Since a couple of years, Hollywood wants to play safe. Especially since the economy crisis in 2008, the studios are trying to find a way to entertain the masses in an easy way, with this absolute certitude that the money spent on a project will be returned with critical and money-making success. Thus, the era of remakes took huge proportions.
Don’t get me wrong, though: remakes have been here since a very long time. Studios always wanted to preserve successful franchises or specific movies so we can have a new look on them several years later…and make more easy money. Like book adaptations, they are a good source of revenue without having to go with a new project that could turn horribly wrong after spending millions and millions of dollars (remember Waterworld???).
But since a couple of years, doing remakes seems to be THE way to go for the studios. More and more movies from the 80′s are being remade in order to get a new audience, as well as a new look to it. This is why Platinum Dunes, Mister Michael Bay’s production company, rebooted so many horror franchises with a much more trashy photography and loads of gore. Even if the remake is much more better looking, the essence of the project is not the same. While an original movie had less means to get a story told, we can sense something magical in such projects, where the director loved the story so much that it shows on screen, using any ways possible (even cheap ones) to go reach the audience. Often, remakes can be more polished, but soulless.
Hollywood has this nasty habit of taking a foreign title and redo it so that the project become theirs. However, some movies being remade in the States were completely unknown in America and, because of those remakes, the audience can now enjoy those films that would have been ignored. Some stories are so good that they deserve to be told again.
However, American screenwriters have this tendency of going in a safe zone. Take for example the movie ”The Vanishing”.
Made in 1988, the story follows a man who wants to find his girlfriend who have been suddenly kidnapped. After years of research and no news from the police, he’s losing hope of finding her…until he receives a letter from the kidnapper himself, claiming that he will tell him where she is…
In the original version, the mood is haunting as hell. It is a very efficient suspense and you don’t know what will happen. The more the story goes, the more you want to know…And when you arrive at the ending, you realize that you just didn’t want to know after all, because it chills you to the bone.
What happens in the American version? The ending is far, far more different than the original. They chose to play safe with a happy ending that is simply impossible to believe, making the story completely irrelevant. Even if the movie has been directed from the same guy than the original, the screenwriter is not the same…and it shows. I don’t know why American screenwriters have so much trouble getting in the grey areas of characters in their movies, because it is often the key to a much more complex and fascinating story. They seem to prefer clean lines, where everything is black or white. In a suspense, remember that it is much more haunting to get out of a comfort zone and let our imagination run the show. Not only that, but writing characters with motives that the audience must discover themselves is so much interesting than a clear image of the actions.
Some movies, even old, have this magic that cannot be redone by anyone. Why? Because some elements of the story, very accurate to its time, just doesn’t work in present day. Not only that, but some actors/actresses had this charm that no other can bring to the big screen. Some changes, even made with good intentions, just ruins everything.
In some rare cases, however, remakes not only polish the story but takes it one step further. This is pretty rare, and accomplishing such a feat demands a perfect understanding of the essence of an original story, adapted flawlessly in present times to the audience. it is the case, in my opinion, of the American version of The Ring. Not only the visuals are better, but it remains creepy and efficient even as a remake.
So, are remakes so bad after all? If you think about it, not so much. Yes, lots of them just take down the original mood and concept of a story, but it will never make the original disappear. So, it is you, dear viewer, who have the last word.
If you see a remake going to the theater and feel like it’s gonna be crap, take the original, push Play and enjoy your best version of the story.