Reporting Patrick Braud
Recently, it seems like Hollywood has decided to stop doing that “take a risk on a new story” thing and just hammer out a ton of remakes. This year has been particularly rife for re-imagining movies we’ve already seen. Comic books saw redos of both Spider-man and Judge Dredd, and just a few weeks ago Total Recall got a gritty reboot that not even Bryan Cranston and all of his awesomeness could save from mediocrity. Then there’s The Expendables 2! HEYOOOO! Seriously, though it was pretty much the first movie but this time with like, three more guys!
Now, with the upcoming release of a Red Dawn remake in November (this time with North Koreans instead of Russians; no, really), we here at the Man Cave would like to go over some rules for any producers out there — who totally read this site because we’re so popular and sexy — to go by if they’re planning on remaking something any time soon.
Gritty does not (necessarily) a good reboot make
We understand why you might want to take the gritty reboot route, hypothetical producer. It worked really well for Batman. Like, super well. Like all of the money well. And we’re just going to ignore Quantum of Solace and say it worked really well for James Bond, too.
The Dredd movie makes sense for this, too. The comic book character was all about the grit and the asskicking and all that jazz. The 1995 movie made it about Stallone’s odd speech patterns, particularly concerning his pronunciation of the word “law” (read: LEUUHWWW), and Rob Schneider. But not everything needs to get all gritty.
Take Total Recall, for example. The original movie was pretty silly. Three-breasted prostitute, Arnold Schwarzenegger with a towel on his head and hiding in a big fat lady suit silly. This new one kept the three-breasted prostitute, but appears to have lost a bit of the silliness from the original movie, replacing it with a principle actor who doesn’t have an easily mockable voice and even changing the general tone and color scheme to a dark grey tint, because your happy bright colors are bulls#$t. Plus there are way more dramatic gunfights and way less goofy looking claymation eye popping. And what happened? Nobody’s going to remember it, because we already had a Total Recall that was as awesome as it was silly.
Word is that the Superman reboot is reportedly going to be gritty as well, because “Why, not? Batman.” Except Batman is a gritty character, and Superman is all about hope. We don’t need to see Superman gleefully kicking ass, because he can do that by not holding in a sneeze. A gritty Superman is as worthless as a shiny, optimistic Batman.
Was the original released just a few years ago? Don’t remake it
Wait, at least. Cripes, give us a minute. F$#k.
Another thing that upset fans with the new Spider-Man film was that the reboot was released pretty shortly after the first series had ended. Only 4 years, to be exact. Obviously the announcement and development of the picture happened a year or two before the actual release of the movie, so there was even less time between the last movie and a complete overhaul of it. Despite how awful the last Spider-Man was, it was still too soon to try and do it again. The wounds were still fresh, we didn’t want to risk seeing Spider-Man get ruined by emo hair and dance numbers again. However, Sony wanted to cash in on the superhero craze with one of two franchises they owned and what we ended up getting was a Spider-Man movie that was just pretty okay.
But sometimes movies that aren’t part of giant franchises make the same mistake, and there’s really no better example than the remake of Death At A Funeral, put out a mere three years after the original was released. The cast was replaced with recognizable actors (and Cyclops) and kept the jokes pretty much exactly the same but with more racial tension. The first big scene where the main character, grieving his father’s recent death, discovers the funeral home has delivered the wrong corpse by mistake is already pretty funny as it is; it didn’t need much more development. But somewhere down the line, someone said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if the body was Asian?! Then it’s super not his dad! OMGLOL, RIGHT?!” Then Chris Rock got to deliver the immortal line, “You’ve got Jackie Chan in there!” So a joke that was already pretty good on its own got turned into a joke about how Asians look alike and apparently know martial arts. This movie was released in 2010. Ruminate on that for a bit.
Examine your motivations
Are you trying to put a new spin on an old story? Are you actually trying to add to the material and turn it into something new, like the much-celebrated Christopher Nolan Batguy franchise?
Or are you trying to rerelease something because old people remember hearing the name once and Johnny Depp liked it as a kid and just felt like being that character? Then hello, Dark Shadows. And The Lone Ranger.
Then there’s Will Smith, who likes hearing his name so much that he named his daughter Willow Smith so that he could hear “Will Smith” a few more times a day, ignoring the last syllable of the first name, of course. Will Smith seems very earnest about his children and that’s just great, but not when they’re not actually good at things. Despite Willow’s current claim to fame being ascribed to the internet’s love for irony through crappy music, Will is trying get his daughter to be at the head of an Annie remake. Y’know, with all that “the sun will come out tomorrow” crap. It follows the formula: name old people will remember + celebrity who wants to be a certain character/wants their daughter famous/just a celebrity who wants something and isn’t told “no” by people because they’d like that celebrity to give them money some time.
Then there’s just simple laziness. “Hey, what are things that were funny once?” “Richard Pryor? George Carlin?” “No, they could possibly alienate at least three people. What’s not disagreeable to dumb people?” “Slapstick? Farting?” “BRILLIANT! We bring back the Three Stooges!”
This was a conversation that must have happened that reasonable people would have responded to with a very simple, “Why?” It would also be the best question to ask in this scenario, because apparently the producers thought that the ways to make a bunch of hooting, honking idiots bonking each other in the head with hammers while making constipated faces relevant again were: 1) Swimsuit model playing a nun, and 2) Snooki. Hollywood, everyone.
Or are you perhaps just trying to cash in on getting a wider audience? Well, if you’re trying to do this with a cult film, good freaking luck, because the fans of the original will be on your ass before you can say, “rewrites!” Fans of cult films are especially on edge right now because of what Hollywood tried to do to the cult Japanese anime Akira, which were namely: 1) Make everyone American but leave their Japanese names, 2) Try to cast Justin Timberlake, 3) Cast other boring white people with nice teeth, 4) Change the title character from a victim to a creepy little The Omen-esque kid. Granted, I don’t know a damn thing about the original. I’ve never seen it. I know there’s a dude with a crazy arm and that’s about it. But every little thing I heard about it made me hate the remake as much as diehard fans; there’s a reason people are very skeptical about when Hollywood tries to take something that was very good for a very specific time and place and make it marketable to everybody, right now.
It’s really hard to do that. Like, super hard. Because when a movie has to appeal to fans of cinema and fans of the original movie but also rope in people who thought the Transformers series was good, but needed more boobs and explosions, it’s hard to come out with something good. It tries to walk a line and neither party ends up satisfied.
After all that, I can really understand why people might be afraid of an Oldboy remake. In an effort to not make people feel all weird and sad at the end, it’s probably not going to be as dark. But the darkness was part of the essence of that movie; remove all the soul-crushing horror from Oldboy and you’ve just got a milquetoast modern Count of Monte Cristo again, though this time the main character doesn’t get to be rich. How bleak.
But with all the crappiness that becomes a part of most remakes, it is sometimes necessary. As too soon as the new version was, Spider-Man 3 blew. That franchise had quite clearly run its course, and we couldn’t let them touch that again. I still think they should have waited a few more years, but with all the superhero movies going strong right now, it is acknowledged that it would be kind of a waste to leave one of the most famous comic book heroes of all time out of the whole craze.
Superman also deserves a new rewrite in the wake of all of this superhero love, when thinking about how crappy the last one was. Luckily, this one put another two years between rewrites than was given to Spider-man, so the wounds aren’t still too fresh to risk again. Now we’re at the point where we see the remake coming out and think, “Oh, thank god, that last one was so terrible.” Another thing that helps this new film, Man of Steel, is that it’s actually the first true remake, since Superman Returns actually tried to follow along with the story from the original and just make Superman an asshat who disappeared for several years without telling anybody and now everyone hates him.
We can hold out hope that this and the myriad other remakes the future holds will actually be good, but if only Batman comes out of this unscathed, I won’t be too surprised. I mean, he is the goddamn Batman.
Patrick is a writer and comedian living in Chicago and watches too many movies and spends way too much time on IMDb. He’s got a Tumblr that he swears is totally super awesome and he definitely regularly updates, and a twitter that he would definitely say similar things about at Twitter @fatfraud.
Patrick has committed his own pop culture atrocities, but begged forgiveness for them with An Apology to All Henchmen I’ve Murdered.