Movie PictureThis week: REMAKES ~ AGAIN07.05.02No, I'm not running out of ideas. It recently occurred to me that I've spent one whole rant bitchin' about the number of remakes coming out, and the idea of destroying the integrity of a "classic", and then another rant about the preteniousness of those who hold "classics" too dearly. Sort of contradictory, right? Well, let me clear all of that up for you.
First, not all remakes are bad. My gripe is with the sheer number of them that are getting greenlit. Is there no original material left? And as far as "classics" go, I don't despise everything made before 1977. In fact, I'm quite fond of many "classics". I just don't think that because something was deemed a "classic" by some pretentious film critics, that it's taboo to tear the film apart. So how does one marry these two viewpoints? Two words, King Kong. We've all heard the rumors about the soon to be greenlit (mark my words) Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) remake of King Kong. Ya know what? I'm all for this remake. I think it's a great idea. I can't wait to see this one. There, I said it.
Do I have a problem with the original? Hell no! It's one of my favorite films. It's larger than life, has a great story, and the stop motion animation still holds up today. Ladies and gentlemen, be it 1933, 1976, or 2002, this film hold up against the tests of time. So, why am I for a remake? Because some stories just lend themselves to it. I firmly believe that Peter Jackson can bring something fresh to King Kong. Does this mean I'll discount the original? Not a chance.
Let's face facts, folks. Most films are just a retelling of an existing story. Don't believe me? Then go out, right now, and buy "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. It's an amazing book, and it was the basis for much of George Lucas' research as he was writing Star Wars. The general premise? That all stories have already been told, but the "retelling" is the important part. This is because throughout history, stories have been told, be they small, personal stories, amusing anecdotes, or grand, epic tales. Sounds like film, huh? Well, before film, stories were told in BOOKS. And before book, stories were actually TOLD VERBALLY. Strange, I know, yet true. So, what Campbell tells us is that even though every story has been told, what's important to each culture is how it is told. And that is why not all remakes are a bad idea. King Kong was important for it's time, and a remake, if done in a fresh, original way, can be important for our time.
So what else could lend itself to a remake? How about The Day The Earth Stood Still. This is another film that ranks in my Top 10 of All Time. It's so vastly important as both a work of Science Fiction, and a precausionary tale about the dangers of prejudice, as well as a social-political commentary on the 1950s. And it lends itself so nicely to an updated version for the world of the new millennium.
Just look at the classic film Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa. That film, by any standards, is one of the best ever made. Kurosawa was a genius, and his genius transcends but cultural and language barriers. Now look at John Sturge's The Magnificent Seven. This is nothing more than a cultural update of Kurosawa's Seven, turning the Samurais into Cowboys. Not only was the remake successful, but it also stands up as one of the best Westerns ever made.
So, although I hate the idea of remakes, I like the idea of updated storytelling. There's a fairly grey line between the two, but when it works, the difference is crytal clear. It's important to remember that film is our cultures version of passing on stories. They don't always have to be important, and they certainly don't always have to deliver a message, but what we should not stand for is allowing thm to be unoriginal. Yes, all the stories have been told, but if you're going to tell us one we remember, make it fresh. Make us sit up and take notice. Make it feel new.