For the last couple of years, remakes and reboots are considered “on-trend”. Studios are aiming to appease a generation of nostalgic fans with remakes and reboots of childhood favorites and cult-classic films. Basically, anything that has held resonance in Millenial pop culture is being remade.
It makes sense. It’s easy money for the studios and a nostalgia kick for audiences. However, while some excitedly await the next reboot of their favorite films, others hold the practice with large disdain.
Some remakes are worth the watch. They succeed at invoking the same emotions that audiences felt the first time they watched it while adding their own spin on the tale.
On the other hand, some remakes fail to hit the mark and are exposed and branded as money-making schemes.
Can’t Fix What’s Not Broken
Many contemporary films make the mistake of trying to “fix” a film that doesn’t need fixing. Many 2000s horror films attempt to remake classics with little success.
The original A Nightmare on Elm Street has a rotten tomatoes score of 94%, while the 2010 version of the film has a 15%. Similarly, the 2007 remake of the Halloween franchise has a whopping 26% in comparison to the original Halloween which had a score of 96%.
Remakes cannot work if the original is unbeatable. Substandard remakes constantly try to “reinvent” storylines to make them more popular for modern audiences, however many times they fall flat – and really forget about the true message the original film is trying to convey.
Tim Burton’s remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory pales in comparison to the 1971 original. While the original film held a certain quirkiness to it, Burton’s film tried to coin the quirkiness with his own aesthetics. While I do like Burton’s aesthetics, they do not hold the same childish charm the 1971 film does.
This is largely due to the portrayals of Willy Wonka himself. Gene Wilder’s Wonka has an unpredictable, matter hatter type feel to his character but he still maintains a charming relatability.
His portrayal of “crazy” fluctuates between rageful fits of passionate monologuing and dry, off-the-wall comments. In comparison, Johnny Depp’s Wonka is strictly unlikable. His pale complexion, mushroom haircut, and social awkwardness brings a cold and passionless quality.
An exact remake of a film can be justifiable if the original film has areas of improvement that the remake can remedy. The 1990 version of IT holds a special place in my heart but I never could get past the shotty special effects and made-for-tv production value.
IT was a significant film in its own right. The film in its time was notable and quite frightening to many.
However, the 2017 film had a much more effective execution. It took the bones of the 1986 novel and 1990 film and made it into a successful, contemporary horror film. Plus, this is a prime example of success with updating an original film’s use of special effects with tasteful CGI.
Another remake considered largely successful is the 2018 film, A Star is Born. The first film was released in 1937, the second in 1954 with Judy Garland, and the third in 1976 with Barbra Streisand.
The 2018 film is the fourth model of A Star is Born but most closely resembles the 1976 version. What is most noteworthy about these films is the progression of updated perspectives on who is considered a “star” and the downsides of fame.
Each film is a product of its time and covers the same themes but in different contexts.
The Walt Disney Company has become quite well versed in the world of remakes and reboots. With several live-action remakes under their belt, they plan to release at least a dozen more over the next few years.
The road to these live-action remakes really started with the plot of Cinderella being constantly recycled in the entertainment industry, most prominently in the 2000s. A Cinderella Story, Ever After, Ella Enchanted – all of these films are made with the same foundations.
It’s easy, it’s relatable, and audiences always feel sympathy for an abused orphan with cruel step-family. It’s up to the creators to decide whether to make it modern or period, realistic or satire.
We know this story. We know what happens. Yet film after the film we continue to watch it.
Then in 2015, Disney released their live-action Cinderella film. This was unique from the rest because it was made by Disney and based on the most popular Cinderella film of all time, the 1950 animation made by Disney.
After the success of Cinderella, Disney continued pushing out more remakes of their animated feature films. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite remakes. The execution of the musical numbers definitely could use work, but the added impact of Belle’s feminist values really brought an interesting aspect that the animated film glossed over.
However, I was intensely disappointed with The Lion King. I’ve found that this film is strictly for nostalgia. Nothing really makes it unique or successfully different from the animated version except it’s now CGI and not hand-drawn animation.
Fitting in with the Times
My ideal quality in a remake or reboot is a renovation to the overall lack of diversity and inclusion rampant in older films. I enjoy seeing remakes with the increased inclusion of females, minorities and/or LGBTQ characters. The all-female reboot of Ghostbusters was met with some serious backlash from male audiences.
Was it simply just a gender swap of the first movie? Yes. But being able to see females play the role of intelligent scientists, something that is rarely depicted in the film, is very satisfying.
Remakes are not as bad as everyone says they are; however, not every remake is necessary. It is great for us to be aware of the motivations of the entertainment industry. Remakes are easy money for studios – but only if they do it right.
Plus, it’s more justifiable to audiences if we are able to enjoy the product studios are putting out. As remakes and reboots become more mainstream, studios need to pay more attention to what they decide to remake and take a good hard look into what they are able to improve rather than what they can sell.