Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Remake/Sequel/Reboot Debate
Because Kid in the Front Row always seems to do it first and best (no wonder he doesn't like remakes) he's started a one day blogathon in which bloggers were invited to weigh in with their thoughts on remakes, sequels and reboots. Of course, never wanting to miss the chance to chime in and always happy to have content given to me, here's my take. It's easy these days to throw Hollywood under the bus and call them creatively bankrupt because it seems that they will remake, reboot and make a sequel to just about anything they can get their hands on. That's the current state of mainstream cinema. We've seen it all summer and it extends out into the peripherals of the entire year as well. However, because this is the current state of cinema, it's what we are left to deal with. We could sit here and argue all day that Hollywood needs to turn it around, find original content, and so on. That is, of course, ideal but to do so is to think about what we want as opposed to deal with what we have. You end up missing a lot of good movies that way. Personally I am fine with remakes/sequels/reboots. I am fine with it not because I want to see other versions of films I've already seen but because a good film by any other name...as Shakespeare once wrote. If a sequel is well made, than who cares what source it was derived from? And where is it written in stone that al movies based on original content will automatically be good? We spend so much time these days concerned with everything surrounding a movie from it's origins; the tabloid exploits of its players; how much money it made or lost; how good the original was; how this should never have been remade; how stupid Hollywood is, etc., that we almost forget that the film is what is most important: story, characters, acting, direction, editing, lighting, cinematography and how all of these things collide into one another to make magic. That's what's important, everything else is gravy. And sequels/remakes/reboots, taken as an original concept and not a current fad, also serve a very specific purpose. Godard once said that the best way to criticise a film is to make another. So why not remake a bad movie, or take a different approach, start again from scratch, whatever? The reality of it is that, depending on the circumstances, it will either work or it won't. But that's the same for original films as well. Godard's Breathless was remade in Hollywood and didn't work. You can't take a film that defined a generation with it's originality and invention and make it into a standard Hollywood drama. However, when Sergio Leone used Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, almost line-for-line, as the inspiration for his Fistfull of Dollars, a whole new genre was born. The difference was that Breathless took the story and simply put it back on film. Leone on the other hand, took Yojimbo and made it his own. That's the success of a remake. That's the success of any film, no matter the source. And really, what defines an original film? Even original films are rarely ever true originals, and when they are, we sometimes never even hear of them. But just look at some of the past year's original works: Crazy Heart was The Wrestler meets Tender Mercies; Avatar was every classic American western and even Inception was just made up of pieces of every previous Christopher Nolan fil; The Prestige in particular. The definition of an original film is that it wasn't adapted from any existing source, but the idea or true originality usually stops there. History is destined to repeat itself. Hollywood just gets around to it faster than most. So, do I want to see great films remade? No, but hey, if someone needs to take a little from Hidden Fortress to make a Star Wars, I'm okay with that. And if it takes three decent movies to get to the best Jason Bourne one, I'm okay with that too. Ideally Hollywood would only remake or reboot bad movies with the intention of making them better. But again, we're speaking in ideals and missing the point: if the the remake is good, what other point is there to be made?