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Spotlight on remakes

By Randy Amorim
On February 24, 2014

One thing most film-goers hate is remakes. There's a good reason for this since most remakes disappoint and fail to live up to the original. Yet, every now and then one comes along that manages to impress audiences. Why are some better than others? One important factor is originality. The two mistakes most remakes make are that they either attempt to remake the material as it was but with a twist, or that they try to pay homage to the original while making their own thing all together. The key is to find a middle ground where the essence of whatever made the original work is present while becoming its own thing altogether.
One remake that worked well was "The Departed." What worked in its favor (besides most Americans never seeing the original Asian film series it was based on) was that it managed to emulate the original while becoming its own story. The setting was changed and the story and characters were updated to fit the new location, while the plot line and premise remained similar. Many creative changes were taken and made their own thing rather than attempting to follow any footsteps. Not all remakes take this approach.
 A similar example would be the recent "Oldboy" remake. While I liked the remake, it somewhat felt like it was walking entirely in the shadow of the original. The setting and characters were somewhat updated to the new setting, but these changes added nothing to the story. The plot is essentially the same, only written differently. The film even tried to tease fans of the original by misleading them to believe the final plot twist would be different. The remake did add in certain elements and additions to the story's first act that worked, but overall it just did the same thing differently.
Remaking classics is not a good idea altogether if there is nothing to add to it. An example would be the "Robocop" remake. The remake had potential, seeing as everything predicted in Verhoeven's dystopian classic about American society has ironically come true. Yet, the writers, producers and director did not seem interested in emulating the story or its themes. Instead they seemed interested in modernizing the entire thing and scratching on the surface of some of the themes the original introduced, but not the big picture.
Two more examples are "Psycho" and "Night of the Living Dead." While there are some changes and additions, both are practically shot for shot remakes. Neither one works. These films prove that such an experiment is pointless as it does not capture the essence of what made the original so great. It gives fans no reason to rewatch the inferior copy. Those who have not seen the original might enjoy it a little more. I watched the remakes before the originals and I have to say that while I did not hate them, it did feel like something was off and that the film was merely walking in some shadow even if I was unfamiliar with whose it was.
Remakes can work, but they don't because they are often just made as a way to cash in on a popular name. Since people hate remakes, they are often called re-imaginings or reboots as if the changed name changes what it essentially is. "Carrie" was billed as a re-imagining and while it was modernized and added minor details, it was practically the exact same thing. In fact, the changes only made the movie worse than the original. Some reboots do work. Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy was technically a reboot of a dying franchise, but it was truly re-imagined and made into something of its own with little to no resemblance in story or tone to the original films. This sort of creativity is what can make a story worth retelling and a film worth remaking.

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