Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
A well-executed film usually consists of a number of factors—a visionary director, a stellar cast or at least a very talented lead, an interesting and sound story structure, and good editing, among others. It’s quite an achievement to be able to have all these factors in a film. Quite often, a film might be decent and entertaining, but it lacks some factors that would take it to the next level. To a cinephile, a truly great movie isn’t one that can just be forgotten once the credits starts rolling. The appeal of good cinema stands the test of time, and can draw audiences with varying proclivities.
Considering the quality of purely original films, why is it that so many remakes are being produced by big Hollywood studios and other independent film companies? Isn't it tiring to see the same thing portrayed on screen, over and over again? Sure, remakes always posit a promise of something new, such as a whole new cast, and various modifications to the setting or dialogue that makes it more fitting to current times. However, nearly every remake attracts the snide remarks of moviegoers that criticize the lack of originality and nuance. “Leave the original as it is, we don’t need another remake!”, or, “A remake will never live up to the original.” are commonplace statements among audiences, especially regarding remakes of much-beloved classics that already prove to be cinema staples in their own right. There have been a number of remakes that were panned by audiences and critics alike. A few examples are The Fog (2005), Psycho (1998), and The Shining (1997)—all three failing to incite the same excitement that their original counterparts were able to.
Psycho (1960), Psycho (1998)
With remakes being released almost every year, it is safe to assume that their continuance cannot be attributed to a standard formula. There are many reasons why remakes get produced, whether this may stem from the desire of the filmmakers or audiences. It should also be pointed out that some remakes which were initially unwanted, ended up being well-received. As much as it would be more preferable to see stories that have never been told before, everything in the end and in some element can just be “a copy of a copy of a copy” (taken from the famous 1999 cult-hit Fight Club). This doesn’t mean that original writing cannot exist, but that most films nowadays consists of some generic plot point that we’ve already seen. Underdog hero beats the odds, and conquers the villain in the climax, for example. Or girl meets boy, and they have to get through a couple of obstacles to be together, but in the end, they do anyway. These are tropes that might be overused, but with the right factors, they can still make for an enjoyable film. In the same vein, remakes are likely done for beloved films that have made a considerable impact and contain some lasting elements that still appeal to the masses. So maybe fresh adaptations of such classics should be welcomed, instead of shunned at the outright. After all, no amount of backlash seems to be stopping their production.
Shutt (2021) writes, “…the outrage has grown incredibly tiresome. Not only does it do absolutely nothing to slow down the amount of remakes, but also, like the vast majority of online anger, most people complaining seem to be coming from a place that believes this is somehow a new phenomenon in the filmmaking landscape.” He further adds that the practice of remaking films is something that has stood the test of time, as humans have a tendency to “romanticize about the past.” Perhaps there have been remakes that seemed to have deserved the ire that it had gotten, but plenty others have been surprise masterpieces that may even be better than the original. Striga (2015) listed some of what he believed were the best remakes of all time, including the iconic Scarface (1983) and The Departed (2006). Both films were critically acclaimed and successfully carved out their own repute beyond being just in the shadow of the original.
Just recently, another remake has been the talk of the town—everyone cannot seem to get enough of Dune. The film is the latest offering by distinguished director Denis Villenueve, and the consensus seems to sway heavily towards his 2021 version. So you see, as long as we deign to draw inspiration from the past, remakes are here to stay. This isn't always a bad thing, unless of course the primary aim was merely for Hollywood companies and movie moguls to break some bank. Remakes each need a film cast and crew who are mindful of the original material and its audiences, as well as the complexities of our times. They need to extract what is most valuable from the story, and incorporate it well into their own unique vision. If a film has been made with love and care, as cheesy as it might sound, it shows. We, as an audience, can definitely see this.
Shutt, M. (2021). How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Remake. Collider. https://collider.com/why-are-movie-remakes-popular/
Striga, D. (2015). The Best Film Remakes of All Time. Screen Rant. https://screenrant.com/best-movie-remakes-all-time/
(Fusco, 2016). "Psycho (1960), Psycho (1998)". No Film School. Retrieved on November 2, 2021 from https://nofilmschool.com/2016/03/from-psycho-to-the-departed-comparison-original-movies-their-remakes
(Poppy, 2017). "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)". Reel Rundown. Retrieved on November 27, 2021 from https://reelrundown.com/movies/Old-Movies-and-Their-Remakes
(Shutt, 2021). "Scarface (1983)". Screen Rant. Retrieved on November 27, 2021 from https://screenrant.com/best-movie-remakes-all-time/