Remakes, Re-visions or Rehashes?
A remake of a previous original movie or TV show (gee, remember them?) can be a horrid experience to go through, or a glorious “re-imagining” of the concept. Certainly, the Dark Knight movies have shown how to take original material with a previous history of cinematic treatments, and optimize the concept to the highest level of drama, art and entertainment. On the other end of the spectrum, more than disappointing rehashes of the Green Hornet, or relaunches of TV shows like Charlie’s Angels have demonstrated the concept can go sideways in almost every respect.
The call or siren attraction of such shows and new films aren’t the nostalgia they evoke to current audiences (who may not even remember seeing the original), but in the curiosity they may have in finding out how the cultural icon that is the program or older movie is going to be reworked and revamped. The most recent excellent updating of an iconic concept was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a movie that deeply exceeded expectations but actually being subtle in its emotional treatment of the main character (a drug induced humanized, sentient ape), using state-of-the-art computerized effects to make the fantasy of the smart animal revolution frighteningly real.
The ability of modern moviemakers to combine this kind of dramatic sophistication with the kind of popcorn excitement that will draw bodies to the Cinema in Oxford, is quite impressive when it works. Then are the dozens of duds, like the recent big-screen version of Yogi bear, that make one long for the nuclear annihilation of all filmmakers who dared to make such a poor adaption of the cartoons to the big screen. What often happens in the case of the latter, is that the bookkeepers decide to bog down an original entertainment concept with “elements” that will satisfy the kiddies, the action hounds, the rom-com moms, or other demographics.
The commercial considerations in making and composing a film can actually interfere with what ever positive elements the original movie or TV show concept had, resulting in a mess. Once in a while, the balance between re-imagining the old while satisfying the new audience to create a solid product, as with the recent remake of the Mechanic. The old Charles Bronson movie from 70s is given a nice facelift in this action vehicle (although some may not like the excess graphic violence and sex). The success of remakes often have as much to do with the cast of actors and director making the right choices, that with the nature of the source material – making the whole thing a head and shoulders tossup, trying to figure out whether a new movie will be a smash, or trash.