So, the last time I did a Q&A session on my channel the main topic that was explored is that of Hollywood’s recent obsession with remakes. I did mention briefly why this happens, but there is a good chunk I left out–the fact that this “recent” trend isn’t so recent.
For those of you unaware, I explained how making a film (which is expensive) based on an already successful name is simply a more appealing move for studios from a business perspective–playing it safe rather than taking a complete shot in the dark with an original screenplay. See, I’m not a fan of this myself, but I DO understand why it happens. If you can’t get anyone to financially back up a project, then there is simply no way for it to be made, unless you’re talking the indie route.
At this point, most people will argue that Hollywood is all about money and isn’t creative anymore and yada yada. Yes, film-making is a business. Money matters, even if it sucks. We’re quick to bust out the member berries and go on about a time where Hollywood was bright, inspired–bringing us something new each time.
Again, before we move forward, I am NOT saying I enjoy pointless remakes, reboots, or halfhearted adaptations of novels–I am NOT asking you to approve of them or be any less critical of any media you view. I am simply here to offer a bit of a different perspective. Why? Because art and films are made to be not only enjoyed, but also discussed.
So, are remakes and reboots really a new thing? Absolutely not. I have a few examples to present to you, but this is barely the tip of the iceberg–look it up for yourself and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Since I love horror films, let’s start in that genre. When most people these days think of old horror films, the first things to come to mind are usually the Universal monsters–Dracula, Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera–you get the drill. These are no doubt considered classics, but have we all forgotten where the stories came from? The three I just mentioned are all based on books. Frankenstein was released in 1931, and based on Mary Shelly’s novel of the same name from 1818. Dracula, also released in 1931, was based on the 1924 stage play of the same name, which found it’s inspiration from Bram Stoker’s novel. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) was also based on a book by Gaston Leroux, published in 1909. Universal also has their own often overlooked version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame from 1923–this of course being based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel.
Victor Hugo leads perfectly into my next set of examples. Disney–the juggernaut of entertainment that now basically owns your entire childhood. People borderline worship Disney for their creativity and dedication to storytelling–surely a company as great as Disney hasn’t fallen into the reboot/remake trap, no? Well, maybe with all these recent live action remakes, but that’s not what I’m referring to. What was one of Disney’s most memorable films from it’s 1990’s Renaissance era? Yup, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Disney took what was originally thought of only as a Universal monster movie and completely redefined it. I’m willing to bet that most young people these days have no idea the book or the live action 1923 version exist. Let’s take a look at more Disney Renaissance era classics, shall we? The Little Mermaid, the 1989 film that spearheaded Disney’s revival after its dark age–100% original? Nope. That one was based on a Danish fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. This very person is also responsible for writing another fairy tale called The Snow Queen–yes, this was the inspiration for Frozen. Aladdin, a film many people hold near and dear to them was based on a folktale. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast were also inspired by fairy tales. Many argue that The Lion King is perhaps the most original of the bunch, but no one can really deny it’s parallels to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
As I said earlier, there are many, many other reboots and remakes that have happened throughout the history of film–some of which have been so successful that people mistake them for originals. Scarface, for example, was actually a remake of a 1932 film of the same name. Meet the Parents (if anyone still remembers that) is also a remake of it’s 1992 counterpart. The Wizard of Oz was originally a novel released in 1900, and actually had been adapted to film nearly ten times before the legendary 1939 version came along.
Anyway, you get the point. Hollywood has been rehashing things pretty much from the beginning. If that’s so, then why the sudden outcry and backlash these days when a remake or reboot is announced? Well, the way I see it, it’s not because films are being remade, it’s that they’re being remade poorly. It’s safe to say that a lot of remakes in recent history weren’t handled well by those tasked with creating them–no attempt to reimagine or improve upon the originals at all.
Take, for example, Spider-Man Homecoming and why it works. The movie was just released today and already has a ton of positive feedback coming its way from both fans and critics alike. A superhero movie about a character that’s already got five other films lingering in the back of your head–this was just bound to fail, right? No spoilers here, but if you watched Captain America Civil War or watched the trailers for Spider-Man Homecoming, then you’ll know that by the time we find Peter in his own film, he’s already attained his powers. No, we don’t need to sit through another spider bite, or watch Uncle Ben die all over again. Marvel Studios took a completely different approach to this movie, opting to start the narrative out some time after all the “origin” stuff we’re already overly familiar with. In this case the filmmakers knew what you already know, and didn’t assume you were stupid enough to pay for exactly the same thing you’ve already received twice. Sure, it is another Spider-Man movie–but it was done from a unique perspective that expands upon the character in ways we’ve never seen before on the big screen.
Of course, I’d also like to give you an example how not to create a reboot. Ghostbusters 2016–I think we all remember the clusterfuck this was. Now, if you want my personal opinion, I don’t think this movie is as terrible as people make it out to be. Sure, it isn’t good or even remotely funny, but I don’t believe that’s even relevant since the bulk of the backlash was more so due to how the filmmakers handled the source material. I’m not saying change is bad, or to not try new things–there are no rules to art. However, if you choose to remake or reboot a film, especially one considered a classic, then you damn well need to be in touch with your audience and be careful not to piss them off. I, like every other human on this planet, have seen the original Ghostbusters. While it isn’t necessarily my favorite, I could still tell that the makers of the 2016 version put very little thought into it. Instead of trying to improve or expand upon the original, they pretty much just decided to use the name as a selling point–and this, is a no no. It’s one thing for a reboot or remake to seem like it may just be a cash grab, but in the case of Ghostbusters 2016 it was almost blatant.
There are times when people don’t care if something is a cash grab, as long as they feel like the money they handed over was worth it, and that they got something out of it. Take Jurassic World, for example–a film based around one of the biggest films in cinema history. Sure, it was nowhere near as great as the original, and quite frankly isn’t memorable at all–but at least it’s harmless fun. You want crazy dinosaurs running around trying to kill people? That’s what you got. Sure, it’s glaringly obvious that this movie was only made because the studios knew it would make bank–but at least it was a fun ride and didn’t solely use the Jurassic Park name to sell a generic action film. It tried.
The Force Awakens–yes, I know this one is a little controversial, but hear me out. The only major concern I’ve heard about this movie is that it’s basically a rebooted version of A New Hope. Yes, I can totally see why people would be unhappy with it. It’s got mostly all the same beats, and does technically feature Death Star III. Despite this, I feel like JJ Abram was able to create a pretty damn good movie. I think the parallels to A New Hope work in a sense that The Force Awakens is meant to be a sort of “passing down the torch” film, not only within the Star Wars universe, but also quite literally in real life for both the actors and a new generation of fans. What The Force Awakens did right was going back to the roots of the franchise just enough for us to get used to the transition before the new guys start running the show. Now, imagine how much more pissed people would be if this film completely disregarded the existence of Luke, Han, and Leia and just jumped straight in with the fresh faces. On top of this, you really can’t say that there wasn’t a lot that went into the production of this film–it was definitely handled with care. While, yes, this movie did a ton of good for Disney financially, the film wasn’t magically shit out of JJ Abrams ass then put on the big screen just for the sake of profit.
So, yes, perhaps The Force Awakens is a reboot in a way, but is that such a bad thing? Have filmmakers simply lost the ability to come up with fresh material? Again, Hollywood has been pumping out remakes and basing things off pre-existing media forever. It seems that that’s never changed, but what has is the quantity and quality of remakes and reboots that are being pumped out for solely profit. The issue with the lack of creativity in Hollywood isn’t that screenwriters are out of ideas–oh, no–definitely not the case. It’s that there’s more money to be made when you slap them nostalgia goggles on people in order to lure them in.
Now, does this mean that the art of filmmaking is slowly dying? Not at all. Only time will tell what’s wrong and what’s right. Decades down the line only the good movies from the remake era are going to be remembered, as the not so great ones fade away until they’re eventually forgotten. I promise you that your grandchildren are definitely going to be shown the original Ghostbusters and not have any idea that the 2016 version happened. The same goes for all these live action Disney remakes–people are only ever going to remember the better versions while disregarding the rest. Really, who would want to sit through a crappy remake when the original is an option?