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03 February 2009 @ 08:52 am
The Hoard Potato: Nothing New Under The Sun  
Earlier this morning, pseudomanitou listed 55 movies slated for a remake.

The comments bring up some recurring bits of folk wisdom that both amuse and annoy me.

First and foremost is the idea that Hollywood used to be chock full of original ideas, but now is just cranking out new versions of old movies -- like they've never done that before.

Second, of course, is the assumption that remakes are, by default, a Bad Thing, either because the original is an Untouchable Classic -- or, paradoxically, because the original was utter crap that doesn't deserve revisiting. In most conversations of this sort, the possibility that a remake could be an improvement is acknowledged, but only barely; PM, to his credit, grants that possibility with surprising frequency in his list.

When a remake is successful, people tend to polarize into Those Who Think The Original Was Better and Those Who Think The New Version Is Better. It's rare to see both original and remake heralded as Equally Valid Interpretations Of The Same Themes.

Let's put some perspective on this, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon is not only a remake, but was the third movie version of Hammett's story in a ten-year span.

The Al Pacino version of Scarface? Remake.

Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is a remake.

Oh, and one from the list? One that PM gripes about because it's "iconic"?

John Carpenter's The Thing is a remake.

 
 
I feel: cynical*snort*
 
 
 
Moral Explorernotthebuddha on February 3rd, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
I don't think Jackson's LOTR strictly counts as a remake, being the first primarily live-action motion picture adaptation of the novel, vs the previously all-animated adaptation.
Curious Coonhalfelf on February 3rd, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC)
The entry you're linking to is locked.
leonard_arlotteleonard_arlotte on February 3rd, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC)
I can't see the list of movies you reference, but I concur that a remake can be a darned fine movie.

As for the concept that Hollywood has run out of ideas, Since when have they had any new ideas at all? Almost every movie is adapted from a book, or play, or TV show, or something else. Off the top of my head I can really only think of ONE original screenplay that wasn't a book first. I'm sure there are others, but the point of making movies is not to be original, but to take a concept and put it on the BIG SCREEN.

With huger budgets, and specatcular special effects, this becomes more and more of an upgrade, which is why they remake old movies. The drawback is when the special effects become more of the point than the original story.
DragonRift: CharleneCoatdragonrift on February 3rd, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC)
No, Hollywood is not chock-full of original ideas, but that doesn't change the fact that they've become a bunch of chickenshits when it comes to giving one a shot.

Hollywood flat-out does not like taking risks anymore. Period. If you pay attention, you notice they stick to trends... like what's popular. A decade ago, it was disaster flicks. When Scream became a hit, we started seeing all sorts of new slasher baddies. X-Men was a surprise-hit, and the movie studios then decided to buy every comic book hero out there. Then it was suspense thrillers with twist endings. For a few years, every single teen/college comedy had to be chock-full of overblown gross-out gags. Then it was remaking all the popular Japanese horror movies. For a while, we started seeing non-stop adaptations to fantasy books, mostly about little kids discovering a fantasy world... Now, it's all hideously unfunny spoofs, franchise reboots, sequels to 20-year-old sagas, TV show/cartoon adaptations, and POINTLESS remakes.

A remake here and there is fine, since there are some that do deserve a better retelling. However, audiences have been letting themselves get suckered by each and every one of these, causing the more original ideas to get left out to dry. My favorite example was back in 2005 when the brilliantly written Serenity came out that October. The Fog, Doom and Saw II all out-grossed it. An original idea with intelligent characters and an entertaining story got its ass kicked by a pointless horror remake, a lousy video game adaptation, and a run-of-the-mill horror sequel.

And I saw more ads for Serenity than all three of those movies combined. What's making money right now? Paul Blart: Mall Cop was the highest grossing movie in America two weeks in a row, while there were probably about six or seven BETTER movies out there.

As long as audiences tell Hollywood that they're okay with their shit flicks, by buying tickets for the latest "Adjective" Movie, they're going to continue to take less risks, and just stick with what's safe and easy for them to make a quicker buck.

Edited at 2009-02-03 06:19 pm (UTC)
Your Obedient Serpent: causticathelind on February 3rd, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
No, Hollywood is not chock-full of original ideas, but that doesn't change the fact that they've become a bunch of chickenshits when it comes to giving one a shot.

My ONLY point of dispute is the verb "become".
pseudo manitoupseudomanitou on February 3rd, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
Point of order: John Carpenter's 'The Thing' is not a remake of the 'The Thing from Another World' (1951). While both movies are inspired by the written story 'Who Goes There' -- the only real item the two movie plots have in common is the Arctic setting.

Just as the 1982 version had little to do with the 1951 version, so will the remake have little to do with the 1951 version. They are specifically talking of remaking John Carpenter's movie.

And it is iconic because the movie was shit-balls gore and creature-tastic WITHOUT computer animation -- a quality that I would argue makes it feel more realistic than anything Hollywood is willing to produce today in that genera.

I mean... they CGI-ed the blood effects in 'Hot Fuzz'! Am I the only one who thinks this computer shit is being relied on too much?
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on February 3rd, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
I mean... they CGI-ed the blood effects in 'Hot Fuzz'! Am I the only one who thinks this computer shit is being relied on too much?

No! I'm with you on this one. ;)
DragonRift: DragonRift 2dragonrift on February 3rd, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Actually, from recent reports I've been reading, they're looking into making a PREQUEL to John Carpenter's version, and not a remake, which takes place at the camp with the Norwegians.

If they nail the right director who doesn't believe in an over-abundance of CGI, this could actually work with a good script.
Tubetoob on February 4th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC)
While CGI can be overused, I can't imagine doing the Thing without it. The gorepuppet effects were all right for the 80s movie, but they'd just look cheesy today.
Terminotaur: TermieottSquareterminotaur on February 3rd, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
I don't have a problem with CGI. I think it has a lot of very exciting possibilities, some of which I've seen done. Its often the implementation that is the problem to me.

Many of the effects I see where the technique has true utility are done very fast. Presumably, more time on a scene is much more money. I think particularly of things like American Werewolf in London versus much of what has since come out trying similar things. The first shows a long agonizing change that gives more impact, versus newer things where its more of an "oh by the way, he changes shape...". This also may be a byproduct of the ease of the effect (combined with cost). There's more plotting if you're figuring out how the heck you're going to make this all look "right". That thought process doesn't have to be sacrificed by nature of the tools, that it can be again speaks to laziness of the director, not to tool.

The other problem seems to be one of using effects as a crutch for a story. The budgets gets blown on CGI versus re-writes. The ironic aspect of this is that its probably more cost-effective to better tune the script.

But in both cases its not the technique, but the people using or mis-using it.
A.R.M.: Peter Jackson directingkinkyturtle on February 4th, 2009 07:32 am (UTC)
The thing about CGI is, when used well, the audience doesn't notice it. For instance, remember in "Forrest Gump" when he plays ping-pong really well, hitting the ball over and over? The ball was CGI. I didn't realize that when I saw the movie.

Which means that what the audience notices is the poor CGI.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on February 3rd, 2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
Next you'll be talking about how many of the best movies every made were adapted from novels or other media and it's not axiomatic that the book is always better than the movie! That it's possible to evaluate both independently, or even that sometimes a movie is better than a book.
leonard_arlotteleonard_arlotte on February 3rd, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
Sometimes when the book is based on the movie, the movie was better.

Case in point: Robocop. That book sucked.
Your Obedient Serpent: hoard potatoathelind on February 3rd, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
Sometimes, when the movie is based on a book, the movie is STILL better. Who Censored Roger Rabbit? would be deservedly forgotten if Disney hadn't scrapped three-fourths of it to make Framed.

SImilar arguments have been made about Mario Puzo's original novel, The Godfather, but I can't vouch for that personally.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on February 3rd, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
I can. The Godfather, the novel, is a really good book. The Godfather, the movie, is a pivotal event in the history of cinema. It changed things forever. Now, I like the book quite a bit, but I can't in any way say that about the book. There wasn't this line that was pre-Godfather and post-Godfather, like there is with the movie.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on February 3rd, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
I actually think that it's pretty common for the movie to be better than the book. Books I could never stand reading pretty regularly get made into really good movies. ;)
silussa on February 3rd, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
Having seen the original "The Thing", as well as the John Carpenter version, they were mostly the same in plot, different endings, and I liked both.

However, I will always have one thought in mind with the original: "James Arness as the carrot".

(if you don't know what that means, you never saw the original, or a certain very long running Western TV series)

As for WHY Hollywood keeps doing remakes, risks are expensive. As someone pointed out in another post(unintentionally), an original Sci Fi movie, despite heavy advertising, was outdrawn by basically very predictable films.

The American Public gets what it pays for. Which is why there is direct to DVD for some of us, thankfully.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on February 3rd, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
Re: budgets, I'm sorta surprised that movies are going up in cost all the time. I mean, every phase of production has gotten cheaper, really. But rather than splitting the difference between cost reduction and quality, they seem to be bound and determined to attempt to replace sets, costumes, actors, etc., with computer animation at great cost and often not great effect.

I think that something is going on in Hollywood budgeting processes that no one is talking about.
silussa on February 3rd, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
The BIG factor is advertising.

Here is a Slate article from 2005 which illustrates it. And the prices haven't gone down.

Then add in what the major actors, actresses, and directors are getting paid. The ones that will bring in a certain amount of assured traffic just because their name is on the film.

(disclaimer: Yes, I will certainly think twice if "Stephen Spielberg" is on the ad. No assurance I'll GO, but I'll certainly look twice at the ad)
Terminotaur: Totter deviousterminotaur on February 3rd, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
THANK you! There's no way I could have said this better.

I find this whole discussion so amusing really. Particularly the self-righteousness that quickly comes out in the comments.

I guess I'm just of the mind to roll with whatever re-make is tried. I don't get into the "how DARE they?" thing. There's no law that I go and see it, and there is always the chance that they find some way to do it better. Of course if I decide to see it with the how dare they mindset, well, I might as well save admission because chances are it will become a self-fulfilling opinion.

I'm trying to think of an example of a original and remake, and the one that comes up is The Producers, where the movie later gets made into a musical, and the musical into a movie. There are things I like about each telling on film, and own both. When I want to see it there's always a serious choice of which version I want to see that day. There are probably other good examples, but I'm hesitant to call things re-makes unless its nearly spelled directly out. There are aspects of The Thing that can probably be traced into several other movies. The mechanisms for creating tension have been used quite a bit really.

I think some people really need to take it easy. Go in with an open mind, willing to enjoy something. If it doesn't deliver, than fine, but throwing layers of contextualizing a movie in terms of what has come before, I just fail to see the utility in it I guess.
silmaril on February 3rd, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
Perspective duly gained.

By the way, I followed a link from metaquotes to your journal. Would you mind terribly if I added you to my regular reading list? I skimmed back a little, and it seems there are a lot of good perspectives to be gained by reading you.
Your Obedient Serpentathelind on February 3rd, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
Feel free! Be warned, however, that this journal does on occasion degenerate into drivel, with occasional visits to such pestilential backwaters as "Let Me Tell You About My RPG Character".
Drakedrakegrey on February 5th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
Definitely, this is a Your Milage May Vary situation, yeah, yeah man. I've heard Forbidden Planet is up for a remake but... how can they capture the sense of wonder, the sheer sense of OMG *my Astounding Science Fiction covers and artwork came to life*? I suspect it will end up with lots of scowling, dirty dawg space sailors, and.. well, H'ronmeer only knows what else. Commander Adams won't shave, that's all I know.

Other hoof, LOTR, yeah, good remake. :) Um... I'm just venting. I'm feverish, I got a cold. Remind me to tell you about the time 20 years ago I rickrolled a Gamma World game with Champions. :)
Your Obedient Serpent: facepalmathelind on February 5th, 2009 06:51 am (UTC)
I've heard Forbidden Planet is up for a remake but...

Wait. WHAT?
Drakedrakegrey on February 5th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
The script has been rattling around Hollywood for years; I remember Starlog mentioned as much in the mid-80s.

At the time, Schwartznegger was suggested for commander Adams and *do not want*.

"Id monster, ja, vell, Id's a pity I hev to kill you!"