Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hey, Hollywood, I got your reboot right here!

Things in Hollywood are getting a little ridiculous with all of the different re-boots/re-makes/re-tellings/re-imaginings that are being planned and made. There have been two remake announcements that have really gotten the cinephile community up in arms: Nosferatu and Mary Poppins.

Now, the Poppins film is set years after the original, but don't let this confuse you: it's still a remake of sorts. So Disney may be able to claim that this isn't an outright, scene-for-scene remake, but they are definitely messing with something that shouldn't be messed with. This is also the case with Nosferatu. Anyone who loves this film (and who doesn't, by the way?) agrees that the 1922 film is more than perfect just the way it is--the way it is shot, the inherent fright, Max Schreck, and the silence. It is perhaps the silence that truly makes Nosferatu what it is, and some people just fail to realize how important silence can be...especially with horror.

Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of remakes, but I totally understand that there have been some very successful and good ones out there. The Front Page (1931) was a great film starring Adolphe Menjou, but was remade just nine years later as His Girl Friday, with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Personally, I enjoy the Grant film much more than the original, but that's probably because Grant is possibly my favorite actor. And it doesn't hurt that Russell is pretty easy on the eyes. But let's not forget that it's probably Howard Hawks' touch that makes the 1940 film so great.

I won't sit here and detail every good remake vs every bad one--I will, however, link to a great review/comparison of Ben-Hur of 1925 and 1959--or all of the planned projects (those are more numerous than any film fan would care to admit, and pretty depressing). It's easy to find the planned ones on the interwebz; just go to Twitter, follow a few of us movie lovers and wait for the fur to fly. At the rate the announcements are coming, you'll have to wait only a few minutes before we become apoplectic.

Remaking a film isn't a new idea, or even a bad one in moderation, but it has now become the only idea in Hollywood, and that is a problem. Are the executives really that unimaginative? Or is this just a cash-grab on the back of something that was successful years ago? The answer is probably a little bit of both.

There is, of course, a difference between re-boots and sequels or continuations within a franchise. I have zero issues with the James Bond franchise changing the leading man from time to time, as each film is basically its own entity, bringing something different to the canon. Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Um, color me positively giddy! Although I don't typically have issues with sequels or prequels, there is a very fine line that needs to be walked when taking on such a project. You did see the Star Wars prequels, right? That's how not to do it. Prometheus? Much better execution that makes the viewer want to not only watch the original franchise again (minus whatever it was that Alien: Resurrection was), but makes us want to see the just how the next step is taken on the way to Alien. All of that said, there is something to the notion of simply leaving the audience hanging and wanting more while not giving it to them.

Even the uber-successful comic book film trend isn't completely immune from this desire to try and re-tell the same damn story. Spider-Man is on his third incarnation(!), and the Fantastic Four just finished their second horrible run...which means a third is on the way in a few short years. To be fair, those franchises belong to Fox and Sony, not to Marvel, and that is why they are colossal failures. It's also why we'll be in for more re-boots with those characters.

Another thing about remakes that needs to stop is the recent desire to remake films with an all-female cast. I recently tweeted that this trend is really upsetting to me, so let's take a look at those tweets...

Seriously, Hollywood, let's cut out this crap. In my mind, remaking a successful film with an all-female cast only does harm. For one thing, it tells women that they are only good enough to rehash something done by a man. Female Ghostbusters? No thank you! Now, if you tell me that Ava DuVernay, Laura Poitras, Kathryn Bigelow (whose Point Break has been remade for a Christmas release, coincidentally), or Angelina Jolie are making something compelling and original, then I'm on board. Relegating women to RomComs and remakes only exacerbates the problem we have with inequality. And as the father to three young daughters, it makes me sad to think that their talent could be marginalized once they get older. But that's another post entirely, I suppose.

In short, Hollywood--stop being obtuse, stop alienating film lovers, stop propagating inequality. Start looking for original ideas to thrill us with; we'll definitely love you for it.

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