Remakes

This blog is written in response to Simon Marshall-Jones column in the latest issue of the FREE Morpheus Tales Supplement: http://issuu.com/morpheustales/docs/18reviews

 

Too many remakes he says, and I can’t whole-heartedly disagree. In fact, in the main I agreed completely. Hollywood (and they are not alone in this) seem driven to re-hash, remake and ruin all of my favourite films. I would suggest, however, that the “magic” Simon talked about in his ramblings is actually a much more personal matter than the gods-aligning. The “magic” happens when you grow up with a film, when it becomes a part of your life, of your history and background, and it speaks to you at a time, on a level, that nothing else does.

In my mid-teens I watched a film called Total Recall, with that unappreciated thespian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie was never a great actor, but I’d grown up watching his films, and this action-romp was (apart from Star Wars) one of my first introductions to SF (despite being a die-hard fantasy and horror only fan, apart from Star Wars!). I loved the over-the-top action, that Arnie’s wife was so hot (Sharon Stone before Basic Instinct), the incredible effects, there was even an alien with three boobs (this was my mid-teens remember)! The film spoke to me, it was great. But now, Sony in their infinite wisdom, have decided to remake it. Why? Because Total Recall (1990) is now over twenty years old, and apart from the money (I’m sure that’s the main reason), they want their film to speak to a new generation.

I have been quite prepared in the past to watch remakes, and give them a go as I would any other films. Unfortunately my past experience hasn’t always been pleasant, remakes of Halloween (rubbish, an extra forty minutes of pants and then a remake tacked on to the end), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (not too bad, not that I can remember any of it), King Kong (not terrible), A Nightmare on Elm Street I am just too scared to watch in case it’s crap. But sequels are the same, and yet lack the stigma of being another version of the original. I happily sat and watched the X-Men movies, Spiderman trilogy, all the Halloween films, A Nightmare on Elm Street (up to number 6), and even saw the Star Wars prequels at the cinema (rubbish, not bad, and ok, respectively [come on Disney, time to do something great with this franchise!]). Yet we don’t have the same disdain for sequels, which are (or can be) equally derivative. Like all films, or books, the first one is usually the best and the rest that follow (be they remakes or sequels) mere imitations.

So what about the book of the film, or, more likely, the film of the book? I like the first one best. Whether it’s the book or the film, the first time I discover the story is almost always my favourite. With Harry Potter it’s the books, although the films were also pretty damn good. The James Bond books are so very different from the films it’s difficult to make a direct comparison, the same with Holmes’ adventures. Guy Richie’s new Sherlock films, although I grew up with much older versions, are great fun. Stephen King’s adapted films, except perhaps for the excellent Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, are far better in written form. No, despite Stand By Me being one of my favourites of all time, the original story (“The Body”) is even better.

In my early years (before the age of ten, although I couldn’t narrow it down any more than that), I watched Conan The Barbarian. Classic Arnie action flick. Not the greatest film ever made, in fact, on re-watching it’s fairly tired and out-dated, but it’s still Arnie and it’s still Conan, and it’s still the original and it’s still the best. I’ve read the book too, and you’ve gotta love a Conan book. I watched the remake last year, and was pleasantly surprised. Plenty of action, well-muscled barbarian, buxom wenches, and swordplay. This is not a bad remake except for one small thing they seemed to have forgotten. Conan has blue eyes. How the hell can you make a mistake like that! It’s like taking Judge Dredd’s helmet off! (Oh yeah, they did that too). Can’t wait for that remake of Dredd though, Sly Stallone is no Judge Dredd.

Remake, sequel, adaptation, whatever the hell they do, they need to make it authentic. That’s what remakes generally lack. And that is what gets our goat. That’s what reins all those remakes, and sequels and adaptations.

But remakes are not for us. They are not made for the people who enjoyed the first version, or the second or third. They are for the new people, these films are meant to speak to them and make them feel how we first felt when we watched them. Yes, of course there should be more originality, but you can say that about publishing and TV too. Sequels galore, derivative are us, is there anyone unafraid of originality? Who will take a risk and put their money where their mouth is? Independents, small presses… If they are lucky their original work will be remade with a big budget by a soulless corporation…

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