Have you recently scrolled through Facebook or Youtube and watched a new trailer that looked familiar? The plot sounds familiar, but the actors and actresses don’t. Wait, could it be? It’s a remake! Did you scoff and say “the original was better”? Hollywood is filled with so many creative minds and ideas. So why do we keep seeing so many remakes of films and songs today? And why do we dislike them?
Modern Film Remakes and New Values
According to the data blog The Droid You’re Looking For, there were 122 remakes released theatrically in the US between 2003 to 2012. The critical opinion of the original films on film review website Rotten Tomatoes is at an average of 78%, whereas the remakes averaged at 46%. So why does Hollywood keep making remakes? Well, while the remakes have low critical reception, their box office numbers are off the charts. These remakes bank off the name and success of the original, providing security for these Hollywood studios. It also guarantees a “built-in audience” and a higher chance of publicity by marketing familiar films.
Despite the increase in remakes and reboots, most in-development projects are panned immediately at the time of announcement by fans of their respective “originals”. This is mostly due to the fact that audiences think that they’re unoriginal and unnecessary.
Flatliners is a new film coming out starring Ellen Page, Diego Luna and Nina Dobrev about medical students that attempt to conduct experiments to produce near-death experiences. Upon watching the trailer, I found the concept interesting and refreshing. That is until I read the comments and saw people talking about the original movie.
The original 1990 film featured Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon. The new film is said to be a sequel to the original, as Kiefer Sutherland reprises his role, but follows the same plot. As a 1997 kid, if there wasn’t a remake, I probably would have never heard of the movie or watched it. But I can understand the frustration of the older generation as movies that I watched from my childhood are also remade for the current generation. For instance, the Mummy.
The original Mummy trilogy starred Brendan Fraser as American Explorer Richard “Rick” O’Connell and his adventures fighting against mummies. Set in the 1920s-1940s, the movies were fun, adventurous and comical; classics that could be watched again and again. The style of the films even shared a likeness to the Indiana Jones films. Although the trilogy is known as the “original” Mummy, it’s surprisingly another remake of the 1932 original directed by Karl Freund.
This year, a reboot was announced featuring Tom Cruise, with the film being set in the modern day. Loosely based off the originals, the film takes on a horror-styled approach, rather than the original comedic one. This is due to the film aiming to bring about Universal’s new Dark Universe, featuring other reboots of classic horror films such as The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera. Despite the huge difference, the remake “paid homage” to the trilogy by placing an Easter egg of the original Book of the Dead in the film (if you watch the movie, keep your eye out!). The 2017 film produced a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes in comparison to the trilogy’s average of 38%. As said by Josh Spiegel on The Hollywood Reporter:
The new Mummy wants to be too many things: a shared-universe kickstarter, an exciting adventure, a swooning romance, etc. So it’s unable to be good at any of those, especially its attempt to mirror Marvel’s success… The Mummy (2017) falls into every trap possible by focusing too much on the long con of getting audiences to buy into a decade of movies, instead of focusing on the story it’s supposed to be telling, even if that story is mildly derivative, as the ’99 film was of the Indiana Jones films.
Another reason why remakes fail is due to changing social values. For instance, white washing is a common issue with new films, as well as remakes. For example, the Netflix adaptation of the Japanese anime Deathnote. The original plot features Light Yagami, an intelligent high school student who finds a book that allows him to kill people by writing down their names in the book. The Netflix adaptation transports the story to America, with a white lead played by Nat Wolff called Light Turner. This version completely changes the story as well as the characters, as seen in this video. Light Yagami is a cold, psychotic, sociopathic genius with a god complex. A terrifying murderer. Whereas Light Turner is…. This.
Furthermore, the adaption fails due the lack of background. One of the main things is that Deathnote relies on Japanese culture and folklore, such as Shinigami – the death gods, as well as the fact that the name used by Light, “Kira”, is a transliteration of the English word “killer”. As a whole, the film was panned due to the fact that it didn’t stay true to the original story. Although the film received 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, it also received an audience score of 25%.
Despite these low-rated remakes, there are some that I’ve come to love. For instance, the Disney live-action films. When I heard that Cinderella was coming out, I thought “why would I watch it? I already know what’s going to happen.” I ended up seeing the movie and it was MAGICAL. The dress brought to life, the music, the filmography and the casting (who knew Helena Bonham Carter would play an amazing fairy godmother?). Everything was truly enchanting. And with a rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think a lot of people agree that this remake was a success.
So why do we hate reboots? For one, people think that remakes are “the end of creativity” and are detrimental to the originality of artists and producers. However, it is uncertain as to whether anything is truly original anymore. Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist claims that:
“When people call something ‘original’, nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.”
And this can be seen with many films that follow tropes from Shakespeare himself. For instance, The Lion King is really just an animal version of Hamlet; while West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet.
Secondly, we feel like our memories and nostalgia of the originals have been tampered with. A familiar name, now has a new memory that is nowhere near quite like the other. Our favourite actors and actresses playing our favourite characters, but is now being played by…not them. Humans do not like change. However, in this day and age, change is necessary. As our social values change, so does entertainment. For instance, the all-female remake of Ghostbusters. While many criticised the remake saying it “ruined their childhood”, it gave young girls of our generation a role model to look up to. And really that’s what reboots try to do. They try to give a new meaning of our favourite films to the newer generation, hoping that it will be as enjoyable for them as it was for us.