One of the hottest debates amongst fans of cinema these days are whether or not remakes are a good thing. Sometimes, they are a good thing, and other times, they are completely unnecessary. A lot of movie fans feel that remakes are lazy money grabs or cut-and-paste jobs, while others consider them to be another filmmaker’s fresh, new version of an old idea. Lately, the bout of remakes and reboots coming out of Hollywood are in the former category. Holy moly, enough with the remakes!
Here’s a great example on when to remake a movie and when not to. In 1960, Ocean’s 11 was released, featuring The Brat Pack with Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean along with Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin and Cesar Romero among the Eleven. Ocean wants to reunite his World War 2 buddies to rob 5 Las Vegas casinos simultaneously. The movie was a success, and it remained a standalone for 40 years. In 2001, a remake called Ocean’s Eleven was released, and it was one of the best movies of that generation. Starring George Clooney as Danny Ocean and Brad Pitt in the Dean Martin role, the story has Ocean being released from prison. He wants to get back at the casino mogul that took his wife by rounding up a team of thieves, flim flammers and gadget experts all with various skills in order to knock off 3 casinos simultaneously. The cast was made up of all-stars including Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Julia Roberts, Elliott Gould, Andy Garcia and many more. The movie was such a success that two sequels followed, Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007).
The reason the remake was such a success is that enough time had passed and a whole new generation of cinema lovers that never grew up with The Brat Pack could watch a modern, updated version of Danny Ocean’s escapades. What’s the perfect example of how NOT to make a remake? Try the 2018 release of Ocean’s Eight. Just 17 years after Ocean’s Eleven, they decided to pull a Ghostbusters (more on that in a minute) and remake Eleven with an all-female cast. Old school and new school Ocean’s fans all groaned simultaneously once it was made clear that this was a remake, not a sequel. People that grew up with George Clooney and Brad Pitt now have to watch Sandra Bullock, Mindy Kalling and Rihanna rob Anne Hathaway. Is the movie any good? It doesn’t matter! Not enough time has passed where people could suddenly forget Eleven in order to take this one seriously.
Which leads us to one of the most hotly debated remakes recently, Ghostbusters. In 1984, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd came up with one of the greatest movies of the 1980s, Ghostbusters. Adding Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver into the mix, this sci-fi action comedy turned on a whole generation onto ghost hunting and the supernatural. With an all-star cast that also included Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson and Rick Moranis, incredible story, amazing soundtrack, memorable score and straight up fun, Ghostbusters left its mark on a generation still felt today. They released two sequels: one on film, Ghostbusters 2 (1989) and one as a video game, Ghostbusters (2009).
Unfortunately, Harold Ramis died before a true new Ghostbusters movie could ever be made. So what did Hollywood do? They remade Ghostbusters (with Dan Aykroyd’s blessing) with an all-female cast in 2016. The movie itself was really funny, but a lot of people were turned off that Hollywood crapped out a remake of a movie franchise that was beloved. Unlike Ocean’s 11, the original Ghostbusters became a cultural phenomenon that spawned sequels, cartoons, toys and merchandise. A lot of hardcore film fans thought it was flat out lazy to make a remake this soon on a franchise that was so very popular, and is a perfect example of how NOT to fashion a remake. Taking an already popular franchise and rebooting it is just a lazy cash grab on Hollywood’s part, and moviegoers know it.
This is the crux of the biscuit right here. Hollywood is crapping out remake after remake because for whatever reason it feels that movies need to be updated rather than have writers and directors come up with original ideas. All the writers had to do with Ocean’s Eight or Ghostbusters was make it a sequel, and many of the complainers would not even have cared. A lot of the new Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Eight fans claim discrimination as the reason why people aren’t interested in the remakes. “Oh, it’s an all female cast. If you don’t like it, you’re a misogynist.” No, we’re not. Look The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. People loved that movie and it made them laugh their collective asses off, so it’s not a discrimination issue. Otherwise, the movie would have been booed out of the theater’s by angry men right off the bat.
No, the issue is that a remake of Ghostbusters was totally unnecessary. One argument I’ve heard tried to bail out Ghostbusters by saying it wasn’t released for old fans, but for little girls today. I can see what it was trying to go for but once again, a sequel would have been fine. It didn’t have to be a remake. Make Melissa McCarthy Dr. Spangler’s daughter or Leslie Jones the younger sister of Winston Zedemore, and no matter how off the original movie it goes, there’s enough of a tie in to make everyone happy. The bottom line is, people want to see new ideas, and very rarely does a remake or reboot compensate for taking the same script and doing it again.
There are ways to remake a film and still be successful. Take the 1951 film, The Thing From Another World. It tells the story of a group of people at an Arctic outpost that encounter an evil alien being that must be destroyed. It was a pretty good, early ’50s monster movie. Then in 1982, John Carpenter decided to remake it. The 1982 version, The Thing, scared the living daylights out of anyone that watched it for the first time. The only similarities to the original film were the Arctic location and the alien, but the updated special FX made the alien looks more disgusting, terrifying and unbeatable. To this day when people say The Thing, they think of the 1982 movie. Not able to leave well enough alone, Hollywood then crapped out a prequel called The Thing in 2011, which makes no sense at all but whatever. Since they called it a prequel, complaints were low, so in essence, it was not terrible.
In another example of a justified remake, 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a remake of the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, which was based on the Roald Dahl book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Starring Gene Wilder, the movie was a smash success that’s still transcends into today’s pop culture. Because the movie took a LOT of liberties, it didn’t resemble the book as much as some would have liked. So when Hollywood released the remake in 2005, many fans didn’t care that it was a remake, because it was supposed to be more true to the book, and it was. A lot of people prefer the 1971 Wonka movie to the 2005 one but the reason why nobody really complained was because it was based on source material. The same thing happened more recently with Stephen King’s IT.
Still, do ideas really need to be remade? Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street all got the remake treatment. At least when Star Trek was released in 2009, it had a storyline explanation of how it was a pre-sequel. When fans are discussing movies, now they have to distinguish themselves. When you say The Thing, do you mean 1951, 1982 or 2011? Do you mean John Carpenter’s Halloween or Rob Zombie’s? It’s confusing and fans are sick of it. If you’re a writer and you think you can take established characters and make something out of it, request for a sequel, not a remake. If by some reason you’re greenlighted to make a remake, make sure it’s far and away better than the original. There’s no way Ocean’s Eight can come close to being superior to Ocean’s Eleven, but The Thing managed to take its 1951 movie and update everything in a good way.
The bottom line is, fans are tired of remakes because they don’t take much originality to take an already proven concept and do it again. This would be like me trying to write a brand new Reservoir Dogs movie with the exact same characters as the Quentin Tarantino movie. Fans of the original Dogs would urinate on this one before the first trailer would hit the theaters. If I was asked to write it, I’d center it around the son or nephew of the lone survivor of Reservoir Dogs with his own crew and whole new heist. That way, I’d tie into the original, but make something new. Hey, Hollywood, are you seeing this? Make sequels or new movies and stop flooding the market with stuff we’ve already seen! We’re done!