Hollywood: Remakes, Sequels and adaptations…

Posted: August 2, 2008 in Entertainment

   I’ve been having a few… discussions… of late on the IMDB boards. One of the big topics right now on the Horror Board is remakes. Several others are debating the merits of sequels VS new product as well. Some of it nice, some of it not so nice. Some ending well and some ending… Not so well.

   The ‘Quarantine’ board is a bad place to be right now if you say that you don’t mind well done remakes. That film is a remake of the Spanish film [REC] and due out this October. Most of the posters on that board are basically your early 20 something film school dweebs who are trying to look cool and slagging remakes of foreign films and the people who watch them. It seems that no remake of a foreign film can ever be anywhere near good and that the only reason we have these remakes is because “Americans are too stupid, lazy and illiterate to read subtitles.”

   You can kinda guess that several of those posters and I, an American who loves foreign films, reads subtitles and still somehow manages to enjoy remakes of foreign films, don’t get along like Peaches and Cream. But, dense as they are, they don’t have the majority opinion on remakes, sequels and adaptations.

   no, the majority of posters who start threads on this subject have a different view of it. And it can be summed up with one simple saying.

   It’s worse now than it ever was before. Hollywood has never before put out as many remakes and sequels as it does now and has never been so creatively bankrupt. One guy said this while calling the late 50’s through the early 80’s the “Golden Age” of Hollywood film making.

   Now I tend to brush that aside as nonsense. Between my serious like of old films and my wife’s obsession with them; I’ve seen and read about a lot of old films and a lot of stuff about old Hollywood. To me the times aren’t-a-changing. Hollywood is simply the same old production factory that it’s always been with the occasional crop of gems that we all end up remembering and the many duds that we don’t. I honestly don’t think that Hollywood is worse about remakes and sequels these days or is any more creatively bankrupt than it has always been.

   I also don’t have as many problems with the idea of sequels as some seem to have. I’d love to see more new stuff and I’d love to see past their prime franchise make room for new and better things, but I don’t have a problem with a well done remake like The Departed or a well made revival of a past its prime franchise like Batman Begins or Casino Royal.

   But what do you think? Is Hollywood really worse today than ever before or is it just the standard “It was all better in my younger days” syndrome? Can Hollywood really have gotten worse in the last 30 years about remakes when you can point to 5 versions of Brewster’s Millions being made in between 1914 and 1945 (and one later in 1985) and 6 versions of The Awful Truth have been made (one unfinished due to Marilyn Monroe’s death) in between 1925 and 1962? Is it really worse about sequels when you can have over a dozen films each of Boston Blackie, Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto, Fu Manchu and others all made in less than a 20 year period?

   And, more importantly, do you care if a good film is a sequel or a remake? Would you suddenly feel that The Maltese Falcon (1941) was a lesser film because it was a remake of The Maltese Falcon (1931) or that 2006’s The Departed was based on a great Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs? Does it really matter if the film is well done, entertains and doesn’t insult the intelligence? 

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Comments
  1. Sean says:

    First and foremost, you neglected one of the most basic in debating techniques. At no time in this exchange did you refer to this guy as either a zone dweebie or a picklehead. Have I taught you nothing?

    As to remakes, well, some are good,(Maltese Falcon–although not, as far as I’m concerned JUST because of Bogart, Western Front, come to mind) and some aren’t. However, I don’t blame “Hollywood” for this, “Hollywood” being the filmmaking community. Making a film is a fairly big investment, even for a short. I’m not just talking money, although that IS a big chunk. Other resources, ie studio techs, make up artists, legal departments, food service, music, distribution, marketing, the job the director has to give to the producer’s fourth cousin twice removed, there’s a lot more that goes in than just the screenplay. All that said, and also taking into consideration the director, producer, and production company’s longevity, investors want a return from the production. If it’s a remake, it may be slightly easier to GET the money to start off with.

    Then there are one’s like Zombie’s Halloween. I respect Zombie, but that film did two things. It showed that sometimes simple is better, and it humanized Myers, er, Meyers. Now, one of the things that worked so well in the originals, Michael WASN’T at all human. Zombie’s movie, and I have to admit liking McDowell as Loomis, gave a reasonably sympathetic soul to the soulless. Also, and this might just be snobbery on my part, I didn’t like the way the Meyers family was portrayed. In the original, one of the things that worked so well was the completely mundane nature of Michael’s background that “Holy crap, this could be that quiet neighborhood kid that’ll kill everyone in sight.”

  2. Sean says:

    I’d also point out to this nimrod and the world in general, most films, regardless of quality, up until recently didn’t get seen all that much. For example, a guy that I work with had no idea that I Am Legend had been a film twice before the Will Smith thing.

  3. jjchandler says:

    I should point out, for the benefit of those of you playing at home, that “this nimrod” is a guy on the original IMDB board. I originally emailed some of this as a conversation between friends and decided to expand it, minus the giant cut and paste from IMDB, on the blog. Sean’s comments are from the email exchange and referencing a guy who advocates the “It was better back when” POV.

    Strangely, as an in joke for some of our merry little band of refugees from Peter David’s blog, the guy’s name is Mike. Why is it that I always end up going in circles with idiots named ‘Mike’ on blogs?

  4. jjchandler says:

    I totally agree on Zombie’s Halloween. Simpler would have been better and you don’t always have to ‘humanize’ the monster. Look at how badly that hurt Kane.

    But I also think that Zombie’s Halloween didn’t work for me for the same reason his prior two films didn’t quite click for me. He’s not really a subtle director and some aspects of Halloween needs subtle. The Devil’s Rejects didn’t need subtle and worked better for me, but it’s still not getting on my top ten lists.

  5. Tom Stanley says:

    I was on Yahoo and found your blog. Read a few of your other posts. Good work. I am looking forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Tom Stanley

  6. Sean says:

    I was going to point out the Mike Connection(which would not, in keeping with the theme of the thread, be the Further Adventures Of Popeye Doyle) but I thought better of it.

    Occasionally, though, humanizing DOES work for monsters. The Alien queen was just looking to protect her eggs, and she’s pretty darn scary.

  7. jjchandler says:

    Sean: “most films, regardless of quality, up until recently didn’t get seen all that much.”

    I actually said something along those lines, and about the changing times that we view remakes through, in my IMDB discussion.

    Me: “Not excusing it here, just pointing it out. I just think we notice it more now than we ever did before because of the huge VHS and DVD markets of the last 30 years and the ever growing cable/dish market.

    40 or 50 years ago you would see a film in the theaters and maybe never see it again. You certainly wouldn’t own it in a few months and be able to watch it any time you wanted to. Now we can. Now we actually see how many remakes and whatnot are out there.”

    People talk about how remakes are just so over done these days and how all Hollywood does is churn out remakes rather than original works, but I think that perception is created more by the luxuries we now have than the reality of Hollywood’s decline. Years and years ago a film buff/historian like a Forrest J Ackerman might be able to shell out the cash for a projector, real film prints, a place to show and store the films, etc., but the common man on the street couldn’t do that.

    John and Jane Average may have gone down to the local movie house and a seen a film a few times and then never seen that film again. Maybe a film was huge, religious or cheap to get the networks might run it. Other than that many films were gone for good after its theater run for most people.

    Just go as far back as far as the 60’s and think about the entertainment options that we have that were not there then. No cable or dish. If you were lucky you lived in a good location and could receive all the existing channels in your area; all three or four of them.

    No Betamax, VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray. Well, they did start to appear by the late 60’s and early 70’s. They cost what a car cost at the time and they were the size of a full sized luggage set. And most people couldn’t afford the in-your-home theater projector. If you really loved those Gene Autry films of your youth, you either never saw them again, only saw them when the local channels did a western or two on the weekend or when a theater or group did a special event showing.

    Since the 70’s we’ve had the major growth of cable, several extremely affordable home entertainment formats, rental shops every ten blocks, the introduction of dish television that doesn’t require a 15 foot salad bowl in your yard and streaming net video. We are surrounded by 24/7 entertainment options the likes of which would likely confuse or scare someone who lived in the early part of the last century.

    Not only do we get to see Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd in the theaters, we grew up seeing at least half of the five other versions that are out there on TNT, WTBS, WGN, WOR, USA, WDCA, AMC, TCM, HBO, TMC, etc. We all got to go see I Am Legend, but we’ve all either seen (on that rather large list above of channels) or own Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth. Some of us will likely own all three in the next format to come along by the time the next version of the film is released in, oh, say, 15 years or so.

    In Hollywood’s early years, they could and did remake films every few years because most people had only ever seen Ben Hur once when it was first released or even not at all. Missed it in 1907 and 1925? Don’t worry; you can see that new MGM blockbuster, Ben Hur in 1959.

    Now? Now we’re swamped by entertainment options. We’ve seen it all and in just about all of its forms and we’re jaded. We want to see something original, but Hollywood, that wonderful place that used to be so original and great back in the good old days, has just gotten so darned pathetic and unoriginal now that it’s just shoveling dreck at us.

    And do you know whose fault it is? It’s those evil money men who think that studios should be mindful of not going bankrupt. It’s all of those dumb, mouth breathing movie goers who don’t care what they get shoveled on them so long as it has nudity and explosions. It’s the fault of all of those people dumber than us that things have gotten worse now than they ever were!

    Or it could just be that we’ve got it better than any generation before ours and we’ve become jaded. It could just be that too many people always want to believe that things were always better back then and that the ‘Golden Age’ of anything was when they first really discovered it and it was all still shiny, wonderful and new! It could just be that nothing has really gotten all that much worse here, it’s just that so many people want to believe that it is.

  8. jjchandler says:

    Sean: “Occasionally, though, humanizing DOES work for monsters. The Alien queen was just looking to protect her eggs, and she’s pretty darn scary.”

    Kind of. I’m not sure that was humanizing since some animals in nature react that way. Since it was a natural thing it didn’t soften the wee beastie.

    With killers that are human in form to begin with; making them even more human sometimes takes away from them. Take zombies as an example. The things of Night of the Living Dead and Zombi 2 are truly creatures of nightmare. Make a zombie thinking, affectionate and cuddly and you end up with Fido. Great movie, but Fido just doesn’t haunt my nightmares the way that the rest of the undead do.

    Granted that’s an extreme example on the sliding scale, but it does give an idea of the range that the scale runs. The problem is that the scale often looks much larger to the inexperienced or the clumsy than it really is. Just a hair too much tweaking and Jason goes from machete wielding monster to that guy who always got bullied in school trying to get even with all of the mean people out there. Not a bad terror concept, but no Jason.

    But that’s just my view on it. Other’s mileage may vary.

  9. […] es hat geklappt. Zwar hat “Hollywood: Remakes, Sequels and Adapations” nur zusammengefasst, welcher Kritik sich die US-amerikanische Industrie ausgesetzt sieht, […]

  10. Micha says:

    Sean: “Occasionally, though, humanizing DOES work for monsters.”

    Look what An Inconvenient Truth did for Al Gore. 🙂

    I do have less time to post recently.

    More later

  11. Micha says:

    I’d like to give a detailed reply, but i’m not sure if I can find the tme this week.

    Generally, I agree with youo Jerry.

  12. jjchandler says:

    No prob. When you can you can.

  13. shafaira says:

    As you said, if it’s done well & it’s not insulting I welcome them. I absolutely loved the 1959 film Pillow Talk starring Doris Day & Rock Hudson. Which won an Oscar & received 8 nominations. Rock Hudson is the notorious playboy who shares a party line with Doris’ character Jan Morrow. Jan has never met the other end of her party line, but only hears him wooing different dames each attempt she makes to use her phone. So, argueing with him to get off the phone Rocks’ character Brad Allen gets her name. One day he’s out with one of his chicks having dinner and in a booth next to his he hears the guy Jan is out with say her name. And, once he sets eyes on her, he ditches the chick he’s with. And, since the guy Jan is out with is drunk and passes out, he gives her a fake name, makes a play for her and hit’s a home run. Jan eventually discovers Brad’s true identity, gets furious & leaves him. In an attempt to get her back, Brad calls the company she works for and gets her manger to send her out as the interior decorator she is, to redecorate his apartment and Jan’s only vengeance is ruining Brad’s apartment with bad taste in furniture. But, what other actions can you expect from Hollywood’s Golden Girl with the given reputation of the Girl next door. Therefore, In the 2003 remake titled Down with love, starring Renee Zellweger & Ewan McGregor (which won a globe & received two nominations) the writer decided to put a different but very good spin on it. Renee’s character Barbara was a nobody trying to get the affections of a playboy named Catcher who wouldn’t give her the time of the day. Time goes by & Barbara changes her name to the previously stated, and becomes a hot best selling author that encourages women to behave like men. They are to take them to bed with no emotion & detach themselves from love. Ewan’s character Catcher becomes a journalist who want’s to prove Barbara is incapable of living the life she encourages, by going undercover. But, with the character of this remake being more cunning than Doris’ in the original, she purposely does a book tour in the city where Catcher’s work is. Knowing he would want to prove her incapable and that he believed he could because of his playboy status, and he wouldn’t recognize her, Barbara plays the game with him. Needless to say she enforces every rule of her book and leaves him an Emotional Wreck! This modern version was just as good as the classic hollywood version. So, remakes or sequels can continue to sparkle showing writer’s impressive facets on a story.

  14. Bill Myers says:

    Yeah, I’m in the same spot as Micha. I’d like to chime in but I haven’t had the chance to read the whole thread, and I never add my two cents until reading what everyone else has said.

    Well, with this exception…

    Micha: “Generally, I agree with you Jerry.”

    Micha, I’m not sure you want to acknowledge that in public.

  15. Micha says:

    Micha: “Generally, I agree with you Jerry.”

    Micha, I’m not sure you want to acknowledge that in public.

    Admitting the problem is the first step.

  16. jjchandler says:

    Problem, Micha? I see no problem with it at all.

  17. Bill Mulligan says:

    here’s my deal: I don’t mind remakes that have a reason to exist.

    THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 is so obscure, sadly, that it will be fresh to most movie viewers and there are plenty of things that can be done with the basic story to make it different enough from the original to make it worthwhile. Except fot the premise, ending and overall great quality of the movie, I don’t remember all the details of the original. It could work.

    MY TUTOR? Um, who cares? They are probably just paying for the title and premise…not even the premise, which has been the plot of a few dozen sex comedies anyway.

    RED DAWN– Just dumb–too much a product of it’s time. Remake RED PLANET MARS while you’re at it.

    HIGHLANDER- has to be better than the sequels but why must we have either?

    etc, etc…it doesn’t bother me, if the movies are any damn good! It’s just that I have little faith that they will be…BUT—I have equally little faith that anything original will be any good. hell, at least the remakes/sequels have SOMETHING going for them, something that made them worth redoing.

    Anyway, I have about 200 movies I own and have yet to watch so Hollywood can go on an extended hiatus for all I care. remaking PAPILLION is just another two hours I can devote to finally watching MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN.

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