We’re living in a fascinating time when it comes to movies. We’re in the age of superheroes, but reboots, remakes, and sequels are hot commodities too. Now, the latter is nothing new in Hollywood in general as they go all the way back through every generation of cinema. Do you love Brian De Palma’s Scarface? Well, that film is actually a remake of a 1932 movie of the same name. Ben-Hur – which nabbed 11 Academy Awards for the 1959 feature – was actually the second time the film was distributed. The first was a silent movie in 1925 and even an earlier on-reel version was made in 1907. A shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was done in 1998 with Gus Van Sant stepping behind the director’s chair and Vince Vaughn taking over the iconic role of Norman Bates. At this point, it’s clear that remakes aren’t exactly new in the world of Hollywood, though it can’t be denied that the past ten years have seen an increasing number of these types of films pop up at the box office. The why is pretty simple, executives want money and studios are capitalizing on intellectual property.
Disney is currently the master of this right now, remaking their slate of Disney classics into live-action features. There’s no denying the success of most of the remakes, which is why studios keep greenlighting different versions of the same film. The key thing is that audiences like something that is familiar, and despite the fact that Cinderella is outdated for modern times, it still tugs on the nostalgia strings. However, we’re not here to talk about the financial side. No matter how much money these reboots/remakes garner at the box office, they still pale in comparison to the original. Why? Well, there are plenty of reasons.
The first is laziness. There are times when a decent or terrible movie actually deserves a remake because of the wasted potential due to the strong premise. Studios don’t particularly care about that aspect. Don’t get me wrong, no filmmaker goes in with the intention of purposely making a bad film. Well, maybe the guys and girls behind the Sharknado saga, but surely the intentions of the first movie were to make something great. However, studios often choose to go for popular films that they believe would be a good fit for today’s modern audiences. There was no reason to remake Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. In fact, the Gus Van Sant vehicle was pretty much a waste of money as it’s a shot-by-shot reimaging of the film, with the most notable change is that it’s in color. The film doesn’t have its own voice, or style, nor does it have the impeccable direction that made the Hitchcock film such a classic. That goes for a good majority of these remakes/reboots. The Disney live-action remakes don’t particularly have a voice of their own because they’re usually a carbon copy of the animated feature. The Cinderella remake won’t stand the test of time like the original animation because it’s not a product of its time. Sure, the message of the film is still well meaning, but there’s no originality or spark that transcend the premise to great heights. Obviously, this isn’t all of remakes/reboots as some deviate from the original plot and actually takes some risk, but overall, the rinse, wash, and repeat formula is good enough to get butts into movie theaters due to the familiarity, but nothing more.
However, another strong reasoning is that sometimes reboots/remakes lose sight of the original intentions of the first film. The 1973 Wicker Man was an intelligent look into the dangerous world of cults and how their minds can be vastly affected by them. 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was a social commentary about the changing of racial attitudes and relationships during a time period when interracial relationships weren’t fully accepted in the world. The 1975 Rollerball movie is about the protagonist looking to regain his freedom in a corporate controlled society. The remakes of these films completely lose the meaning and value of the messages that the original movie had. Guess Who? is just some lame comedy that doesn’t have the social impact or intelligence that made the first film a classic. The Nicholas Cage Wicker Man is a non-sensical farce only memorable because of the terrible bee scene. The 2002 Rollerball is reduced to nothing more than a generic sports type film that doesn’t even try to incorporate the original film’s message. The purpose of a reboot/remake should be to elevate the material of the previous film. It shouldn’t exactly follow the path of the original source material, nor should it lose sight on why that movie is deemed a classic. Reboots are a tricky thing because its purpose is to bring back original fans of the first material while inviting new ones as well. The solution should be that filmmakers should be given a bit more freedom to do what they want with a remake, or better yet, studios should just focus on original content instead.