Why I am against remakes.

I’ve be against the remake of Ghostbusters since it was announced – listeners to the podcast will be familiar with my rants. To echo George, the largely female cast has nothing to do with my cynicism. I think most remakes, especially those largely absent their original creators, are awful.

To recap a few recent notable examples…

Robocop – imdb score 6.2 (generous!) metacritic 52 – Rotten Tomatoes 49%.

Total Recall – imdb score 6.3(ultra generous) metacritic 43 – Rotten Tomatoes 30%.

Point Break – imdb score 5.3 metacritic 34- Rotten Tomatoes 9%

It’s also notable, that each of these films cost over $100million to make, and none recouped anywhere near that much on their initial run in the US (all relying on the overseas grosses to make back their budget).  

What is consistent about these three remakes – they are all remakes of films from the 80’s and early 90’s – films that while they may be considered cult, were in their day highly memorable, extremely popular and one may argue, iconic. Three descriptors that I think one could easily apply to Ghostbusters.  

Outside of comic book properties (and even then there were the Garfield Spiderman films? Ugh!) I’m struggling really hard to think of a widely successful and popular film/franchise that has been remade with success and acclaim.  The really successful remakes are …

  1. Based on films made quite some time ago ie. King Kong, Planet of the Apes.
  2. Based on films that while they were well loved, did not have widespread success ie. Dawn of the Dead
  3. Based on TV shows/cartoons ie. Transformers/Man from UNCLE
  4. Based on a foreign film ie. The Departed

Making a successful film, is not an easy task. Truly great filmmakers and actors make awful films on a regular basis. I think studios are pushing uphill to try and remake a well-loved and brilliantly executed film that still exists in our collective consciousness. I would argue films made in the more distant past, or films that were bungled first time round (World War Z) would make far better remake targets – sure they lack the brand recognition of more recent and popular films but stand the chance of being a much better product.  

Example – The Most Dangerous Game – based on an acclaimed short story, the film was made in 1932 – it has a 7.3 rating on imdb and is now in the public domain – among critics it is very fondly remembered. Read up a little on the story and it’s prime material for a remake – no one remembers the original, it’s a fantastically gripping story and frankly, it wouldn’t require John Carter’s giant budget to bring it to life. It came to my attention after being mentioned in the excellent David Fincher film Zodiac.  

I don’t know about you, but I like going into the film not knowing what’s going to happen – I think we all have a pretty fair idea of what’s going to happen when they remake a beloved classic. That awesome moment in the original Total Recall when you realised that everything that happened to Quaid was what he requested at Rekall. Verhoeven leaves us with a brilliantly ambiguous ending that leaves us questioning, was that real? You only get that experience once – that moment half way through the Matrix when you suddenly found yourself asking – WTF is going on?

Original ideas are hard to come by after over 100 years of film making, so re-using stories is almost inevitable to some extent. Try telling us one we haven’t heard before.