Apparently, originality took the week off. Just a couple of days after Universal Studios announced they’d be reimagining Clue with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski at the controls—”reimagining” being the politically correct way to say “remaking”—comes word that both Total Recall and The Neverending Story will get extreme makeovers of their own. Add those three films to the previously announced plans to make a new Karate Kid (with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan), another version of Arthur (starring Russell Brand), and an update of Romancing the Stone, and you’ve got something much larger than a mere trend. This is an epidemic.
Normally, we discount any raging film fan who rails against the Hollywood machine and their uncontrollable urge to remake something old, but there is something truly depressing about this news. The problem is, the movies being remade are actually still good. It isn’t like Total Recall has stopped being completely ridiculous and over-the-top; Clue is surprising funny (bless you, the dearly departed Madeline Kahn) and paced as if Goodfellas-era Thelma Schoonmaker had a hand in the editing room; Romancing the Stone still delivers the romance and adventure in bushels; Arthur received loads of Oscar nominations; and The Karate Kid is as much of a classic now as it was 20 years ago. There are plenty of reasons to remake a film, but with these flicks, it just seems like nothing more than a desperate attempt to cash in on already established and popular brand names.
We are well aware that the movie executives and captains of industry who run Hollywood studios are smarter than us, and they probably looked at the economy and figured that they aren’t going to get people to spend $12 dollars on a ticket by giving them some intelligent and thought-provoking film (see every Oscar nominee that wasn’t named Slumdog Millionaire or didn’t star Brad Pitt). So then the only way to get people into the theater is to give them something they’re familiar with. But when Tyler Perry can open a film to over $40 million in box office receipts, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop can become a smash hit, it becomes fairly clear that the current moviegoer (us included!) isn’t very discerning. Instead of remaking classics, why not just give audiences movies like them?
If you think this idea is crazytown, take a peak at box office titan Gran Torino. Underneath it all, that movie was nothing more than an updated version of both Dirty Harry and The Karate Kid and audiences were sold on those well-worn themes. We’ll see anything, Hollywood! Just leave our childhood memories and DVD collections alone.