Academic Writing

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Enough with the Remakes!

I get it, I really do. The Movies are a business.  While those of us purists and academics like to think of film as an art form, adhering to rules or style and aesthetics, I am savvy enough to also know that while those elements are involved, as an industry film is first and foremost a commodity and a business that needs to make money or else it will fail. 

The two schools of thought, art and business, have generally been able to coexist, making it a rather unique business model.  Hollywood has traditionally made the big budget movies and, largely beginning in the 1960s, the smaller Art House and Independent movies have been about the art form.  Nevertheless, to succeed they both have largely relied on story telling and the development of interesting characters.  However, with the recent downward trend of movie-going habits and an upsurge crappy movies it looks like the art form had been traded for pandering.  It seems that today for the medium to survive, the film industry is, for the vast majority, capitalizing merely on what they think will make the most money, forgoing all originality.  Have all stories been told? Is Pixar the only creative entity left in Hollywood?

What exactly am I referring to?  Well take last week's news that Hollywood, in it's infinite wisdom, has decided to remake Beetlejuice.  It was also recently announced that Dirty Dancing will be remade. Footloose 2.0 is about to hit theaters. And 2013 and 2014 will see remakes of Drop Dead Fred and The NeverEnding Story, respectively.  Please. How uninspired are they?  To me, it feels as though the 80s are under attack by a generation of imaginationless studio heads. The 1980s saw an upsurge in teen and adolescent-geared movies and they were hugely successful and immensely popular. The teen culture had, by the 1980s, become huge and its movies lived on in toys, promotional items and other franchises.  Today Hollywood seems to be desperately trying to recapture that magic.  They are hoping that the original audiences will return, and this time with their kids.  Movies are being greenlit by marketing executives who think in terms of demographics.  Hmm, they think, the original fans are now of child bearing age and they'll want to take their kids to this movie for the nostalgia factor.  That creates a whole new built in audience.

The sad thing to me is that rather than allowing the next generation to appreciate the original versions, they'll have a new shinier one, one which is probably overly sexualized and likely even more violent than the originals (Which, by the way, says a lot.  I had to cover my eyes for a lot of the scary scenes in the movies from when I was a kid.)  As a child of the 80s and 90s who grew up on all of those movies, I can tell you with utmost authority that these are all revered films and are in no need of revamping.  They might be a little dated with their special effects, but if we made movies just to update special effects and make it feel more modern we'd have Casablanca 2 and Rebel without a Cause 2 (Don't get any ideas, Hollywood). 

Point is, we don't need remakes of classic 80s movies.  Let this generation fall in love with Patrick Swayze as he dances at Kellermans.  Kids should be challenged to figure out what a Luck Dragon is.  Is it a dog? An actual dragon?  Let them marvel at Tim Burton's imaginative landscaping and storytelling with Beetlejuice.  But, and this is almost more important, let them have their own stories.  Let them see kids on screen who are dealing with the issues they are facing.  Movies so often reflect the culture from where they come so what does it say about our culture if no new ideas are being generated?  Telling stories from 30 years ago (ugh, has it really been that long?!) doesn't really add much to the zeitgeist.  The occasional remake is ok when it actually makes significant and interesting changes, such as landscape  (Like moving The Departed to Boston from a Chinese setting in Infernal Affairs) or when its commenting about where our culture has evolved to (note the two versions of Scarface) but so often they are terrible (Manchurian Candidate anyone?) and add nothing to the cinematic landscape (Like Gus Van Sant's shot for shot remake of Psycho).  Hollywood was once known as a Dream Factory.  These days it seems more like deja vue.

I also think these remakes talk to a bigger issue facing out culture, namely the disposable nature our society has come to value so much.  It fosters an idea of disregarding our past and only valuing the present: if there's a new one, that must mean the original is old and obsolete.  This might seem like a little dramatic, but I do think that these remakes do make a comment on our society that might be deeper than what it might initially seem.  Remaking 80s movies just to capitalize on nostalgia factors and to make a boatload of cash is an insult to our generation and a shame for the next one who won't have their own stories that reflect their lives and the times in which they are living.

Here are some of the original trailers, to remind you of a better time when Hollywood was generating new ideas and not just regurgitating old ones and trying to replicate what an entire generation already values.

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