When Should Remakes Not Happen?
June 27, 2017
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. I don't know if you noticed, but Hollywood's been out of ideas for a while.
Audience: (mock shock) No!
NC: Okay, you've all noticed, but this could be a good thing and a bad thing.
(The thumbnail for the Why Is Nothing Original Anymore? editorial appears)
NC (vo): I did a whole editorial about this before, but that's not exactly what I'm gonna focus on here today.
NC: Today, I'm going to focus on a subject matter that, for the most part, has still been making a fair amount of money: the remake.
(Clips of Ben-Hur (1925 and 1959), The Ten Commandments (1923 and 1956))
NC (vo): Remakes are nothing new. Literally. Since the dawn of cinema, remakes have been very constant, particularly when movies went from silent to sound. Hell, some of the same directors came back to redirect a timeless classic to create another timeless classic. Good thing Internet blogs weren't around back then.
NC: (Mimicking typing on a computer and speaking nasally) Remake 10 Commandments? HA! Next you'll want to make an animated version with Jeff Goldblum! (Faces the camera) And somehow it'll actually work. (Poster for The Prince of Egypt pops up)
(Clips from The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Magnificent Seven are shown)
NC (vo): So I'm certainly not going to be a purist and say remakes should never happen. Some of the best films ever made are remakes, improving on the original while still staying faithful, and yet also keeping a unique identity.
NC: But needless to say, this is often difficult and very rare, hence a lot of the crap we've been getting.
NC (vo): Disney, once the imagineers of bringing classic stories to life, are trying to make classic stories out of their classic stories out of classic stories! It's getting a little carried away.
NC: So we naturally need to ask ourselves: "When should remakes stop?"
NC (vo): Well, I guess the best way to answer that is to figure out when remakes should happen.
NC: Okay, we all know what Hollywood thinks, but for the sake of good storytelling, I think we can break it down to three factors.
NC (vo): Number one, the most obvious, is (text 1. IF IT CAN BE MADE BETTER) if it can be made better. A film can be good, even groundbreaking, but can still be either dated or not fully explored. Some remakes have become so classic that many people don't even realize they're remakes. Scarface, (A) Fistful of Dollars, True Lies, all based on movies that existed, but the remakes did it so much better that they don't realize there is an original.
NC: I'm honestly surprised there aren't more remakes of bad films.
(Clips from Drop Dead Fred are shown)
NC (vo): It's been rumored for a while that Drop Dead Fred was gonna get a remake.
NC: Good! The original sucks!
NC (vo): The idea of an imaginary friend taking over your mind as an adult, though, is actually kind of a cool idea. I'd love to see this concept explored and done a lot better than this.
NC: People ask me if I'm against the idea of Garbage Pail Kids being remade. Why the hell would I?
(Clips of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie)
NC (vo): The original is the WORST film I have seen in my life. The cards deserve better! Remake the shit out of it! Hell, it can't get any worse.
NC: Heck, is there a Batman and Robin remake in the near future?
(Clips of Batman and Robin are shown)
NC (vo): It'd be nice to see Mr. Freeze done right. Though if he's anything like what they're doing with the Joker...
NC: (Holding his head in his hands) Oh, don't make me choose which one is worse!
NC (vo): But okay, we get the idea. If something could be improved on, improve on it. If it's broke, don't fix it, make another one from scratch. It's safe to say as long as the original still exists... (coughs) Lucas... (Picture of George Lucas appears briefly) ...another version is not an unwelcomed idea.
NC: Which brings me to the second reason to do a remake: (text 2. EXPANDING ON A CONCEPT) expanding on a concept.
NC (vo): Now, this is different to just making something better. It's taking one element of an original idea and exploring it more.
NC: In fact, a franchise that did this both a good way and a bad way is Planet of the Apes.
(Clips of Planet of the Apes (2001) play)
NC (vo): Tim Burton is one of the most famous directors that coined the phrase "reimagining". He said he didn't want to improve on the original film, he just wanted to take it in a different direction.
NC: It...just so happened that direction sucked!
(Clips of Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
NC (vo): Years later, another Planet of the Apes film would come along with a similar thought: apes ruling the planet. However, this focused more on how it happened, similar to how some of the later Apes films went, and now it seems to be going in a new direction that seems entirely its own.
(Clips of King Kong (2005), La Jetée (1962), and 12 Monkeys (1995))
NC (vo): In the Peter Jackson version, it's still the same story, but more time is dedicated to giving Kong and our heroine more time together, creating a stronger connection. 12 Monkeys was originally a half-hour sci-fi film shown only in still pictures, but that blossomed into a motion-filled apocalyptic future that took elements from the film and expanded on it.
NC: And some of these tie in to the #3 reason to do a remake: (text: 3. CREATING A WHOLE NEW EXPERIENCE) creating a whole new experience.
NC (vo): Whether it's a different point of view, a new culture, or even a new time period, as long as the identity of the film seems unique, despite it having origins from another source, it can work. Magnificent Seven is famously a remake of Seven Samurai. Both have the same plot, but are set in different time periods and locations.
(Clips of The Ring, Birdcage and The Departed are shown)
NC (vo): Films like The Ring, Birdcage and The Departed are all remakes of foreign classics. Telling these great stories in different cultures shows both the differences and similarities between the two, making it interesting what they have to change and what they have to keep the same.
NC: Okay, so we have three reasons when remakes should be done, I guess when they shouldn't be done is the opposite reasons.
NC (vo): If a remake needs to stand out, then, logically, the first sign not to do a remake is (text: 1. WHEN PEOPLE CAN'T SEPARATE IT FROM THE ORIGINAL) when people can't separate it from the original. I get the feeling a lot of the Ghostbusters reboot "controversy"...
NC: Yeah, I'm still putting (air quotes, saying sarcastically) "controversy" (normal) in quotes...
NC (vo): ...is because the original was so unique and one-of-a-kind that no one could separate it. If it was a sequel, then they might have had a better shot, or even a spin-off, but when people hear the word "reboot", it's like saying "Now this (Poster of Ghostbusters (2016)) is what you're gonna think of when you hear Ghostbusters, even though everyone will (Poster of Ghostbusters (1984)) clearly think of this first. A lot of Universal monster movies are trying to be remade, and despite most of them being based on classic works, it's hard to not think of (Boris) Karloff as Frankenstein('s monster) or (Bela) Lugosi as Dracula or (Lon) Chaney (Jr.) as the Wolfman. And, according to (Poster for The Mummy (2017)) the American box office, neither can anyone else.
NC: Oddly enough, the ones that seemed the most ridiculous, like...
NC (vo): ...The Mummy with Brendan Fraser, at least went in such a different direction that we can kind of say: "That was their own thing."
NC: But how is anyone gonna say "Yeah, (picture of Johnny Depp from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) Johnny Depp, that's the first thing I think of when I hear "Willy Wonka". (picture of Gene Wilder from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) Gene who?"
NC (vo): Some movies leave such an impact that it makes it harder to do a version that can survive on its own without constantly coming back to the original. If you don't have something super good or incredibly unique in mind when remaking an icon, you're not going to be the definitive version.
NC: But it can also backfire the other way, like the #2 reason not to do a remake: (text: 2. YOU JUST DO THE EXACT SAME THING) when you just do the exact same thing!
(Clips from Beauty and the Beast (1991 and 2017) are followed)
NC (vo): Beauty and the Beast (2017) had this bad. So many of the lines, visuals and songs were all seen before and done better in the animated version. It was so unique and awe-inspiring when they first did it, so why would we want to see non-singers and non-expressive actors do the same thing?
NC: Gus van Sant tried a very strange experiment with the movie Psycho.
(Clips of Psycho (1998 remake) are followed)
NC (vo): Doing a shot-for-shot reenactment. That's LITERALLY doing the exact same thing, except now all the freshness is sucked out of it, and we can notice the flaws even more! What would this accomplish?
NC: Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween looked like it was going to be something different...
(Clips of Halloween (2007 remake) are shown)
NC (vo): ...diving deeper into Mike Myers' childhood and devoting more time to him, but even that's done pretty generically, and when that's passed, it's just the same story of Halloween again, except with no real surprises.
NC: But what's even worse than doing the exact same thing is the #3 reason not to do a remake: (text: 3. DOING LESS) doing less.
(Clips from Ben-Hur (1959) and Ben-Hur (2016 remake))
NC (vo): Ben-Hur (1959) is one of the biggest films to exist in every meaning of the word. The stunts, the story, the sets, it is the definition of epic. So the idea of seeing a CGI remake where so much less is obviously not there seems...degrading.
(Stills of Freddy Kruger from Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984 and 2010 versions, are shown)
NC (vo): Nightmare on Elm Street is known for its creative depths and original ideas, but with the remake, it's either repeated or scaled down. Even the makeup just looks like an unimaginative rehash. It's not different, it's not unique. It's just the same thing, except so much less. It's a guy who controls dreams that's burned alive! You can do something cooler with this design!
(Stills from The Wicker Man (1973) and the poster from The Wicker Man (2006) are shown)
NC: The original Wicker Man...
NC (vo): ...was a surreal and bizarre experience, and while the remake is certainly bizarre and entertaining in how bad the choices they made are, so much of the creative environment is lost, resulting in what most people can agree is a God-awful movie.
NC: Sometimes the opposite can be true, too, when you take too much out and replace it with...too much explanation.
(Clips of The Shining (1997) and Alice in Wonderland (2010))
NC: But that's not what we loved about the originals!
(More clips from The Shining and Alice in Wonderland)
NC (vo): We didn't know what everything meant. We didn't need a reason for all the strange visuals. That's what was part of making it such a unique experience. By trying to add more explanation, it took away the imagination. They say the Devil is in the detail. In this situation, they're definitely right.
NC: Whether for better or for worse, all of these elements represent the most important thing in making a remake: it's heart.
(Clips from various remakes are shown)
NC (vo): It's passion. It's reason for being. Everything that almost can't be explained. The best remakes, even the most different ones, managed to capture the heart of the original source material. Whether they improve on it or take it in a different direction, the connection is always there. And the worst remakes always don't capture it. They either try too hard, not hard enough, or just focus on the wrong thing.
NC: In a time where very little is original, it's hard to figure out what's going to capture the heart of something and what isn't.
(Clips of The Evil Dead (2013 remake) are shown)
(Clips of Little Shop of Horrors)
NC (vo): Who the hell would have thought a musical of a B-Movie would surprisingly work?
(Clips of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005))
NC (vo): What we do know is a lot more remakes are coming, whether we want them to or not.
(Clip from Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Planet of the Apes (2001))
NC (vo): Some surprise us with how good they are, some surprise us with how bad they are.
(Clips from Beauty and the Beast (remake and original) are shown once more)
NC (vo): But the ones we'll remember the most surprisingly don't give us something old, they always give us something uniquely new.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll)