The Great Remake Debate

There’s long been an argument raging in the heart of Hollywood regarding the originality of its output. Ever since the summer blockbuster came into being courtesy of directors such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner…

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There’s long been an argument raging in the heart of Hollywood regarding the originality of its output. Ever since the summer blockbuster came into being courtesy of directors such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner, the annual spate of sequels, remakes and now, reboots, has helped to keep the tinsel town machine ticking over. There are those classic stories which have been produced for the screen on countless occasions, and will again – Guillermo Del Toro’s recently announced intention to make the umpteenth Frankenstein movie is a good example, but in a culture that encourages producers to express their ideas as a combination of existing movies (‘Imagine E.T. crossed with Jurassic Park!’)* a genuine sense of the unique is rare.

Sci-fi has had far more than it’s fair-share of regurgitated and spun-off content over the years, with TV and film companies desperate to cash-in on a pre-built fan-base. A kind of ‘here’s one we made earlier’ if you will. Of course, not every spin-off show/film sequel is worthy of the licence it’s based on, and most suffer from the rule of diminishing returns at the box office, but with curiosity piquing audience interests they’ll happily return to cinemas for more of the same. This summer has already given us Terminator: Salvation and Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen – a sequel-cum-reboot (requel?), and straight sequel respectively. Both were generally regarded as critical failures, and both will undoubtedly go on to earn nine-figure sums at the worldwide box-office.

Although reboots have threatened to usurp the remake in recent years with films such as Batman Begins, The Incredible Hulk and Terminator: Salvation conveniently ignoring their predecessors, the remake seems to be on the verge of a huge comeback, as the industry pillages older films, as well as more recent fare in its never-ending search for the next hit. Remakes aren’t all bad however – Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans recently started shooting, setting forth not only a wave of nostalgia for the original, but also a sense of expectation that an up-to-date version could work wonders, with CG effects adding a sense of awe to the rampant mythical creatures. Similarly, Tim Burton’s remake of Charlie and the Chocolate factory was slick enough to finally do justice to some of author Roald Dahl’s wilder ideas, although only time will tell if he can do the same with his Alice in Wonderland ‘requel’.

No, it’s the patently pointless remakes that get most fans steamed up. Production company Platinum Dunes is currently working on a reboot of A Nightmare on Elm St. – while horror fans and studio execs alike may argue the case for resetting the Freddy franchise, Platinum Dunes are now unlikely to follow it up with it’s originally mooted project: a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. “We lay ourselves out there and get annihilated out there online all day long. [The Birds] just opens us up to a whole different level of annihilation.” Said producer Brad Fuller “…it doesn’t feel like that’s up next for us.” A victory for film innovation? Not quite – Platinum Dunes is set to remake Roman Polanski’s chilling Rosemary’s Baby under the name The Sacrifice, instead.

As a child of the Eighties there are also worrying signs that some of my Sci-Fi memories are set for a Hollywood-style tarnishing – Flight of the Navigator and Teen Wolf have both just joined the endless list of requels/remakes that already includes Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, It, The Crow, Tron, Scream, Buffy, Total Recall (ironically in pre-production at a company called Original films), They Live, Buck Rogers, Predators, Alien and Robocop. Some of these films will no doubt be worth investigating, with effects-heavy movies such as Tron benefiting from modern techniques more than others. Viewing the rest will result in the niggling feeling of deja-vu with a tinge of remorse as the depressing realisation sets in – it’s not as good as the original.

* E.T. meets Jurassic Park © Tom Hopkins