Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of movie remakes. There are a number of reasons why, but the main one is obvious: They're almost never as good. True, there are some remakes that surpass the originals (but we'll discuss that in another blog post) and, sometimes (but not nearly often enough) the remake is a significantly different enough perspective that it's justified - even if it remains inferior to its predecessor.
I think the remakes I have the most respect for are the ones that go back to the source material and create their own path from there rather than just ape the last movie. The Coen brothers recently announced that they're making a new version of "True Grit" but, thankfully, they said they're working from Charles Portis' novel and not John Wayne's performance. That's good to know, because I remember when "The Amityville Horror" was being remade in 2005, I had high hopes thinking the new version would be closer to the terrifying novel than the campy 1979 film. Unfortunately, the two-bit hack that wrote that remake's screenplay probably didn't even know there was novel because it went in the completely opposite direction - taking all the stupid horse shit from the first movie and piling on even more. That was probably the biggest anticipatory movie let-down I've experienced since "The Phantom Menace".
I understand the logic behind remakes because, like sequels, they have a built-in audience. We all know that familiarity breeds fondness. But, as most sequels are pretty pointless, so are most remakes. The dilemma that pretty much all remakes have to face is that either the original was so well done that a remake becomes insulting (like "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three") or the original movie was so stupid that a remake shouldn't even be bothered with (like "Friday the 13th"). Then, of course, there are the movies that have been remade so many times, it doesn't even matter if the new incarnation is good or bad. They've simply been milked for all their worth.
Yesterday, the newest version of "Robin Hood" was released. Now, I love Ridley Scott and I love Russell Crowe and almost every movie they've done together has been outstanding. "Robin Hood" is probably outstanding as well, but I'm not gonna go see it. You know why? 'Cuz I already freakin' HAVE! About a thousand times already! Really, guys? I know you're talented. Have you completely run out of project ideas that you had to return to Sherwood Forest? I'd rather see "Gladiator 2" than another "Robin Hood".
And that's not all: Earlier this Spring, we had yet another version of "Alice in Wonderland". Now, again - I love Tim Burton and I love Johnny Depp and almost every movie they've done together has been outstanding. But... No, I'm not gonna say it again. But, I will point out that last year there was also a SyFy Channel mini-series called "Alice". Guess what it was based on? Hint: Not Mel's Diner.
Mere months before the latest "Alice in Wonderland", there was another big-budget Disney version of "A Christmas Carol". Seriously, who doesn't know that story? It's been told so many times that I hafta wonder if anybody even finds it touching anymore when Scrooge wakes up Christmas morning with a change of heart? The most interesting thing any Scrooge remake has to offer is to see how they're gonna do the ghosts - and even that is almost always anti-climactic. "Oh, gee. The Ghost of Christmas-Yet-to-Come looks like the Grim Reaper. How original."
Those are just the most recent ones, too. Any reader of this blog will know that I like to present things in the form of top ten lists so, including those previous three, here's seven more movies that should NEVER BE REMADE EVER AGAIN (or at least for a looooooooooooong time). Oh, and by the way, every one of the following movies has been remade a minimum of 15 times:
"Beauty & the Beast" - The first version of this film came out in 1899. Not even the 20th Century. You might think the wildly successful Disney version from 1991 was the latest, but no. They made another one last year. It starred the hot chick from Tim Burton's "Planet of Apes" remake as Belle. Nice that she can find work as the female lead in the bastardization of perfectly good classics.
"Dracula" - Thanks to the "Twilight" books and shows like "True Blood", vampires are the new pirates. So naturally, they have a new "Dracula" remake slated for 2011. Why? It's bad enough they're remaking "Let the Right One In" and "Fright Night". Can't we just hammer a stake into "Dracula" and move on to the next coffin?
"Hamlet" - Arguably Shakespeare's greatest play, but that's exactly what it is - a play. You wanna make a movie about it, fine. How much better do you think you can possibly make it? Out of all the movies listed here, "Hamlet" takes the cake with approximately 75 remakes. How 'bout "not to be" from now on, huh? Spoiler: Everybody dies.
"Huckleberry Finn" - Great story, but too simple for anybody to really breathe new life into it. At least Dracula is a character who, if you didn't wanna tell the original story, you can at least put him in a different setting or a different time period (or even make him a different race) just to mix things up a bit. The only differences I can discern between Huckleberry Finn movies is whether or not the kid who played him ended up in jail or rehab when he grew up.
"Phantom of the Opera" - As if this wasn't done to death as a Broadway musical already. I guess it could be worse, though. Could be "Cats".
"Romeo & Juliet" - Shakespeare again. I liked the DiCaprio/Danes version from 1996, but I think what bothers me about all the attention this story gets is that it's one of Shakespeare's weakest plays. I mean, there's no shortage of the Bard's work being made into movies multiple times, but I'd rather see ten more MacBeths or Othellos before one more Romeo & Juliet. Although, maybe I just feel that way 'cuz it's a chick flick.
"Snow White" - Actually, they've done some pretty interesting things with this story over the years but, besides the 1937 Disney version, has anybody cared? There have been about 20 remakes, but can you name one besides the one the Gremlins sang along with? Me neither. So why are they releasing another one this year? I bet you dollars to doughnuts you won't remember that one, either.
So, filmmakers and studios, please waste your money on new stuff. Or, if you're going to waste it on a remake, at least make it a worthwhile one. If you're confused as to where the line is, consider this: Is there a Disney version already? If the answer is yes, leave it alone.