RE-AGENDA: Hollywood’s Remakes

STARK writer Darrion Beckles digs into Hollywood’s obsession with remaking films.

Words: Darrion Beckles

Oh Hollywood my sweet… I get this feeling that you don’t find me attractive anymore. I can tell you don’t fancy me like you used to. No, I know you don’t want to leave me. You can’t, because I’m good to you and I give you what you need. You know I’ll be there for you no matter what (since you’ve convinced and conditioned me to believe there’s no better alternative). What happened to the Hollywood I knew? The adventurous, passionate, spontaneous Hollywood I‘d lose sleep thinking about. How and when did we get to this point? I can no longer expect to look in the oven for something satisfying from you these days. And you want me to set the microwave and reheat what you made for me yesterday? Don’t get me started on the whole Meatloaf Mondays and Spaghetti Tuesdays deal. When did that happen? FYI, just because you douse it in gravy doesn’t hide the fact that it’s the same friggin meatloaf, you cold-hearted, egotistical, witch!

….Okay, I promised I wouldn’t get emotional. Let’s talk about this like adults.

Remake, Reboots, Reimagining, [Hi Rihanna], Redistribution of wealth, reeeeeeeemix (my bad, I had a Fat Man Scoop moment)—What do they all have in common? Well, for one, these are just a few things many of us would rather do without (special thanks to research and statistics done by the NUNYADAM Business Institute). The redistribution of wealth fits well with this, since I spent 50 bucks for two movie tickets, some popcorn and a soda just to see Captain America. Thank you Magic Johnson, if that isn’t redistribution, I don’t know what is. But I digress… for all you noobs and boobs out there, I’ll jump right into the definition of the first three and I‘ll try to be bipartisan about the whys and why nots of the Hollywood “RE” agenda…

A remake of a film could mean so many things. It could have an almost identical, plot for plot, sometimes shot for shot Xerox copy of its predecessor; sometimes with the inclusion of color, and/or bells and whistles (I think of the shot for shot remake of Psycho). Or it could be an update, rework, or reconfiguration of the source material using all or many of the original players, plots and settings of the original.

A reboot is a short lived Saturday morning cartoon about 3-D characters living inside of a computer. Every once in a while they are forced to protect their “city“ from (warning!) an “incoming“ game, which threatens the existence of everything within the “mainframe“. No wait, this is about movies. A movie reboot is Hollywood’s reset button. It’s their multi-million dollar way of saying “My bad, ya’ll! Do over” because the original was just that bad, or a way to make more money using an idea that’s been played to death by dousing the same old meatloaf and spaghetti in gravy. *Sigh*

A reimagining or reinterpretation of a film is a lot like a remake, but there are some notable differences. In these, writers take the source material and either deviate heavily or entirely from the source material. Meaning, it’s a different story, with the exception of a few familiar faces or locations, than the original.

Why do this? Why remake, reboot or reimagine?

I’ll play the devil’s advocate (please don’t remake this movie) and defend Hollywood—they’re necessary. Remakes, reboots and reinterpretations are necessary when you have an awesome film that you want to introduce to a new generation. Of course you’d want the story to be relevant to young folks, so you swap out James Dean for Diggy Simmons and Molly Ringwald for Miranda Cosgrove. You want to take an idea from the past that was well ahead of the curve and update it, to allow the real potential for revenue-building it deserves.

The other night I watched a movie called Valley of the Dragon. It was a film about two guys, who by way of a passing comet were transported to another planet, where they are perceived as walking lunchables by the local wildlife. The premise sounded awesome, and the plot and dialogue were decent, but the movie was an epic fail on film because of the technological limitations of the time (1950s, I believe). I get it… I know that if Cameron or Spielberg got a hold of that plot, it could be 90+ minutes of 3-D/HD win.

Many times, remakes are just flat out great. And if I had to give one example of a dope “re” treatment success story, it would be Scarface. Even though it’s a remake, it’s one of the greatest movies ever (EVER!) recorded (Rappers, you can now thank God and Tony Montana for success and inspiration). There are other great remakes you can research, like The Thomas Crown Affair, but that’s where my advocation (If a former governor of Alaska can make up words, then an unemployed writer from Brooklyn can) ends.

Arthur, Freddy (Nightmare on Elm Street) and Footloose (I forgot the lead character’s name in the movie and I don‘t feel much like looking it up) to name a few, have become the recent victims of a lazy, apathetic and creatively bankrupt Hollywood. These days, they don’t even wait decades anymore before giving a film the “re” treatment.

Superhero movies are the worst offenders and the greatest abusers of this. Ang Lee’s Hulk dropped (like the bomb it was) in ‘03. Incredible Hulk five years later in ’08 (I could care less about Marvel‘s reacquisition, it was still a reboot). Superman returned in ’06, and he’s set to return again six years later in ’12 (of course, the new Superman will pretend Superman Returns never happened, kinda like I did). Same with the Punisher, which was remade 3 times, and they all sucked (ALL.OF.THEM.), so expect another reboot. Fantastic Four is about to be rebooted a second time since the first two movies were merely parodies of themselves. (And I’m not even sure if the forgotten Roger Corman version counts).

Reboots aren’t all about failure either. Many times it’s all about the *sings the Monopoly commercial* “Money, money. Money.“ The Nolan Batman trilogy is about to come to a close in ‘12, but there’s already chatter about a reboot starring a new Batman. And yeah, Spiderman… I said I wouldn’t get emotional, so let’s not talk about that.

Hollywood, I think you have way too much money to throw away. I often think that the capital used to remake Dirty Dancing would have been best used to feed starving children and puppies worldwide. And like for real, I’m totally trying to bite my lip on the idea of Soulja Boy as Bishop in an upcoming remake of Juice (Tupac is the only Bishop I know), or Tika Sumpter, Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks in the classic reboot of Sparkle. (Jordin vs Irene Cara?!) You can also scrap the idea for remaking Boyz N the Hood and The Last Dragon (but if you do the latter, Busta Rhymes as Sho Nuff, please).

While Tony Scott, may have moved it back to NYC and returned it to the ’70s, movies like Warriors deserve sequels. The video game proved it. There was so much to the world, setting, and characters that was left uncovered and unfinished. Was there ever a funeral for Cleon? Did Mercy hook up with Swan long term? Where the hell did Cochise get those Indian feathers, and are the Warriors now one of the top sets in NY since they laid waste to the Baseball Furies and the Punks? It was 1979, what did the turn of the decade (’80s) do to the gang culture of this world? They made a sequel for TRON, why not Warriors? (My brain needs oxygen now…) Sequels, even prequels, show more initiative than remakes.

But for the legendary stuff and the lame stuff alike, fine. Whatever, dude. Keep rehashing because that’s what gets the “re” treatment much of the time, movies that are either totally awful or totally awesome. So, I’ve resigned to the fact that I’ll be seeing remakes, reboots (*ahem* Batman) and reimaginings for the rest of my life. *Sigh* But come on, Hollywood. You have major cake. You make Scrooge McDuck’s money bin look like it belongs in a Coinstar machine. You drop hundreds of millions in ads, actors and special effects per movie. Would it kill you to shell out a few extra million for a quality screenplay or a squad of talented new scribes? Even if you believe original scripts are out of style like baggy jeans and eye piercings, there are plenty of old TV shows, graphic novels, books, board and video games, and fortune cookie messages you can ruin (by making into a movie) without having to use your imagination.

Are remakes, reboots and reimagining’s necessary? Sometimes, sure, why not. *Kanye shrug* But the number of films being remade isn’t necessary at all. Though there is good news for writers outside of Hollywood. The silver lining? A good, original idea is refreshing, which is why indie films do so well come Oscar time. (Remember who told you…O_O)

So do you have anything to say, Hollywood? Oh, so this is my fault? I was too good to you. I see. You expect more, give less and I put out regardless, huh? Maybe you’re right. Maybe I did do this to you. But you know what? I have others who do for themselves. They’re buying equipment, posting their goods online, producing on their own. May not be perfect, but it’s passion baby, passion you’ve lost. So I don’t need to keep coming to you for what I need. They may not be as good looking, and may not have the history that you and I have, but at least they try.

Goodbye, Hollywood.

Follow Darrion Beckles on Twitter, @Warriorscribe

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