Movie remakes are all the rage these days, it seems. A few recent examples have included Fright Night, Footloose, and the upcoming Robocop. Needless to say, a lot of people are getting enraged at the lack of originality in Hollywood these days. I don’t really blame them, myself, though I’m not entirely sold on whether a lot of the films being bandied about as remakes should be considered so.
To me, for a film to be considered a “remake”, it needs to be a new version of an original movie and not based on other media. For example, The Thing (the 1982 movie, not the 2011 prequel) is often touted as a remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World. The truth of the matter is that the 1982 movie, like the 1951 one, was based on a novella called Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell; unlike the 1951 film, the 1982 film was FAR more faithful to the original material. Another example is the upcoming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, as like the Swedish-language movie (which I highly recommend), it’s based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. New movies based on Spider-Man and Superman are in the works; as they’re based on comic books, I see them as fresh looks at the source material as opposed to remakes of previous films.
Even then, I’m not against remakes as a whole. If a remake can provide a new, fresh interpretation of the original story while still being a quality product, then I’m all for it. People were against remakes of the aforementioned Fright Night and Footloose, yet critical reception of both films was positive. In fact, according to Rotten Tomatoes, Footloose got much better ratings than the original version did.
Still, it strikes me as funny that remakes are causing so much rage. Classic movies have been remade and new interpretations of old materials released for as long as I can remember. For example, the 1983 classic Scarface was a remake of a 1932 film. The most well-known versions of The Wizard of Oz and The Maltese Falcon were not the first adaptations of those novels to film. It’s hardly a new thing to come about.
Now, while I’m normally not against remakes or adaptations, there is one exception. I don’t like it when an adaptation comes out in a particular medium for the first time, and does not try to be faithful to the original source material. It could be an animated film based on a comic, but changes personalities of characters and the basic plotline. The adaptation that comes to mind most prominently is the live-action adaptation of the comic and animated film Akira. Akira is a profoundly Japanese film, that served as a generation’s introduction to Japanese animation. However, the live-action adaptation is casting whites instead of Japanese (for example, Kristen Stewart has been offered the lead female role), and the setting has been changed from Neo-Tokyo to “New Manhattan”. If what I’ve read online is true, then the storyline has been altered as well, no longer focusing on juvenile delinquents as the main protagonists/antagonists.
The Spirit is another example. Leaving out Frank Miller’s supposedly horrid writing and direction, the movie is not faithful to the comics in several respects. One that comes to mind is that in the film Denny Colt has superhuman abilities after the incident that made him become the Spirit, while Will Eisner deliberately made him an everyman in the comics. Another is that the Octopus was prominently shown in the movie, whereas in the comics his face was never seen. Had it been a faithful adaptation, I would have been more inclined to watch it. As it stands… no.
Why is it so difficult for the studios making these films to make a faithful adaptation?
In the end, though, it comes down to quality. The remakes and new adaptations that succeed are faithful to the source material while bringing a fresh look and new perspectives. The ones that fail are the money grabs that don’t pay attention to what made the original source material great in the first place. I know I’m preaching to the choir there, as I’m hardly the only one to feel that way.
I just wish the studio executives understood that too.