Dear Hollywood (Executives, Producers, Directors, et al),
When is enough, enough? I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about. I can’t be the only one voicing this opinion. I have stayed silent for all these years but enough is now e-nuff!! Having been driven to the brink of sanity by all this snow followed by arctic cold followed by more snow followed by more cold, I have to vent my anger and I have chosen you! I could have stayed quiet but I just cannot do it anymore.
When will the day come when the remakes stop? I realize that your city is barren of original ideas. Writers like Charlie (Being John Malkovich; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) Kaufman don’t pop up every day. I realize you have to recycle the same ideas over and over. Buddy cop movies, mad slasher movies, car chases and explosions – sometimes all in the same movie. I get it. If a movie makes money we are sure to get at least two to three sequels whether we want them or not (Did we really need Live Free or Die Hard or the upcoming Transformers 4?). I will grant you all this but PLEASE can you stop with the remakes?
It all began to boil over for me when I went to see the remake of Brian DePalma’s classic 1976 thriller Carrie. An hour into the film I realized that I was sitting there, watching the same movie with different actors and nothing new being offered to surprise the audience. In these days of political correctness I was not surprised that the new version did not include the shocking opening from the 1976 film which made the audience voyeurs in a girl’s locker room, which lead to an important scene that got the story rolling. The locker room scene is in the new version but without the nudity the voyeuristic feel is missing thus the power of the scene is diluted. The great shock ending which created screams loud enough in crowded theaters to be heard by patrons awaiting the next showing in the lobby, is gone. Apparently the filmmakers realized audiences might be expecting it and instead included a cheap shot at the end that may or may not be setting up a sequel. Thankfully the film was a flop so I don’t think we will have to worry about that.
After seeing this very mediocre remake my first thought was why? Why would anyone in Hollywood put up millions of dollars on a project that virtually is the same as its predecessor? If they wanted Carrie to come back to theaters so badly why didn’t they clean up the negative on the 1976 print and re-release it? Yes I realize most people who love that film own it or can see it on cable television practically every month but don’t true movie lovers know that no matter how big their big screen television is, there is NOTHING like seeing a movie on the big screen? Let’s get the teenagers away from their computers and iPads and cell phones and video games and show them some classic movies on the big screen.
Yes the arguments can be made that today’s audience is less tolerant of rude patrons and cell phones and such but I still believe that if today’s audience wants to see a movie badly enough they will pay to see it. Box office revenues continue to rise each year despite Blu Ray, Netflix, and big screen televisions. Let’s not forget the fact that re-releases of Grease and The Exorcist in the late 1990s were both quite successful. True the latter included new footage but the former was released and seen in the exact version we all saw in its original release in 1978. It was number one at the box office for two weeks in a row, twenty years after it was released.
So why continue to take films and modernize them without much change? That feels like a rip-off to the public. Why spend millions when you can spend far less to re-release these films? The few revival houses left in the country still show the films of Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock and report solid box office figures. When I was growing up in the ’70s, films like Gone With The Wind, Jaws, American Graffiti, The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were routinely re-released instead of shown on television. Walt Disney would re-release a classic animated film every summer (and occasionally at Christmas) and then put that film back in the vault and wait eight years or so before presenting it again to a new generation of children.
I decided to do some research and found that since 2004 there have been at least (I may have overlooked a few) seventy remakes! Seventy!!! That averages out to seven remakes per year, every year. Mind you that does not include the remakes of foreign films such as The Ring, The Departed and the recent flop Old Boy. This does not include the forthcoming remakes in 2014. This month we will see three remakes alone. Up first is a remake of the sharp 1986 romantic comedy/drama About Last Night, which was an almost vicious but truthful look at relationships that starred Rob Lowe, Demi Moore and Jim Belushi. The film featured some very rough language and raw sex scenes. The new version features an all African-American cast (a nice twist on the original) but you can bet the ranch the language and sex quotient will be lightened to appeal to a teenage audience. You can also bet they will try to derive laughs from sexual humor. This will lose the power of what the original created. Let’s hope they make the movie their own and serve as a companion piece to the original and not a duplicate.
Next up is a remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields dud Endless Love. This may be a case where the remake couldn’t possibly be worse than the original so I will keep my fingers crossed. This is the kind of movie to remake if you insist on doing so.
The third remake is Robocop and judging by the previews it appears the film is going to deviate from the black comedy of the original and go for pure action and thrills. The preview doesn’t really indicate to me that it’s going to be worthwhile but we shall see.
This summer we can look forward to a big budget remake of Godzilla and one has to wonder if we really do need another version? 1997’s remake was a disaster so it can’t possibly be any worse but the original is a minor B movie classic. I wish they would just let it be.
I used to be a proponent of remaking a bad movie and trying to get it right but I can’t even support that anymore because you can’t even seem to get that right.
Let’s take a look at your decision to start remaking the mad slasher/horror films from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. These were movies I grew up on. These are movies are that I saw in theaters and, for the most part, didn’t care for back then. In a few short years we got remakes of The Amityville Horror, April Fool’s Day, Black Christmas, The Crazies, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Evil Dead, The Fog, Friday The 13th, Fright Night, Halloween, Halloween II, The Hitcher, The House on Sorority Row, Last House on the Left, My Bloody Valentine, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Omen, Piranha, Prom Night, The Stepfather and When A Stranger Calls. Twenty-two films remade and not a single one of them improved on the original. In my opinion only Dawn of the Dead and Fright Night were decent films on their own. Only two films in that group actively attempted to be different from their original source – Fright Night kept its main idea but changed up enough to make it feel like a movie of its own. When A Stranger Calls took the terrific opening sequence from the original film and made a full movie out of it. I didn’t find it successful but at least they tried something different. Rob Zombie took the near impossible task of remaking the classic Halloween and, to his credit, he did try to do something different in its first hour by concentrating on the early life of Michael Myers. Zombie made several mistakes however. First off he took too long with the story. When he goes into action on Halloween night in present day, we have barely got to know the characters Myers is stalking. He also filled the film with silly characters and ridiculous scenes (none worse than Myers’ cracking up on Halloween night to the tune of Nazareth’s Love Hurts). The result was another terrible remake. The rest of the films were all garbage. I am still waiting for remakes of Terror Train and The Funhouse.
Some remakes were so bad they didn’t get a wide theatrical release. Does anyone remember the remakes of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Gambit, It’s Alive, Maniac, Mother’s Day and Toolbox Murders? Apparently you all were so unimpressed with them you didn’t allow most of us the chance to see them.
I cannot fathom why anyone would think we needed new versions of Arthur, whose original script by Steve Gordon was so witty and funny it couldn’t possibly be topped. Did we really need a new version of The Bad News Bears which changed very little save for modernizing with political correctness? Did we really need a new version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, one of the classic sci-fi films of all time? And with Keanu Reeves nonetheless? How about a remake of Footloose that is almost shot for shot with the exception of new music to replace the great songs of that era? Was the public ever going to put Adam Sandler in the Burt Reynolds role in The Longest Yard (a remake that featured Reynolds in a large but different role)?
I could go on and on. John Frankenheimer’s powerful political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, was updated into a silly thriller (one of the main characters never notices a scar on his neck where a chip was secretly implanted). Poseidon made the fatal mistake of having the disaster happen almost right away thus foregoing any chance of getting to know and care about the characters. The Stepford Wives was virtually the same movie only turned into a black comedy instead of a thriller. The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 was the same movie except for its ridiculous chase filled ending.
On the plus side I can say that I did enjoy roughly ten of the remakes I have seen in the last ten years. The best of them were Peter Jackson’s King Kong which is terrific but still way too long (seeing this with my late father, he remarked during the final airplane sequence, “I wish he would die already”) and suffers from a mis-cast Jack Black. I also enjoyed James Mangold’s 3:10 To Yuma, a western starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe (though I must admit I never saw the original with Glenn Ford). I also enjoyed Assault on Precinct 13, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, The Karate Kid, The Ladykillers, The Producers and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Only King Kong and Karate Kid were hits at the box office.
Doesn’t that tell you people anything? The public is not yearning to see new versions of Alfie, Death Race 2000, Fame, Fun With Dick and Jane, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?, The Mechanic, Red Dawn, The Shaggy Dog, Sparkle, Straw Dogs, Total Recall, The Wicker Man, The Wolf Man and Yours, Mine and Ours. They were all big budget films and they were all forgettable. Oh! They were all flops.
Please do us a favor and get away from the remake business and start producing more original product again. These days only the Independent film market seems to be creating new stories, new worlds and new characters for moviegoers to explore. If you are smart you will grab these fine, talented young filmmakers and give them real budgets to film their stories the way they want.
Otherwise movie lovers like me may start staying home and watching more HBO.