Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Have All The Ideas Gone?

I've been on my very high horse as of late about the Halloween remake and what it means to the original movie and what it reveals as far as the lack of thinking in Hollywood. I still haven't seen Rob Zombie's Halloween and honestly don't know that I will be able to see it in the theaters, but I've read enough to speak somewhat intelligently about it in broad strokes. But I think there's a larger topic here that I would like to explore. And that is when are remakes okay? It's certainly not my place to lay down any kind of law, but I think it's an interesting topic because there has been recent debate about it. And of course you can't set any law, because there are exceptions to everything. There are always exceptions.

Neil at The Bleeding Tree brought up an interesting point that Dracula and Hamlet have been remade countless times. Why is that work not sacred and Halloween somehow is? And I will take that idea further and ask myself why am I okay with Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers being remade four times and not okay with other movies being remade once? I commented to Neil that I felt Dracula and Hamlet have existed, for me at least, as stories long before they were movies. No one is remaking a Dracula or a Hamlet movie, they are retelling the original story. And that's when imagination and interpretation come into play and creativity is still involved. Like it or hate it, Luhrmann's interpretation of Romeo + Juliet was a fascinating one. I'm not saying I won't raise a flag here or there as it relates to remade stories, because there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. So that brings up Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers. I liked the original very much and liked Kaufman's version even more. I even enjoyed the 1993 version. And while I did not care for the recent The Invasion, I still found it interesting because the story is still relevant. As long as there is big government or the threat of some faceless enemy somewhere, real or imagined, this story will be retold and reinterpreted. The Invasion spun the alien takeover as more of a peaceful solution to an otherwise crazy world. And that takes us back to Halloween and its relevancy. In this day of dirty bombs, is a masked serial killer still scary? It has been updated and Zombie has added some story up front, exploring why Michael Meyers became such a monster. It's possible that Zombie tried to make Halloween relevant by making Michael Meyer more of a real serial killer rather than an immortal one. And if that's the case, he did so with cliched material. Saying that Michael Meyer's is a killer because he had a bad white-trash upbringing is as old as the hills. That's not updating or rethinking, it's just adding another idea thought up by someone else.

But all remake disputes aside, the truth is that when it comes to movie making there is more emphasis on sure-things than originality. As we approach the end of bad sitcoms to turn into feature-length movies, what seems to be left is sacred material. And the feeling is that anyone with some money and a camera is welcome and everything is fair game. It would be nice to know that there are some unwritten rules as it relates original movies. Some respect for great movies. Until then, everybody get ready for Michael Bay's remake of The Birds.


Ray said...

Good article, Piper!

Certain films have elements in them that allow their subject matter to be adapted.

You mentioned one example with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The storyline can adapt to relate to many different situations and political/sociological climates. Another one is the DRacula story - in fact, I think the time is right for a remake of Nosferatu. War of the Worlds was a good idea as well, just poorly executed by Spielberg and company.

Other films, though, have a magic that cannot be duplicated, or a specificity that should not be overwritten. Could Citizen Kane, despite having a wealth of subtext, be adapted to fit our time period? Someone could try, but it would fail utterly; the film and its values are of a specific time period.

As a story, Halloween has little relevance beyond simple shocks and scares. Its only real subtext deals with the changing of that time period in the late seventies when grisly serial-killer murders began to terrify middle America. The psyche of today's moviegoers, sad to aay, have been far too scarred to be moved by such simple scares.

Of course, it didn't help that Zombie completely fucked up the chance to even TRY to remake that film. I mean, he didn't even come CLOSE to getting it right.

What a dumbass.


* (asterisk) said...

I'm something of a fascist about remakes, but I do agree that the occasional good one arises. But these are often (imho) when reimagining is the key word. That said, "reimagining" is rather overused these days, and often untruthfully used to imply something better than a remake.

For me, though, remaking anything that is a recognized classic is plain wrong. Also, remaking anything that is less than 20 years old is plain wrong, even if that film was in another language. We, more than ever, live in a global society, in which access to foreign movies is the easiest it's ever been. Why watch some (usually) second-rate, unoriginal remake when you can see the original director's vision?

Maybe it's just me, but Hollywood is going down the shitter. Huge lack of originality from the big studios. And they also own, of course, many of the "indies". It's mess and a sham, sadly. Or maybe I'm just no longer the target demographic...? Certainly that's true.

Seth said...

I don't hate a bad remake because it's a remake. I hate it because it's bad. As far as I'm concerned, once a great film is out, it belongs to the world. Others will be affected by the story and be compelled to retell it. Homer gave the best delivery of The Iliad, but the story had been taking shape for hundreds of years before him. The Wizard of Oz, The Maltese Falcon and many more treasured films had inferior incarnations before the ones that spring immediately to mind. I'm willing to put up with some shitty remakes because nothing Rob Zombie can do will affect my love of the original Halloween. Just as Marcus Nispel couldn't make me feel any differently about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and so on. But to stop these movies from ever being remade would also stop genuinely great, entertaining movies like Dawn of the Dead, which I loved despite my slavish adoration of the Romero original.

Piper said...


I think Halloweens biggest problem is that it just isn't relevant today. Not that it necessarily has to be. It can be just fun, but it doesn't even sound like it was that.


Re-imagining is just a spin word for remake. Just a word thought up in a boardroom by a bunch of non-creative people. And yes, I think Hollywood is going down the tubes.


You're right, Zombie does not affect how much I like the original. It is still very good and yes, I liked the remake of Dawn Of The Dead for the simple fact that zombies became fast. They made that story more relevant.

hyde007 said...

I agree with you Pat. I heard they are thinking of remaking Godfather. I have to say I did like the first hour of the new Halloween movie. Talk abotu a sadistic boy with a family that had no concern for his well being. It's sad that their is so many things Hollywood good take changes on and they constantly do remakes that are terrible.