When Should Movies Be Re-made?

One of the hottest films out right now is the David Fincher re-make of the hit Swedish movie, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” I would probably go out and see it except for one thing: the original Swedish movie hit the U.S. not too long ago (in 2010) and I recently saw it on DVD last  year.

I knew Fincher was making the U.S. remake and I knew it would probably be pretty awesome. But then I saw the trailer. It looked scene for scene just like the Swedish film. (And as good as the Swedish film is, it’s kind of a hard movie to watch. I’m not really looking forward to delving into that darkness again so soon…if ever.)

Hollywood loves to re-make movies and old TV shows. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t.  So I can’t help but wonder: “When does it make sense to re-make a movie?” Assuming you have a great screenwriter and cast, here are some of my thoughts on when a re-make makes sense:

  • When there’s new technology that didn’t exist originally (Think “King Kong” or “Godzilla”).
  • Transcoding the genre (Akira Kurasawa’s medieval samurai epic “Seven Samurai” which was a remake of John Sturges’ Western “The Magnificent Seven”).
  • Re-imagined to speak to a new generation (e.g. Baz Lurman’s “Romeo+Juliet”; “Guess Who” starring Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, which was a reverse remake of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”).
  • Re-envisioning an originally bad or cheesy original to something contemporary and cool (e.g. the new “Battlestar Galactica” on SyFy).
  • When a lazy English-speaking audience doesn’t want to see the foreign original with sub-titles.

Obviously that last one applies perfectly to the Fincher film. I’m sure there are some purists out there who squabble at remaking foreign films for lazy English-speaking audiences. It’s a subjective thing. I think it does serve a purpose of bringing a great film to a new audience that otherwise wouldn’t have seen it at all.

What About Iconic Masterpieces?

Even if a film can match one of the criteria above, do you think there are some films that should never be remade? “Citizen Kane”? “Annie Hall”? “The Graduate”? “Casablanca?” I think there are some films (like these four) that are so unique and special that I personally wouldn’t want to see them remade because I believe they’ve earned the right to remain one of a kind. But that’s just me.

And What About Those Iconic Black & White Photographs

All of this leads up to the question I posed yesterday about colorizing iconic black and white images. I say, if it’s for historical referencing, no problem…if done well. That’s kind of how I see the photos colorized by Dullaway. But, if it’s art, unless it’s along the lines of a total re-imagining, thereby creating something totally new, I wouldn’t. (Do you really want to see a black and white Ansel Adams in color?)

4 thoughts on “When Should Movies Be Re-made?

  1. Well done! This has been one of my biggest beefs with Hollywood. With so many talented screen writers out there with so many different takes on stories or with new stories to tell we should not have the number of remakes that we do now. I’m okay with remakes, I really like the reasons you brought out for remaking films, but it does seem out of hand sometimes. As far as coloring photos, it doesn’t bother me so much, but if the artist wanted it to be in color then they would have shot it in color. The artist takes a photo a certain way for a reason. To get a feeling across. or maybe to hide distractions. It would be like me going into and adding something to an old famous painting to make it either more modern or to make it mean more to me. The meaning of art is in the eyes of those who view it, but you can’t change it.

    P.S. This sounds much better in my head.

    1. Thanks for the comment Spencer. You’re right about an artist taking a black and white photo for artistic reasons. The colorization I was referring to originally was of iconic images of photos taken before there was color. Read my blog post from yesterday. If you have a famous historical b&w photo, should it be colorized?

  2. A film should also be due for a remake when it was a great premise that was executed poorly. This year one of those films was In Time. Neat sci-fi premise but got clunky really fast. Me personally, I don’t believe there are any sacred cows in cinema. Should Citizen Kane get remade? In the hands of 99.9% of directors I say no but in the hands of some one that really has a vision for it, go ahead. The stories of Sherlock Holmes keep getting remade over and over again (see the recent BBC series, the Guy Ritchie films are ok) but they can be great. Even the TV series House is a take on Holmes.

    Saying when you should make remakes is like saying when you should make action movies. Movies should be made when you have a good script, great actors, and the vision to pull it all together.

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