 Spanish film [REC]. This brings up remake type number one. The foreign language film made American. Other countries don’t do this. This type of remake is by far the most pointless of the bunch. 95% of the time the Americanized version of the film is a far inferior film. The horror genre is especially to blame for the recent increase in this. For some unknown reason an inferior version of The Ring just had to be created four years after the initial film was released. Ripping foreign films from the cultures and subtexts they come from spell disaster for the finished American product.

Earlier this month it was announced that Will Smith and Steven Spielberg would be taking part in a remake of the 2003 Korean film Oldboy. Recently, Smith noted that the film wouldn’t be a remake as much as it is a reworking of the original material. Without the success of the initial release Spielberg wouldn’t dare delve into such dicey and taboo material. Oldboy, one of the best films this decade, is one third of director Chan-wook Park’s revenge trilogy. All three films embody a visual style personal to Park and performances that will be remembered for quite some time. Oldboy isn’t exactly a pleasant film. The film is as twisted as they come. I, for one, can’t even begin to envision how household names like Will Smith and Steven Spielberg will even begin to handle the source material.

Not all remakes are bastardized gifts from the devil. John Carpenter’s The Thing is an example of how remakes, if necessary, should be done. Pairing a director like John Carpenter to a project like that is an example of a match made in heaven. Carpenter’s updated version and the original Howard Hawk’s production differ in terms of plot and style. I much prefer remakes that are the new director’s personal vision. Shot by shot remakes are extremely pointless and unnecessary. I still can’t believe someone allowed Gus Van Sant to remake Psycho.

Another type of popular remake is the updating of one of our own classics. As referenced to earlier, The Day the Earth Stood Still remake is being released this December. Rigid and awful as always, Keanu Reeves is set to play the iconic role of Klaatu that Michael Rennie immortalized more than 50 years ago. As if things couldn’t get worse for the project, director Scott Derrickson’s most notable film is The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Oh boy, I can’t wait. Year after year films fall off the never should be remade list.

Searching for a list of film remakes on Wikipedia says it all: “Due to the size of this page, the main listing has been split into two sections”. I’ll give any film a chance. I realize some remakes are the result of a director wanting to pay tribute to one of their favorite films or directors. The best way that can be done is to concoct an original film in the same vein as the directors you were influenced by, not from replicating their style or work.

I’d recommend avoiding most remakes like the plague. If by chance the film you’re going to waste $10 on at the local cinema is a remake you should save your money and support the original. Remakes have the potential of ruining American cinema by sucking all originality out of films. Alright, maybe I’m overreacting a bit, but that doesn’t hide the fact that remakes are awful more often than not. I’d just like Hollywood to slow down a bit. I know it’s hard but put the thoughts of piles of green money aside for a moment and think about what you’re doing to the industry you supposedly love. Each new remake is just another proverbial nail in the coffin of originality.