Whilst The Karate Kid is one of the latest Hollywood remakes (or ‘re-imaginings’ as the marketers insist on calling them in the continuing belief that audiences are stupid that they won’t compare them to the originals) by the standards of Tinseltown it’s actually quite restrained. After all the original film came out in 1984 which – in the world of movies – is an absolutely eternity: most films will take a lot less time before someone else tries to have a go.
The Incredible Hulk has been attempted twice, first by Ang Lee 2003 and then by Louis Leterrier in 2008. There’s a new version of Superman on the way which was already rebooted by Bryan Singer in 2006 whilst there are updates of Spider-Man (originally released in 2002), Daredevil (2003) and The Fantastic Four (2005) all on the horizon. Just where is it all going to end? The major studios recently reduced the time window between theatrical release date and DVD release. One wonders if they’re going to do the same for remakes: “Don’t worry if you miss it at the cinema first time around – we’ll be sure to have a new version out within a few weeks.”
In some ways Hollywood is not to blame – almost all remakes are sci-fi/comic book and fantasy films, genres that are no stranger to constantly re-inventing themselves. Batman was first published in 1939 and – unless audiences would be content to read about the world’s greatest superhero who happens to need a walking frame - has been constantly updated to reflect changing times and attitudes. But the key has always been that the changes have been gradual allowing each generation to have their own versions of heroes and legends.
Whilst most of us are well aware that profit and commercialism is king in the world of Hollywood, it’s lack of patience is becoming increasingly insulting to any audience member who likes at least a modicum of originality in new films. Do we really need another version of The Fantastic Four when the originals weren’t very good? Just why do we need to start the Spider-Man franchise all over again when the Sam Raimi films were perfectly serviceable slices of fantasy cinema (well, apart from Spider-Man 3 but let’s not get into sequels as well or we’ll be here forever).
“Don’t worry if you miss it at the cinema first time around, we’ll be sure to have a new version out within weeks.”
Just who in God’s name actually wants to see another version of The Punisher, the original version of which managed to be about as entertaining as having nails shoved down your throat. Of course, if the new version manages to NOT make the audience want to tear their eyes out, then at least it will be something of an improvement.
But that’s the problem – these remakes are rarely manage to be better than the originals. Despite the constant and earnest reassurances from the filmmakers that they’re trying to ‘honour the spirit of the original’ whilst ‘hoping that they manage to make a great film in its own right’, most people can actually tell that this is code for “we’ve got a pre-existing franchise on which we can make lots and lots of money without having to really make that much effort in terms of character, story and – well – just about anything else.”
Soon it won’t just be limited to genre films and someone will decide that the classics of cinema need updating. The Godfather will see Luca Brasi “Sleep with the robots,” so it has a contemporary edge. The new version of Gone With The Wind will end with “Frankly my dear I don’t a flying fuck,” Someone will remake Psycho shot-for-shot (oh wait: this actually happened). Nothing will be sacred and the entire history of film will become nothing more than a fresh pile of meat for Hollywood executives to cannibalise.
Films such as Avatar and Inception may have their flaws but one of their most striking features is a sense of originality. Beyond all the advances in special effects and 3D, this is the one thing audiences should cherish the most. Because it is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.
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