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Are Remakes Always Rubbish?

Tuesday 8 January 2013, 12:01

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

In the light of the new Texas Chainsaw sequel/rehash/reboot/relaunch (whatever!) I ask whether these kind of movies are always money for old rope?

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    Comment number 41.

    For me the worst remake will always be 'The Vanishing' how came the same director get it so wrong second time around.

    The best reboot has been either Dredd or Star Trek both of these films have somehow made movie gold from the proverbial original material

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    Comment number 42.

    I think there's a difference between a 'reboot' (e.g. Casino Royale, Star Trek), that is a new film with a new plot, and a 'remake' that just tells the same story as a previous film, but tells it again. A reboot can be a good or bad film, but just as any new film can be, but a remake has a higher bar to get over because it has to be better than the original too.

    I'm not sure I agree with antsdavies' point that a remake should 'stand on its own two feet'; particularly in the case of translations like 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'Let Me In', I think it's fine to take into account the sheer pointlessness of their existence.

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    Comment number 43.

    Disney's Beauty and the Beast is, for me, the best remake, or at least the best updated version of the 1946 French film Le Belle et la Bête, directed by Jean Cocteau and René Clément (and of course an update of the fairytale itself). Both films have such beauty and grace, but the animated version brilliantly encaptures the old and new of Disney - the fairytale and gothic elements of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, particularly in the scenes located within the dark forest and the animation of the castle, combined with the beautiful visual effects and cinematography that Disney (in particular reference to Pixar) have strongly adapted, especially when Belle and the Beast are dancing to Angela Lansbury's version of the 'Beauty and the Beast song. The 'camera' gracefully dances around the effects of the giant, empty ballroom, as well as the characters, that gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

    David Fincher's remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn't necessarily something that I would call a bad remake - it's just a pointless one. Why bother remaking a film that's exactly the same as the Swedish version, even with all its faults? Seems like a bit of a waste of time and money.

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    Comment number 44.

    Surprised no one has mentioned Solaris yet. Tarkovsky's original was magnificent and harrowing, but also achingly, achingly slow.

    As someone who is not a big fan of George Clooney, I expected the American Soderbergh remake to be rubbish. It really wasn't. I wouldn't say it was better than the original, but it's as good, and certainly more watchable.

    (As an aside: though not exactly a remake, I'm kind of bemused by the idea of Werner Herzog's upcoming Queen of the Desert, a film about Gertrude ‘the female Lawrence of Arabia’ Bell, featuring Naomi Watts, Robert Pattinson and Jude Law...)

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    Comment number 45.

    Have to agree with The Departed praise, thought it was a great achievement by an old master. I remember the usual negative schtick that came out before the release regarding Hollywood remaking of foreign films, and was delighted when when Scorsese delivered an engaging thriller every bit as good as the original. On the point about remakes in general, it's my view they are a flawed concept, as most studios would only green light stories that have been already well made. Wouldn't it be better to remake rubbish films that had great ideas behind them, interesting concepts or decent source material. I remember reading about how John Huston said much the same thing, wanting to remake that rubbish Elephant film, that I can't remember the name of or be bothered to look up.

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    Comment number 46.

    Most remakes do seem to be soulless, pointless efforts dictated by the accountants and with no trace of real interest from the filmmakers beyond jobsworth paycheque collection. However, there are a few that are genuinely worthwhile. Brian de Palma's Scarface is a garish classic, as is John Carpenter's The Thing. I was pleasantly surprised by Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, and I actually think 2012's remake of Total Recall was underrated (but that's probably because I have a soft spot for any film with Blade Runneresque cityscapes and cool sci-fi vehicles). Herzog's Nosferatu is a winner as well, and so is the Coen's True Grit. I also love Outland with Sean Connery which is essentially a remake of High Noon.
    Special mention for truly woeful efforts, of course, have to go to The Wicker Man with Nicholas Cage, Adam Sandler's version of The Longest Yard, and Guy Ritchie's Swept Away.

    And I liked the remake of Fright Night, I don't care what you say!

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    Comment number 47.

    In recent years - awful remakes include:
    Girl with Dragon Tattoo
    Let the Right One In
    Taking of Pelham 123
    The first two films come at a time when Hollywood are simply cashing in on very recently made Europen films.
    The taking of Pelham 123 was an awful attempt to inject something new into a 1970's classic. However, I am looking forward to seeing the remake of "Carrie".

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    Comment number 48.

    Two obvious candidates for better than the original: True Grit and John Carpenter's The Thing

    But the one that springs instantly to my mind is The Fly. Original is a passable, campy affair, the remake is a beautiful, poetic sci-fi/horror masterpiece.

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    Comment number 49.

    On the subject of reboots, the one that surprised me the most was probably Lexi Alexander's underrated Punisher: War Zone - discarding the legacy of the two previous rubbish Punisher movies, it finally gets the spirit of the comic-book right by updating the character into a darker, meaner, grittier version and setting the film in a Dark Knight-ish world. Plus, the glorious over-the-top ultraviolence does action-machismo nostalgia better justice than The Expendables ever did.

    Watching Sony's completely unnecessary reboot of the Spider-Man series (a mere five years after the last instalment) made me realise how impressive Sam Raimi's trilogy was. While every second of the well-acted but terribly-written Amazing Spider-Man feels like the worst kind of cynical, souless, mechanical, production-line corporate filmmaking, I find that the retro, campy, candy-coloured feel of Raimi's films endearingly reflects the cool, 60s-style cheese of the original comics, and Tobey Maguire is perfectly cast as the nerdy science geek Peter Parker. Granted, Spider-Man 3 is seriously problematic, but if you take the franchise's troubled production history into account, most of that film's flaws can be laid squarely at the feet of the producers, who were largely responsible in crowding the film with too many villains.

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    Comment number 50.

    The thing that I object to is remaking good films, they are relying on the success of the original to get audiences in. Be bold, take a bad movie and turn it into a good one.

    Worst remake: The Wicker Man (2006) which just missed the point completely.

    Best/surprising remake: Dawn of the Dead (2004) couldn't better the original but had the decency to have a good script, a good action packed pace and an excellent cast.

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    Comment number 51.

    Well mark I think you are wrong if you think people went to see Texas Chainsaw 3D because of reputation of the first one, you see you don't get this young folks but I do and it's because I'm in the middle between you and them (age I mean) so they don't want to watch originals because they did not have the technology back than and they think those movies are boring but when they do go and watch movie with all blood and gore done with today's technology they don't like it and they shouldn't because there is no story there is just bunch of effects and in those everything is lost of the mining of movie. Some of people don't want to watch original and they just wait for the remake and it's not all that bad, I personally don't like all the Kurosawa remakes (A Fistful of Dollars & Last Man Standing, The Magnificent Seven) and now I hear a whole bunch of Akira Kurosawa remakes could be coming soon. but let's talk about the good staff, now remakes that I like more than originals are: 3:10 to Yuma, True Grit, Dracula (1992), The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), and I'm not ashamed to say that I like Disturbia and Rear Window is one of my all time favorite movies but Disturbia works for me because it's not trying to be Rear Window it just takes the idea and makes a good teenage fun flick, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels I like more than Bedtime Story, War Of The Worlds

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    Comment number 52.

    Good to see I'm not the only fan of the remake of Solaris. Achieves everything the Tarkovsky version does in much less time, and a surprisingly brilliant performance from George Clooney.

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    Comment number 53.

    Bad remake:
    George Sluizer's 1993 remake of his own film The Vanishing. Completely destroys the film by changing the ending.

    Good remake:
    Michael Mann's remake of his own film LA Takedown remade as Heat.

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    Comment number 54.

    Some people on here are citing Batman Begins but that doesn't really count as a remake does it? However, the same director did make one of the most surprisingly brilliant remakes ever a few years earlier - Insomnia. I've got to say, I prefer that to the original.

    A remake that I expected to prefer but certainly didn't was Peter Jackson's King Kong. Something as dense as LOTR (and even The Hobbit, you're wrong about that one Mark) needs to be three hours long but a simple story about a giant ape being captured DOES NOT.

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    Comment number 55.

    Assault on precinct 13 remake did not have any of the atmosphere of the original. Also I would like to see some new faces in the movie scene.

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    Comment number 56.

    Remakes are 99% rubbish. Much art now is a pale imitation or embarrissingly watered down version of the real thing. Eg-in music The Beatles to Oasis, Jimi Hendrix to Lenny Kravitz.
    Comedy-Bill Hicks to Dennis Leary or Woody Allen movies to Ricky Gervais movies. Remakes are ONLY needed if the original wasn't much good in the first place.

    The remakes/reboots that most made me long for the original were (of the top of my head): The Star Wars prequels, Night of the living dead, Halloween H20, Planet of the Apes, The Thing and The Pink Panther with Steve Martin (I only made it through 10 minutes of that though).

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    Comment number 57.

    The question has been, and always will be, why remake a movie? In successful cases such as in Ocean's 11, it was because film makers have seen a mediocre movie with potential and have given it the extra polish and refinement in the story and characters to make it work. This also worked with D.O.A. with Dennis Quaid. In other cases, the story resonates across genres so you can have a brilliant movie such as The Seven Samurai or Yojimbo which became the equally brilliant Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars. Some movies, such as the Coen Brothers' Ladykillers, are heroic failiures...not as good as the original, but you can see they're trying something original and different with the same set up which means I, as a viewer, can let them off. However, the worst remakes are the ones purely about using a movie brand to snare in an audience which is where Texas Chainsaw 3D comes in. The new Spiderman and upcoming Superman movies are about constantly remaking the same idea because those titles will always draw in an audience who seem to leave their better judgements at the door because they have to see their favourite character rebooted yet again. I'll add JJ Abrams' Star Trek as well: That was all about brand recognition and attempting to make Star Trek as if it were Star Wars or any other generic sci-fi action movie. The gloss of that movie papered over a really awful script and poor characterisations.

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    Comment number 58.

    I'll just say this, under most pleasantly surprised reaction to a remake: Little Shop of Horrors the musical worked miles better than the original standard horror flick.

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    Comment number 59.

    Dare I mention Sly Stallone's crack at Get Carter? I never thought I'd so desperately wish to un-watch something. However, if we're talking reboots I'd put forward Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It had a clear respect for the original films (that many remakes often don't possess) and, for me, delivered the best movie moment of 2011. THAT moment...I've never seen a cinema audience shrink so far back into their seats. Gasps all around - fantastic!

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    Comment number 60.

    The best remake in recent years is undoubtedly Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As someone who was left disappointed in the Swedish version, this remake was a breath of fresh air - providing a much closer experience to that of the book, particularly in the subtleties of the characters. Any problems with the narrative are solely the fault of the book, and that is nothing to use against the American version that can't be used against the Swedish. Many, including Mark, may say that it is unnecessary but I would argue that any film version that aims to please fans of the book more will be welcome.
    Other remakes that have managed to justify their own existence include John Carpenter's The Thing, A Fistful of Dollars, 12 Monkeys, 3:10 to Yuma and The Departed.

    Reboots are a different matter, as they allow a situation to be taken and to completely change it in any way the filmmaker sees fit. The obvious ones have already been mentioned, with Casino Royale, Star Trek, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy all being amongst the best of their repective series.
    Meanwhile, The Amazing Spiderman never provided any attempt to completely differentiate itself from the original and ended up being completely inferior.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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