Sunday, February 8, 2009

Of Hollywood and Remakes

We fanboys are a passionate lot, protective of what we see as those properties which helped form our personal interests. The controversy of the week is one that periodically resurrects itself, the tendency of Hollywood to remake classic (and not-classic) films. Brian Keene posted about the large number (55) of remakes currently in the works, based on another post at the Den of Geek. The reaction was what you’d think, the vast majority of responses decrying Hollywood’s lack of creative, and opposing the remakes. I understand that people feel this way, but it is one of the most bewildering things to me.

First of all, there is a perception that this is new to the movie industry, that they have started remaking movies after their creative well has run dry. A popular theory, but wrong. First of all, if you are a fan of classic film, you may already know the great 1941 film The Maltese Falcon was the second remake of that story, all coming within eleven years. In fact, one of the most criticized movies on the remake list, John Carpenter’s 1982 movie The Thing (one of my favorites) was actually a remake of the excellent 1950 film The Thing From Another World. And some movies do well as remakes. It took until the fourth version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers to get a bad one.

The second thing is the clarion cry that most of these remakes will be terrible. Probably so. Let me introduce you to Sturgeon’s Law. As the story goes, back in the 1950s a friend asked the great writer Theodore Sturgeon why he wrote science fiction, since ninety percent of it is crap. “That’s true,” Sturgeon replied. “Ninety percent of science fiction is crap. But that is okay, since ninety percent of everything is crap.” So applying Sturgeon’s Law, ninety percent of the remakes will be crap, but it is no big deal, since ninety percent of non-remakes are crap, too. For my money, I’ve been at least mindlessly entertained by most of the remakes, so I’m not too concerned.

The last point, and the one that really gets me, is that fans feel the need to defend their favorites. (Also if your favorite “original” movie is The Last House on the Left, which is an overrated rip-off of The Virgin Spring…well, you have rare taste). The moans rise to the sky: “They’re destroying a great movie!” “They shouldn’t touch this classic!” “They ruined the movie for me forever!”

This would be true if a remake involved destroying or altering all existing copies of the original, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t change the original at all. If you can’t stand the idea of a new version of Hellraiser, here’s an idea: Go and buy the inexpensive DVD of the original. That way you will always have it, unchanged from the day it first came out. And pretend the remake doesn’t exist. No one forces you to watch these things, and if they bother you, you shouldn’t.

This is meant in no way to disparage those who believe that remakes are a sin. You outnumber me by a wide margin. I’m just urging you to step away from the ledge. Don’t go to these movies if you don’t want to. Read a book instead.


Craig Clarke said...

Read a book?! My god, man, you're a heretic!

But seriously, thanks for offering a sane viewpoint to this. Some of my favorite movies (Halloween, The Producers, etc.) have been remade, and I simply never saw the remakes.

However, if they're discussed, I do try to steer the viewers toward the originals. :)

KentAllard said...

That's exactly the attitude poeple should have. If you don't want to see the remakes just..don't. The Halloween remake didn't change the original at all.

Craig Clarke said...

It's like saying if you grill a burger, and then grill another one, it ruined the first one.

(Or would the second burger be considered a sequel?)

KentAllard said...

I lean toward remake, since it uses fresh meat.