Filmaking v2.0 - remakes, remakes, remakes and déjà vu
The below entry comes courtesy of our resident director - Ed 'Enano' Burgos...
Remakes, reboots, reimaginings - they are not the same but they conjure many of the same reactions.
“Ugh, so unnecessary!”,
I must admit that I have, at different points, had those same reactions.
I have certainly reacted like this when remakes of beloved childhood classics like The A-team, Dragonball or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which did not get the “best-foot-forward” treatment)are announced as in production.
The current slew of Disney remakes of childhood classics - unlike the hidden gem that was the A-team remake (#sorrynotsorry) - have made me think once more about this topic, so let’s dive in.
There is no doubt that there have been good remakes.
The Thing is a case in point but I must admit I never saw the original.
The fact that I watched the Thing even though I had never seen the original classic is one of the things that can be said in favour of remakes. Sometimes those great stories of the past are forgotten or trapped in a youth-repelling format like black and white, use dated special effects that no longer captivate an audience or God forbid, were made during the silent film era!
Remakes are an opportunity to tell an old story in a new way. There is also the possibility that telling the story to a modern audience will help make a story more relevant. I think about The Day the Earth Stood Still and its very contemporary 50's vibe. However, mutual assured destruction via nuclear technology is not something in the forefront of millennial zeitgeist. Climate change however…
The Bad remakes are perhaps the films and projects that stick in the mind most. Some Bad remakes suffer due to short sighted and frankly baffling casting as was the case with Dragonball, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Ghost in the Shell (see a pattern there?)
Others are quite clear attempts to generate sales without the need for a new story or characters - The Pink Panther, or G.I. Joe. I know G.I. Joe technically was not a remake but I’m still mad I will never get that time back!
There is a serious danger that the current crop of live action Disney remakes are starting to creek towards the “Let’s just cash in while we can” category. I know many will put the new Disney remakes squarely in there already.
There is an undeniable charm though to seeing King Louis being played by Christopher Walken and Baloo by Bill Murray. There is nothing inherently wrong with these films but they inevitably have to perform some incredible contortionist routines in order to overcome the bend the familiar and sometimes tired story a remake has from inception, as audiences are likely to have already heard the story and know the characters.
Is it all about the money?
At this point the question of craft inevitably comes up. As a filmmaker, writer, editor, what are you saying when you take on a project like this? “Artist gotta eat son!”?
Don't get me wrong, it is a question I would love to find the answer to first hand. I’m sure that Jon Favreau, director of the recent remake of The Lion King, one of the original kings of indie in the 90's and a personal favourite of ours here at La Victoria, has very little to prove. I like to imagine that he traverses that tight rope that all filmmakers dream of “one for the studio, one for me”
One makes a film purely for commercial success, for example, Smurfs 12: The Smurffenning. Then the powers that be turn around and hand that same director bags of cash to make that dark, experimental, silent kung-fu melodrama they have been writing. (By the way - Copyright 2019 La Victoria Productions on Fist of the Silent Tear.)
All that being said, how do I feel about Remakes? I feel they have their place and in some cases are essential to pass on the incredible stories of the past. Shakespeare should be experienced by young people. The stories we tell are and always have been reinterpreted. It’s how we ended up with the Iliad and Grimm’s fairy tales. Unfortunately there always seems to be a lot of bland and recycled imagery we must wade through in order to get to the real gems.
Edward "Enano" Burgos