So I finally have some time off to talk about this.
I have had some criticism about my opinion regarding remakes, and this post has been a long time in the making.
I hate remakes. “Hate” may be a strong word, and I am well aware that there are exceptions and examples that blur the lines of what isn’t acceptable… but for the most part remakes/reboots/re-envisioning, or whatever you want to call them, are dreadful, unnecessary cash-ins that lack all sense of respect or creativity.
Let’s go head first into the most recent debacle:
The 1987 original was not based off existing source material, it was not an adaptation, it was the film industry (and a pioneering screenwriter’s) unique and original story. It was popular too! Spinning off two sequels (of questionable quality) a kids cartoon, a toyline and a television show. All from a screenplay no one had any preconceptions for. All from a script that could have failed, bombed and to never resurface.
Why? Because it was given its own personality. Director Paul Verhoeven is an artist with a distinct style, elevating Robocop above the rest, and allowing its message to be remembered and cherished over the decades.
RoboCop 2014 on the other hand. Sure, it is reminding us how popular the original is by merely existing, it is as much a tribute as the original’s sequels (and about as good).
And of course, the original still exists, why be bothered about a new interpretation?
Well asides from it being generally a BAD movie, I’ll tell you.
Do we honestly believe that RoboCop 2014 will be remembered three decades on, in 2044, as fondly as the Paul Verhoeven version was? Does a skeptical, cynical audience going in to see a film only to come out saying things like: “Well, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be” really a testament to memorable, masterful film making?
No! It most certainly is not.
I ask again, will anyone care, quote or remember RoboCop 2014 in the year 2044? Sure, the kids who went to see it might. In the same way I hold the original to my heart. But you want to know the difference there?
RoboCop 1987 was an 18, an R-rated film. I had to wait to experience it. RoboCop 2014 is a bland 12A experience. A kid getting it immediately has none of the anticipation, or any of the gleeful daring of simply getting to watch it.
In 2050 when we look back at the film history between the years of 2000 and 2020 what will we say for it as a medium? Oh, well they adapted comicbooks, they copied and remade creative properties, they even rebooted adaptations not five years old (cough, Spider-man, cough). Is that a good legacy to remember?
Remember the Total Recall remake only two years ago? No? It had Colin Farrell in it. No? With the crazy elevator-thing that went through the centre of the Earth? Nothing? Point made.
Of course, these two are money spinners, plain and simple. Total Recall 2012 had the opportunity to follow Phillip K. Dick’s original book “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale” more closely than the Schwarzenegger film. But it decided to lazily remake the existing film. Best to try and hit average than to burn out trying to be your own adaptation, right?
I’ve yet to watch the Spike Lee Oldboy remake… I hold the original Chan-wook Park film in such high regard… but from the overwhelming amounts of criticism that panned the remake before it had even released makes my point for me.
(I will watch it… one day… you need my opinion, after all.)
The same goes for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Funny. The original Swedish film managed to weave the entire trilogy together with a remarkable sense of continuity, something rarely seen in even the most popular trilogies and sagas.
How many entries of the trilogy did the David Fincher remake get through?
Oh… Oh I see, just the one? No worries; you join my pile of ammunition too.
(Don’t even get me started on how those two examples are merely because people are too lazy to read subtitles).
Now at this point I could keep going and skirt around what many of you are now arguing against me with. But I will address it, don’t worry:
Possibly the biggest exception to any rule. But hear me out.
Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 Judge Dredd is awful.
Now sure it has been long enough that the film has entered “So bad its good” territory, but that doesn’t ignore the fact that it is an awful film. It is awful in how it doesn’t respect the source material, and as a result it has fallen into obscurity.
2012’s Dredd was a necessary remake. The source is excellent and lends itself to film interpretation, and director Pete Travis and actor Karl Urban obviously saw it as such. What we got is so far removed from the 1995 version (Judge Dredd was a 15, though by today’s standards it could easily be a 12A, while Dredd is very, very much an 18 or R-rating!) that they are almost indistinguishable.
They didn’t “remake” Judge Dredd, they made a more faithful adaptation of the source.
People argue with me that “You shouldn’t compare” the remake to the original. But how can you not? Dredd by its own merits is an incredible achievement, but it earns that by being so much better than the 1995 film, no? Look who’s comparing now.
I insist that when it comes to remakes or reboots, comparison is absolutely vital. If not, then your Total Recalls, RoboCops, Spider-Man-Infinitums will not stop, and we will end up with a creative medium that simply regurgitates itself, making obscene profits from an audience rolling over and mumbling: “Eh, it wasn’t too bad.”
Finally, people ask me what could be done instead?
I’m certain that there are many, many, many original screenplays out there that Hollywood outright ignores in preference for remaking classics. Screenplays written by talented individuals who deserve recognition and/or a visionary director to make their dream come to life. Your RoboCops of the 1980s. Something fresh and exciting with new characters and new worlds, to define a generation with and make new franchises with.
Even if it is a screenplay even remotely similar to an existing property, that is better than straight up remaking that property. You want an example of that concept? How about instead of remaking RoboCop, why not have a soldier from the wars in the middle east come home terribly wounded only to be reborn as a half-man, half-machine soldier? Why not? Relevant to the times, new characters, new settings. New franchise.
No. That wouldn’t work, I hear you cry. Everyone will know it is a rip-off RoboCop.
You see this original film from 1991? One of the first major films from Academy award winning director Kathryn Bigelow? Point Break?
It could be regarded as the original to this:
It is a common comparison, but no one cries that The Fast and the Furious is just a rip off of Point Break, do they? No, of course not. What happened to this very similar “remake”? Did it fade off into obscurity? No, it just made millions, had video games franchises, and inspired just six sequels.
(by the way, there’s only ten years between these two films)
Does my belief in an original screenplay similar to RoboCop doing better than a direct remake seem so ridiculous now?
And just to end this with a big, fat nail in the coffin…
Point Break is getting a remake next year.