When you’re putting great new effects and modern-day relevance on an old story, remakes can be great. But when you’re just rehashing tired plots because you have no new ideas, they can be plain old ugly.
This does raise the question of what makes a good remake.
Remakes aren’t always a good idea, especially when they’re just a regurgitation of an old product because nobody could think of a better idea. It’s not hard to find examples of where remakes have gone wrong: the remake of Ghostbusters (2016), for example. Here’s the problem with it: NO ONE asked for it, there was absolutely no reason to remake the timeless classic, the entire project was an obvious attempt to cash in on nostalgia, not to mention the horrible PR disaster before its release.
The Wicker Man (2006) is another example of Hollywood being lazy by retelling the exact same story over again, hoping that no one would notice that there was no effort put into telling an original story. It takes a lot more than a new lead actor and director to reimagine the first success of a movie.
There are certain things that you just don’t do: don’t put Baby in a corner and do not try to remake a classic like Dirty Dancing. Even though the creators of the 2017 version did try to update the 30-year-old story and inject more into it, some movies are just better left alone.
The best remakes are a complete reimagining of a story told before. The best examples of this are movies like Scarface (1983), Footloose (2011) and The Magnificent Seven (1960); all of which got fresh new dimensions in the retelling.
Scarface (1983), for example, was a remake of a movie from 1932 of the same name and tells the story of a gangster’s rise to power, but here’s the thing: the original was about an Italian during the alcohol prohibition era, whereas the remake is about a Cuban selling cocaine in 80s Miami. Not only did these changes drastically set the new version apart from the original, but they also created a movie that has been one of the most culturally significant films of all time. The evidence is obvious: “say hello to my little friend” is one of the most quoted lines of all time, and the entire movie is an experience that keeps you rooting for an obvious bad guy – and anytime you find yourself on the side of a drug lord, you know you’ve found one hell of a story.
Footloose is a modern version of the cultural dance movie phenomena of the early 80s. What this modern version did was place the story in a contemporary setting with modern music and more dancing styles, which does justice to the original, and although it did not have the same impact as the original, it did what it set out to do: introduce a new generation to a story of self-expression and breaking out into your own person.
From fancy footwork to gun-slinging and action, The Magnificent Seven is another new classic that successfully retold an old story. This western movie based on a 1954 Japanese movie called Seven Samurai not only crossed a language barrier but also changed the cultural settings and although both movies have been praised, they both stand on their own as some of the greats.
A remake should not strive to ride on the success of the original; in fact, a remake should pay homage to the original yet at the same time set itself apart from the original by either telling the story in a new and unique way, changing the setting of the movie or changing the time period of the movie. When a remake is done properly, it’s a beautiful way of telling a story that everyone knows, but with new dimensions and nuances so it is no longer just a product of a studio, but rather a piece of art.
A fan of remakes? Catch these classic remakes Beauty and the Beast, Chips, the cult classic tribute The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again and the repurposed Birth of a Nation now on DEOD.