Bad Movie Studios on: Remakes

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Remakes

A Bad Movie Studios Column

One of the most polarizing arguments in film is the necessity of remakes. Some people like them because it can reintroduce an old idea to a new audience and update it for modern times. Others thought aren’t such of a fan of remakes because they differ so much from their source material and sometimes are films that are fairly recent and don’t need to be made. So I thought that I’d write something talking about where I sit on the debate, and talk about some good and bad remakes.

First off, I guess I’ll talk about my personal feelings about remakes. I actually like them for the most part. Sometimes a series needs a reboot to refreshes itself, and I see nothing wrong with remaking a movie that’s a few decades old. I do however dislike when a remake is done for a movie that doesn’t need one, like when the movie it’s being remade for isn’t very old. In the last few years we’ve seen more than one series reboot themselves less than 5 years from the original’s release (I’m looking at you ‘Amazing Spider-man’). That just bugs me. Also, there’s a sort of “necessary” remake thing that happens with foreign films. For example, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson was made into a Swedish film in 2009. Now I own that version and I have to say that it’s a decent film. Not great and there are some cultural differences in it that make a few things seem a bit weird, but overall I can’t complain. But instead of just releasing the film in the U.S. Either English dubbed or with subtitles, instead we had the whole thing remade in 2011. Now, I can’t complain about David Fincher’s (Director, Fight Club, Seven) adaptation, and I have to say that it was better in my opinion than the original. But I can’t help feel that it was only made because American audiences have adverse feelings on foreign films. We don’t like reading subtitles and find it hard to take dubbed films seriously. Now of course that doesn’t mean EVERYBODY in the U.S., it’s just a generalized statement. Another recent example of an American remake to a foreign film is the movie Funny Games (1997). It’s an Austrian psychological thriller directed by Michael Haneke. It’s about a pair of brothers that torture a man and his wife. This movie was released on DVD in the U.S. But not in theaters. Instead we got a shot for shot remake 10 years later written and directed by the same guy. That version stars Tim Roth and Naomi Watts. It got a limited theatrical release in the U.S. But since there was already a Funny Games in other parts of the world, in some countries this movie was called Funny Games U.S. Just to differentiate. I’ve never seen the original but I have seen the remake, but if it’s shot for shot the same film and has half the drive of the original, then there was no reason to remake it. Both version’s received mixed reviews but (and again I can only speak for the American version) I thought the movie was great. It was an uncomfortable experience the whole way through and I liked it. I definitely recommend it. It reminded me a lot of A Clockwork Orange (1971) Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. Maybe one day I’ll do a review of Funny Games, it would give me an excuse to watch it again at least.

Not every remake is really unnecessary, but they disappoint in every way and just ruin the franchise in some markets. A good representation of this is Roland Emmerick’s “adaptation” of Godzilla (1998). I use the word adaptation loosely here because it really didn’t respect the property it was using. It really would have been batter as a remake of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a film that actually was one of the inspirations for the original Godzilla in 1954), or as it’s own movie in general, but I can already tell you that the inner fan in me is being biased. Now anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a HUGE Godzilla fan and have been since my early childhood. I just could never get enough of Japan’s main movie monster. So when the American version of Godzilla was coming out, I couldn’t have been more excited. Yeah I was a little kid back then, but it seemed like I was the only one that I knew that was a big Godzilla fan, so when the movie was coming came out and the marketing exploded everywhere for the damn thing, all of a sudden I wasn’t along talking about Godzilla with the other kids in school. I can remember seeing the movie in the theater even today and that was 15 years ago. It might be one of my earliest memories of going to the movies and to be honest I did enjoy it when I was a kid. Now that I’m older and wiser about films, I’ve seen the movie again a few times and my opinion has changed. I don’t so much find the movie bad as I just find it hard to call the movie Godzilla. The creature had none of the original monster’s characteristics carried over, and in the end he’s killed by the army. What the hell, did Roland Emmerick ever see a Godzilla movie? He can’t be killed by the army, he’s freaking indestructible! The monster never breathes fire, just sort of belches hot air and the idea that it’s some sort of mutated hermaphrodite iguana is just plain wrong. Interestingly enough, Toho, the company that makes the Godzilla films in Japan, saw how badly Tri-Star (the company that produced the American film) handled their property, and started cooking up a new film that was released in 1999 in Japan and even got an American theatrical release in 2000 called Godzilla: 2000. Also the American Godzilla has been referenced in the Japanese Godzilla films like Godzilla, Mothra King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters, All out Attack (2001, a standout Godzilla film, maybe my favorite, but what the hell is going on with that title?) where they say that a monster attacked New York City a few years back (setting of the American version) and that the Americans thought that it was Godzilla but that the Japanese experts don’t think so. Then the monster showed up in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) the last film in the Godzilla series (for now) produced by Toho. He’s used by aliens who invade the Earth to attack the Japanese Godzilla, so we actually got to see Godzilla vs Godzilla. How cool is that? And as expected, Godzilla (the real one) just beats his ass. Toho has officially renamed the creature ‘Zilla which is fitting because there is nothing ‘Godly’ about it. Stupid fish eating, egg laying bitch. So, I feel that I should mention that there is another American remake of Godzilla set to release in spring of 2014. And again I’m very excited. The director Gareth Edwards is a self admitted fan and from what’s been seen from the movie so far, I have every right to be as excited as I am. I could go on about it for eons here, so I’ll just say that I can’t wait t see my favorite movie monster on the big screen again.

Being someone who gears his reviews towards Horror movies, I supposes I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t talk about some Horror remakes. To be honesty that could be it’s own genre, as remakes to horror films have been happening for decades. It does seem recently though that there’s been a boom in the list of slasher remakes. We got a remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003 starring Jessica Biel (that was pretty good in my opinion. I wouldn’t mind doing a review on that too), The Hills Have Eyes in 2006 (I actually like this MORE than the original), a remake of Halloween (2007) by Rob Zombie that got a sequel in 2009, Friday the 13th from 2009 (a decent slasher but not the best in the franchise in my opinion) and a remake of Nightmare on Elm Street in 2010. It’s kind of hard to place these movies really. For the most part they’re not bad, although I thought Nightmare on Elm Street was boring and had none of the charm of the original 1984 film, but they’re unimaginative and don’t do anything that these movies had already done in their first runs and subsequent sequels. But I guess that could be the issue considering too many sequels, but that’ll be a topic for another day. I guess Ill give a quick run down of these movies one by one, just a few words on my opinions about them. Texas Chainsaw Massacre wasn’t bad. R. Lee Ermey was great as the demented sheriff. The Hills Have Eyes was all around solid and I found myself getting into it more than expected. I always thought the original was rather boring and uneventful and this did a good job of entertaining me. I actually have yet to see Rob Zombie’s Halloween in full so I should get on that. From what I have seen so far it’s not bad, although there are some questionable movie choices and it gives a little too much backstory for my taste. Friday the 13th was alright, nothing special when it comes to slasher films, but it has a bit of fan service and does change things up a bit letting Jason run and making him a more calculating killer. Easily the worst out of the bunch was Nightmare on Elm Street. It was played as a straight Horror film and was just so boring. Jackie Earl Haley (Watchmen, 2009) wasn’t too bad as Freddy, but he doesn’t come close to Robert Englund as the “springwood slasher”. Also, Rooney Mara, the girl who plays Nancy (the main character from the series really, formally played by Heather Langenkamp) is just atrocious. She’s void of any emotion of charisma and is just hard to get behind as the hero of the story. Ironically, this is the same kind of performance that made her really good in the remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The 3rd act is just tiresome and the ending is a serious let down.

It doesn’t bother me so much that these movies were remade, all for the most part being around 20-30 years from their original entries. Although, in the case of Nightmare, it does bother me that it sucked.

For the most part, I’ve talked about remakes that either didn’t need to happen. Or weren’t as good as the original films. But what about remakes that are good? Well I can think of one right off the bat. The Thing. John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of the classic 1951 science fiction tale, is to me, the perfect remake. That isn’t to say that the movie is perfect, because it’s not, but it couldn’t be any better in terms of how a remake should be done. The original was a very loose adaptation of the novella “Who goes there?” by John W. Campbell. The film is about an Air Force crew and some scientists that discover a frozen alien in the Arctic, and when it thaws out it tries to kill them. The remake is about some sort of parasitic alien being that assimilates people in a research station in Antarctica. Yes, these movies literally take place on opposite ends of the world. But it’s okay because the remake follows the book more closely. They;re different films, trying to do their own thing while the remake pats respect to the film that came before it. It;s lees a remake and more a different adaptation of the literary work, but John Carpenter was a big fan of the classic so there’s no way that he wouldn’t pay tribute to it. The remake is known for its amazing albeit gruesome practical effects for the alien as well as having more of an emphasis on suspense.

Another good remake in my opinion was the one of Evil Dead earlier this year (2013). I love Sam Raimi’s original trilogy of Evil Dead films starting back in 1981, followed by the sequel/remake of Evil Dead 2 (1987) and finally Army of darkness in 1992. They’re campy Horror cult classics and each one is enjoyable, especially with Bruce Campbell in the lead. He’s such a great asshole and fool that it’s hilarious to see him as the chosen one who must save the world from the evil “Book of the Dead” the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. When I heard that there was a remake coming out, of course I was skeptical because I wondered how it would fair without Brice Campbell or the humerus tome of the original trilogy. But after seeing it I have to say that I was thoroughly pleased. The movie was very entertaining and followed its own storyline, while paying ample homage to its source material. It was a great ride and probably the literal most bloody film I have ever seen. Well…there is always still Dead Alive (1992). Anyway, it was another good remake because it didn’t try to retread the same ground as the original. It came off fresh and new and rather ballsy because the popular Horror genre today is the paranormal (example, Paranormal Activity series (2007-current) and Insidious 2011 ). These films usually focus on ghosts tormenting a family. Evil Dead is about a similar topic, with evil spirits possessing the living and caucusing them to do terrible things. But what Paranormal Activity and those other films don’t so, is blatant unmitigated torturous gore. It’s not the same as the torture porn movies like Hostel (2005), but not as comedic as the rest of the Evil Dead films. I highly highly recommend this remake, even if you haven’t seen the originals. It’s really good and easily in my top 3 films for 2013. It’s just as good as The Thing in terms of how a remake should be done, and between the two, I enjoyed Evil Dead more.

So I guess the debate regarding film remakes is really up to individual opinions. I know I haven’t talked about other popular remakes like True Grit (1969, 2010), King Kong (1933, 2005) and the remake/reboot of the Spiderman franchise last year (2012), but I think I’ve chosen some movies that I have a bit more knowledge about. I guess it really depends on the movie, but I have hope for remakes. When they’re made for a quick buck, they suck. But when they’re made with the same love and affection as the originals, they can be pretty good. All in all, I can say that they’re not going away any time soon, and that’s not a bad thing.

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