Revival of the fittest: Are Remakes suffocating originality in Hollywood?

With remakes looking to dominate the box office over the next year, is this trend here to stay?

Over the past decade, remakes and adaptations of some of the most well-known cinematic classics that initially generated the successful careers of filmmakers and actors alike have dominated the box office. With such remakes and re-imaginings of Red Dawn, Evil Dead and Carrie all set to be released in 2013, this particular trend does not seem to be going away any time soon. Way back when at a time when cinema was still a relatively new concept of art, this would not have been a major concern; as new technology welcomed these classic narratives to be retold in a higher quality.  However, what might have been at one time an innocent retelling, has ignited an even more concerning matter among the industry in the complete and utter lack of original stories coming out of Hollywood. So, one must wonder if this is just the cinematic industry that we have come to know and love time and time again taking a step back to recall on a simpler time in  its evolution in to pop culture; or has Hollywood really lost its way?

Like many forms of entertainment, the film industry is partly an investment business that experiences difficult times where even one bad investment can make a studio be swept from under its feet. Due to this, the only safe move a studio can make is in the form of a remake or sequel of an already highly successful existing franchise; there fore robbing the originality that was pre-conceived years before. Although, when looking at the situation from this point of view, remakes and sequels look to be the only solution from a business prospective, it still however begs the question as to whether or not this recycling notion is making the whole of Hollywood lose its charm. That being said, it has been proven on occasion that not every re-imagining can be classed as dire in comparison to its original. It is evident that the formula to a successful remake depends on whether or not the remake in question holds its own as a standalone film.

A prime example of this in recent years could be the Dawn of the Dead remake, Zack Snyder’s take on the George A Romero horror classic of the same name. Despite its initial negative feedback, the film was praised critically and gathered a cult following some time after its release when fans of the original chose to accept it was a remake and should be respected as a horror film in its own right. Luckily, Snyder’s film was released 30 years after the original, which was all the more a good time to retell the zombie-ridden classic; however, the film also broke down the essential aspects that are needed to create a successful remake. For one, the  film paid homage to Romero’s work by including cameos from original cast members Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and Tom Savini; in order to keep a few winks & nudges from the original and throw the audience off its guard but still remain able to hold its own with a new plot thus making it a worthy remake as it worked on its own terms.

In regards to the point made above, the idea of  whether an adaptation, sequel or remake is successful or not should really come down to the question of the cinematic intention and quality. As opposed to making it all too obvious that the intent behind the product is simply to make money. The all new and arguably improved Spiderman reboot fell under this trap only last summer; it was a film that was only remade 10 years after the web-slinger made his first  cinematic debut. As a consequence, it was clear that this was a cynical ploy by Sony just to simply make a Spidey film at a time when all the buzz over  The Avengers, Marvel’s super-hero dream team, was being distributed. So the intent of this reboot resulted in a sanitised, ‘made by a committee’ feel which made it even worse as the public simply did not buy yet another causeless remake. So it can quite often be noticed what the intent that drives these remakes are, and we have to remember that the film companies are only an advertisement wing of larger conglomerates; Tristar and Sony, are an example. As a result, if this is just based on the product guarantee of the legacy of a name alone, a studio can pretty much bank that there will be enough seats to recoup some losses from original films released; making a little bit of gain. It’s indicative of a wider culture of cinema, where they bust out cheaply made handheld horror movies, because the returns dwarf the costs of production; and oftentimes these studios already have the IP rights to these past franchises or classics, so it’s a cheaper investment in a similar vein.

As part of this ever-growing trend, we have these copies of copies of remakes,ripoffs and sequels that are completely drained of originality and worse still, have nothing to say. It could almost be said that, as the summer roster becomes ever more filled with sequels,reboots and remakes, instead of having cinema, we have propaganda movies that try to convince us cinema is great, which ironically, is proving that it isn’t. All that said, in such a unsatisfying system you get the odd Stark Trek remake, or Batman Begins; showing that some of these distributions are not all tripe. However, when all is said and done, could we expect to see a remake of the Godfather? Hopefully not. Which is exactly the kind of film sapling we need to grow through to ideally dispose of these unimaginative foliage of remakes we have been seeing year after year.

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