Friday, March 10, 2006

The Remake: Tribute or Corporate Greed? (March 2006)

Recently I watched, back to back, the original 1977 Wes Craven film The Hills Have Eyes, immediately followed by a premiere of the 2006 remake, produced in part by Wes Craven himself. The disappointment I felt after viewing the remake is not due to the fact that the film did not live up to the original, as is often the case, but that all the creativity of the original was stripped in favour of the sterile run-of-the-mill formulaic movie we were presented with. Sadly, the film failed even in that, as the crowd's booing clearly indicated.

This shook my foundation. It genuinely made me think long and hard about "The Remake". I've never been a big fan of rehashing the same old story, though I know several films that did a great job: the Donnie Walberg version of Planet of the Apes was completely different, using the original only as inspiration. Lord of The Rings: Return of the King and Romeo & Juliet are also solid cases for the worth of "The Remake", especially with Best Picture Oscars to support their case.

The questions I find myself asking are these: "Is Hollywood losing its creativity? Is it getting lazy, or is it solely interested in profits rather than producing art?"

All the stories worth telling have NOT already been told. I'm sure that writers ARE actually banging down Hollywood's doors to present them their original new idea, so creativity is not the issue. The answer seems clear: point blame at the corporations, accuse the Hollywood that produces terrible rehashings that dishonour the ideas of The Original.

Ebert and Roeper, after giving the sequel Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo two solid thumbs down, tore into a heated condemnation of the industry at large. They explained how they could not fathom a film like this passing through the doors of a corporate boardroom, being approved, and going into production. Not only was this a waste of their time as critics, they said, but it usurped the space and money that a GOOD writer could have made use of. Rather than opting for integrity, the corporation chose profit, riding the coattails of the first film, knowing that another would succeed.

This is ultimately the problem with The Remake. It's easy. People know about it, since it's been done before. The profit inherent in The Remake is not only that its reputation precedes it, as The Sequel has, but you need not have seen the original to enjoy it to its fullest (leaving exceptions like Friday the 13th Part 8 out of this equation). Add to this the fact that the original may then gain popularity once again, increasing sales, etc... etc...

However, The Remake is usually a tragically blatant ploy to make fast money. You save in marketing, having marketed already the first time around. From simple re-releases like Exorcist 2000, to ridiculous attempts to modernize an outdated cultural bias like in Cape Fear, which centered around the legality that allowed a rape victim's sexual history as permissible evidence (imagine redoing To Kill A Mockingbird today without changing the basic social stigma premise and you'll understand).

The risk to a director is also something to consider, as Gus Van Sant proved with Psycho. His approach at making something so similar to the original, with many scenes copied shot for shot, that it was accused of being nothing more than a rip-off ploy at career advancement.

The point is that much more time and effort needs to go into making The Remake, lest it suffer a fate so terrible that it tarnishes The Original, as occurs with Pink Panther, and 12 Angry Men starring none other than Tony Danza in Henry Fonda's original role. Laughable.

Yes, The Remake CAN be considered honest film, a viable source of entertainment, worthy of being rewarded. Hamlet was adapted to film 15 times before Lawrence Olivier's version won Best Picture, and was filmed many times since. Ben Hur was a remake of a 1925 silent film. Oliver! won Best Picture the third time it was remade. My Fair Lady, Chicago, West Side Story and The King and I are all films that earned a Best Picture Oscar, proving at least a little that The Remake has its place in the Hierarchy of Film, but just between you and me, I'll place it firmly between Bollywood and Romantic Comedy, which in my books is dead last in artistic worth, beneath The Sequel and Animé.

What ires me most of all is that I am still a slave to The Remake, regardless of my disdain for it, as a trailer for the remake of the 1976 Horror Classic The Omen proved.

I am genuinely upset that Hollywood is making me see a film that they couldn't possibly improve. Mark my words: I expect the remake of The Omen to be a sad, pale comparison to the original, and I've already committed my 10 bucks to seeing it.

Fie on me.