(Co-Written by Dan Mecca & Merrill Barr)
It only seems appropriate to offer a take on what is now the most popular genre in Hollywood – the remake. Not that the remake hasn’t always been popular. Just look at how many times Little Women has been made. A lot.
That being said, remakes have never been as prolific (or as potentially profitable) as they are right now. One can chalk this up as unoriginality or business savvy or both, but the fact remains the age of the remake is upon us and it has only just begin to rear it’s ugly, repetitive head.
With that said, we here at The Film Stage have attempted to break down the remake genre and decipher the gems and germs that have come out of it.
TOP 5 WORST REMAKES
The Women (2008) – Meg Ryan is, apparently, no Joan Crawford.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) – Keanu Reeves is, apparently, no good at playing an emotionless alien.
Alfie (2004) – Has anyone ever argued that Jude Law was Michael Caine?
5. Planet of the Apes (2001)
Tim Burton’s remake of the 1968 classic is just about watchable but undeniably poor and half-assed. It lacks the subtle commentary provided in the original film, which presented the entire film as a hyperbole on nuclear weapons and the potential end of the world via human warmongering – one of the best cold war films. The remake lacks in story, and the ending is really just more annoying than anything else – and not that creative when you think about it.
4. Godzilla (1998)
When speaking of cold war-themed films, how can anyone not think of the 1954 Japanese classic Godzilla? Like Planet of the Apes, it’s all about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the human reaction to weapons of such world-shattering magnitude. The remake, instead of updating these political/moral subtleties for the increasingly media-swamped, overly paranoid world, just ignores it and, in doing so, ignores the heart of the original film. Basically it is The Lost World with a green T-Rex directed by Roland “10,000 B.C.” Emmerich. By film’s end viewers have the cinematic personification of “Americanization,” and in the worst kind of light. Ironic when you consider who dropped the nuclear bomb on who.
3. Rollerball (2002)
Remember when some studio head decided that Chris Klein could become a movie star? That person was wrong. Pretty completely wrong. It was kind of like the time someone thought James Caan could be a movie star, and then they put him as the lead in…oh yea. Who says you learn from mistakes?
2. The Wicker Man (2006)
Ugh. Writing negatively about this STD of a film just seems redundant. Suffice it to say, it’s nothing like the 1973 cult original, from the casting of mainstream actor Nicolas Cage to the fairly large budget ($40 million) allotted for the remake. If one attempts make a cult film mainstream, then one sacrifices the cult-angle of the original, thus sacrificing the integrity of the remake before shooting a single frame.
1. Psycho (1998)
Alfred Hitchcock’s name is synonymous with the thriller and his 1960 film Psycho is the greatest example of one. On the other hand, the 1998 remake, by director Gus Van Sant, is a blight on all movies., not just its predecessor. It ruins everything that is great about the original and makes you really hate the film as you watch it, and films in general for that matter.
Top 10 BEST REMAKES
I Am Legend (2007) – remade from 1964’s The Last Man on Earth starring Vincest Price and 1971’s The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston
3:10 to Yuma (2007) – remade from the 1957 film of the same name starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin.
Dawn of the Dead – Remake of the 1978 classic, and Zack Snyder’s first, and best, film.
10. Quarantine (2008)
After the success of Cloverfield, studio execs knew that there was something to this fake-docu-horror style to cash in on. While the original 2007 film [●REC] is superior to this remake, thanks to a bigger budget Quarantine is able to provide a deeper story that we don’t get in the original.
9. You’ve Got Mail
It’s pretty hard not to love this movie. It’s actually about as hard not to love as the 1940 film it’s based on – The Shop Around the Corner, starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. Sure, it doesn’t break any boundaries and stays within the confines of the standard rom-com, but it does it all, with Meg Ryan at her cutest and Tom Hanks at his most charming.
8. The Italian Job
1969’s The Italian Job is one of the greatest heist movie ever made. Guess what, so is it’s remake. The 2003 film is one of my favorite films to watch because it took what was great about the 1969 film and left it alone. Instead the 2003 film built an original story around the elements it kept the same. The Italian Job is a perfect example of a good remake and should be held high above the poor.
7. The Thomas Crown Affair
Based off of the 1968 Norman Jewison film of the same name, starring Steven McQueen and Faye Dunaway, this update adds a particular amount of style to an already stylishly-substantial film. Also, the Pierce Brosnan/Rene Russo pairing sizzles with chemistry.
6. Vanilla Sky
A NYC-set remake of Alejandro Amenabar’s Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), this film was a new direction for helmer Cameron Crowe, stepping out of, or rather stepping past, the world romantic character pieces to create a enigmatic exploration
5. King Kong
The 1933 film is a classic that serves as a timeless master piece. Peter Jackson’s 2005 version is just as timeless. Going much deeper into the time period in which the story takes place (The Great Depression), Jackson’s colossal take on Kong provides many things the original both couldn’t (80 years more worth of special effects) and just didn’t (the original’s 90 minutes, Jackson’s is 180). That and Naomi Watts is as good as Fay Wray ever was. And Andy Serkis’ Kong is 5 times better and 5x easier to care about than the original.
4. Ocean’s Eleven
The original 1960 film was all about a bunch of army buddies trying to make some cash and ultimately losing it all, but being awesome and charming the whole time because they were all in the Rat Pack in real life and Frank Sinatra was the leader of the pack, and one cool mofo. The remake takes that idea and expands on it deeply (and changes the outcome). The new film changes the characters from army buddies to a group of highly-skilled criminals who want to pull off the ultimate job (robbing three Las Vegas casinos). Steven Soderbergh’s 2001, much like F. Gary Gray’s The Italian Job remake, takes the best elements from its original film and builds its own personality around them.
Based on the 1997 foreign film of the same name, starring the great Stellan Skarsgard and directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, Christopher Nolan took a tight original film and opened it up for American audiences, offering the similar setting (from cold Norway to cold Alaska) and adding Al Pacino and Robin Williams to face off each other – and both offer one of the best performances of their respective careers. Early proof of who Nolan was, and was going to become.
2. John Carpenter’s The Thing
Believe it or not, yes it is a remake. Of the 1951 The Thing From Another World, directed by TV-director Christian Nyby and (an uncredited) Howard Hawks. John Carpenter’s remake is better in all the ways Peter Jackson’s King Kong is better; he improves where the original couldn’t (effects) and adds much more (dialogue and charactr arcs) to the story.
1. The Departed
The majority of people who’ve seen and love Martin Scorsese’s 2006 crime-drama The Departed are unaware that the film is actually a remake of the 2002 Chinese crime film Infernal Affairs.
Scorsese does this original film true justice so much so that he even incorporates the idea of “heroic bloodshed,” which is relied heavily in the original film. The Departed is the truest example of what a remake should be: an inspired take on an unoriginal idea, picking and choosing the best parts from the original/the only parts that work for the remake.
Do you agree with these lists? What would you change? What are some of your favorite/least favorite remakes?