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Classics in the firing line - a guest article by Daniel Cody
Cinema, like any other art form, survives day to day due to scalability, as it can replicate itself into thousands of films, year after year, to an audience that continues to welcome it with open arms. Though there are still truly original films released that capture our hearts and minds, we as audiences will always be familiar with one concept: the remake.
They say all good stories have already been written, and the film industry certainly thrives off spinning one well-known tale into several versions. By now, we almost expect every continent and decade to have its own version of a successful film release, each with a varying degree of quality.
Whilst the term ‘remake’ only really means one thing, there are several ways to bring an old film back to life. Film studios spot opportunities in every genre, and decade, and there are many films chosen each year for a lick of paint, for a number of different reasons, however questionable these reasons may be.
All time greats
There is rarely a perfect reason for anyone to jump into a remake of a stone-cold classic, but if it needs to be done, it should be left for at least a couple of decades. 1983’s Scarface is a remake of a film first made in 1932. The film is now being remade once again, with Universal feeling that they needn’t wait 50 years between versions this time around. Scarface has yet to gain any real momentum, with many directors having passed on the project, however Diego Luna is believed to be the pick for Tony Montana, a role which became one of Al Pacino’s most iconic in the original 80’s crime drama.
Sometimes, remakes appear after only a decade. Before Christopher Nolan reinvented the Batman franchise, he wrote and directed Memento, a psychological mystery thriller, filmed so creatively and uniquely that it is still marvelled at today. The film holds a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and even medical experts in the field of neuroscience have hailed the film as being an accurate portrayal of amnesia, which the film’s lead suffers from, making for a gripping ‘unreliable narrator’ story.
Now the film has been confirmed for a remake, and though development has been postponed for now, one has to wonder how it could possibly top the original. One executive at AMBI, who have the rights to the film, said they plan to "stay true to Christopher Nolan's vision and deliver a memorable movie that is every bit as edgy, iconic and award-worthy as the original".This, of course, remains to be seen, once development for the film gets back on track.
Despite being a very poorly reviewed film overall, Jumanji became essential family viewing after its release in 1995, and is beloved by most young filmgoers.
Robin Williams is captivating as Alan Parrish, who is sucked into the board game, before his friends attempt to save him by spilling him and the contents of the rest of the game into the real world, bringing lions, monkeys and a game-hunter with bad intentions to life.
A sequel to the 1995 film is coming this November, and with a blockbuster cast to boot. Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan will star as the hapless children who, instead of releasing Jumanji, find themselves sucked into the jungle themselves.
Making the best out of a bad film
Some Hollywood execs can’t resist a fixer upper, and the one film in ‘development hell’ is a good example. 1985’s Clue is widely regarded as an experimental film gone horribly wrong. Based on a board game - as all masterpieces are - the film sees six strangers attending a dinner party in a secluded mansion, where, after a series of convoluted plot set ups, one of them kills the butler, and the traditional mystery ensues.
God only knows why anybody feels the need to revive the film, but talks continue to this day, with Universal dumping the project at first, before being picked up again by Universal.
Cult classics often have the fiercest following. In the face of mixed reviews, the right film can still create lifelong fans. This why, when a an all-female remake of Ghostbusters was announced, fans of the original took to social media to throw plenty of criticism at plans for the revival of their beloved cult classic, which stood on its own two feet when it was released last year, though inevitably paled in comparison with the original.
American Werewolf in London is one of these films that left its mark in the heart of its select group of fans. A remake of this absolute cult classic comedy horror film is being directed by none other than Max Landis, son of John Landis, who directed the 1981 original. It may be quite far away however, as the project was put on hold due to financial commitments not long after Landis came on board.
The original American Werewolf is beloved amongst fans of low budget horror everywhere, and a modern remake is a scary prospect for many. Even his father told Landis not to take the project on. He told Collider magazine that he advised him against it, but added “I know it won’t be as bad as An American Werewolf in Paris, which was shit. So, I don’t know.”
Some original members of a project are a lot more forgiving when someone tries to revive them, such as Kurt Russell who has recently ‘given his blessing’ to a remake of Big Trouble in Little China, the 1986 film which has already had a whole host of revivals in other forms, with video games, comic books and even card games appearing since the film’s release. It’s this kind of support from an original cast member which can give a remake credibility, and in the end, save it from the unrelenting criticism of die-hard fans of the original film.
Overall, when it comes to making a new version of a beloved, or even a conveniently forgotten film, the most important thing to remember is why the project was ever on the table in the first place. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and if it has millions of adoring fans who grew up considering it to be the gold-standard of filmmaking, then you better do a damn good job of it.
Dan Cody is editor of No Majesty, an independent site offering news, views and analysis.