Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Movie Remakes: They Hurt Me in the Childhood

There have been a lot of remakes and reboots happening in the film industry lately. Between children's shows like Jem and the Holograms & The Power Rangers, traditional movie reboots like Godzilla & Spider-Man, or more controversial titles like The Crow and (the recently announced) The Craft remakes, it can certainly feel like nothing is "safe" from being given another go on the big screen (do not even get me started on the $200million Navy reruitment abomination that was Battleship). In 2014 there were 47 remakes and sequels released*, not counting stage or novel adaptations. As of May 2015, we've already had 15 with at least another 30 scheduled to be released

The pervasiveness of remakes and sequels is undeniable. Some stories and characters are so popular on film that it's difficult to get an accurate count of how many have been produced. The story of the Greek demi-god, Hercules in particular has been made into at least 37 films (though not all of those graced the big screen), and no less than 4 television series. In 2014 alone we saw the release of not one, but two Hercules movies:

Both of which apparently involved some serious shit happening to Hercules' left.
Now, chances are the sheer number of remakes, reboots, and even sequels would be better received if more of them were, well, good. If you're going to produce a remake or sequel, it should either accurately portray its source material, or actually manage to improve upon it. More often than not, however, what we end up getting is either a dumbed-down version of a story with about as much substance as an episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, an unnecessarily "gritty" version of a story, or something that resembles the original in name only. As an example, the trailer for the upcoming Jem and the Holograms movie (or as I like to call it, Josie and the Pussycats 2: All of the Cliches, None of the Fun!) was met with a tidal wave of criticism for how far removed from the original it appears to be. (I could go on for hours about all the reasons the trailer caused such an internet stir, but Cat Conway already summed it up brilliantly for The Mary Sue, so save us both some time and go check out her piece.)

Zero fun is being had by the Holograms.
So, why are we seeing so many remakes and sequels, and why do they so often stray from their source material? These are questions that plague me every time a new remake is announced, so I decided to turn to an insider for some answers by reaching out to writer/director/general badass Lexi Alexander. In addition to a reputation for openly speaking her mind, with titles like Green Street Hooligans and Punisher: War Zone on her resume, Alexander has personal experience with original stories and remakes alike, so I reached out to her for some answers:

She-Geeks: Why do you think reboots and remakes are so popular in the film industry, especially in the last decade or so?

Alexander: Because the studios have lost their ability to market to the masses. This is not necessarily their fault, people have simply evolved from looking in the newspaper to see what movie is playing to having 500 million choices of sources for movie times and locations. Technology has provides us with an information jungle. There are lot of advantages because of it, but the fact that we don’t know how to make sure everybody knows a certain movie is playing is a disadvantage. You can’t even buy enough time on TV to air trailers, because there are 500 TV channels and 500 ways to watch TV, so that too has become a jungle. To successfully market a movie to America for example, you have to spend at least 100 Million dollars to make the country semi aware that there’s a movie out there. So studios won’t pick up a great 2 Million dollar  original movie and give it a wide theatrical release if it costs them 100 Million to market it. Even on a high budget level they don’t want to take the risk unless it’s a “recognizable” name. So remakes are popular because they provide brand awareness.

SG: From a film making stand-point, is it easier to retell/reboot an established story than to try and tell a new one?

Alexander: No, creative people function better when they can create freely. I think every writer/director would prefer to tell an original story, something that can surprise people and something that can’t be measured up against a predecessor. 

SG: The recent trailer for Jem and the Holograms garnered instant backlash for having little in common with the original cartoon except the character names and the use of music. Why do you feel some reboots stray wildly from their source material?

Alexander: Because they don’t want to be reboots. Somebody probably told the writer or director “okay, we’ll finance you a (add genre) movie, but it has to somewhat relate to Jem and the Holograms.  

SG: In your opinion as a movie-goer (not as a director), are remakes fun or cringe-worthy? 

Alexander: There are very, very few movies that called for a remake or were made better with a reboot. The fact that we’re producing them en masse right now kills the appetitive for those few. 

The logic is strong with this one. It's not exactly shocking that this all comes down to money, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating to those of us who crave original content. 


*Criteria: Not an original story/title/character - Based on a game or TV show - National release

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