Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The trouble with remakes, in which I come to no conclusions

Many of my friends and people I follow on twitter are bristling at the upcoming remake of Straw Dogs. I want to see it. But don't worry - I will be sure to watch the original first. Straw Dogs is one of those movies that's been on my list of "Movies I should probably watch when I get around to it." The positive outcome of this remake is that it pushes the original to the forefront of my list of "Movies I am actively seeking opportunity to watch."

The same is true of Fright Night. I just saw the original and enjoyed it immensely. The remake boosted my interest in seeing the original. And judging by the audience reaction to Chris Sarandon's cameo, a fair number of people in the cinema *had* seen the original.

Why do people moan about remakes? It's something I'm guilty of myself. If the original is good, detractors of the remake will insist that it doesn't "need" to be remade. Of course it doesn't need to be remade. Very few movies - original or not - "need" to be made. If it's a good story, why not tell it again? How might the story be different in a different place or time? And if the original is really that good, then surely it will hold up and not be diminished by the remake. If the original is not-so-good, is it nostalgia that holds people back?

When it comes to American remakes of foreign films, however, there is further snobbery. "Americans are just too lazy to read subtitles," they will say. In reality, it seems to me that it's a case of "Keep your filthy mainstream off my subculture." An Asian film forum I used to frequent once had a headline on April Fool's Day announcing that Brad Pitt would be starring as Kakihara in a remake of Ichi the Killer. Shudders abound. But actually, Brad Pitt could totally pull off Kakihara. He may be a big-name hunk, but he's got the chops.

If pressed, I don't think I could name a bad remake of a good Asian horror film. I'm sure they exist, but I generally avoid them. The remakes that I have seen have been pretty good. The Ring isn't a far cry from Ringu. They're both good. I think it's a positive thing that they both exist. The American remake of A Tale of Two Sisters looked terrible. I didn't see it. I don't know anyone who did, whether they'd seen the original or not. It has had absolutely no impact on the original in terms of quality or, as far as I can tell, audience.

When they announced they were going to remake Infernal Affairs, I was skeptical. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio? Jack Nicholson? Mark Wahlberg? What is all this? But The Departed was fantastic. It is an entirely different movie than Infernal Affairs. I would even argue that it's a *better* movie. So I am pleased that the same producers are in charge of the remake of Oldboy. (Thank God that Speilberg/Smith talk never came to fruition!) I'm not the biggest fan of Spike Lee, who is set to direct, but he knows what he's doing. Announcements regarding the casting of Josh Brolin and Christian Bale as the protagonist and antagonist, respectively, have me very optimistic.

Today I got the news that El Orfanato is being remade with Amy Adams. I love El Orfanato. It is the only horror movie to actually *scare* me since I was a child. I don't really want it to be remade, but I can't seem to put my finger on why. I think it's just a sense of possessiveness. I enjoy introducing the film to people. With an American remake, I won't have that sense of "Look at this awesome movie I found." But that ownership is is an illusion in the first place.

For the most part, I am interested in film theory more than film production. But there are some films I would really like to make. One of them is a remake of Battle Royale. Don't get me wrong - I love the original. But it differs from the book (which I read before I saw the film and also love) in some really crucial ways. I'm not saying I could do better than Kinji Fukasaku, but I see no reason why there can't be more than one film adapted from one work. How many different film versions of Frankenstein are there? If I had the resources, I would write a screenplay adapted more faithfully from the book. It would be in English (because I don't speak Japanese) but I would cast Japanese-American actors. But no matter how I did it, fans of the original film would scorn me.

1 comment:

The Storm Lord said...

My main problem with the "Straw Dogs" remake was that it totally did away with the psychological/"deeper" aspects of the characters and just turned it into a horror/slasher flick. That "dumbing down" that I believe occurs in today's remakes is what drives me bonkers about them.