Which specific film do you think of when you hear the name King Kong?
Growing up, I was fascinated by the original 1933 film, stop motion and 30s-centric acting and all. It was enough for me. I eventually saw the 1976 version starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. This version wasn’t bad, it’s effects were updated and the story was altered a little for the times. And then once more, the 2005 holiday movie season brought with it a three hour adventure epic from Peter Jackson called……. King Kong.
While I enjoyed all three versions of this story, was it at all necessary to remake the “giant gorilla on the loose” movie? I don’t think so, but it happened.
I don’t dismiss the thought of remaking a film immediately. There have been some great ones like John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s use of grisly practical effects and atmospheric isolation was a boldly different take on The Thing From Another World (1951).
There have been some BAD ones, like Spike Lee’s Oldboy, which turned the classic Korean film into an awkward imitation. While the original certainly has some disturbing and off the wall scenes, the remake has a more raw quality, in the undercooked sense of the word.
Let’s not forget that The Departed is a remake of the Hong Kong crime drama Infernal Affairs. Foreign films often get an update for American audiences, and if done right, it can create a new audience for the original film as well. Both horror films The Grudge and The Ring are remakes of Asian Horror films. Updating a foreign film can yield great results, but because of that, it can lead to misguided remakes. Gareth Evans’s spectacular martial arts film The Raid was scheduled to be remade, but seems to be dead at the moment. To take a story like this Indonesian SWAT team fighting through henchman and machetes to overtake a drug lords complex and put it in some American city, you’d end up with something a lot more bland. While it might be possible to choreograph impressive fights with American actors/stuntmen, isn’t the film just an imitation at that point? The major difference would be everyone is American and recognizable. I don’t need that to enjoy a film any better. Subtitles are not to be feared.
Remakes are by no means a new thing, but in the past few years the number of films based on older films has gone from a few here and there to a glut of rehashings. The reason for remaking a film is usually to tell a familiar story with new methods. Maybe there’s been an advance in technology or there’s just a vivd new take on a tired tale. As we move forward though, that reason is changing. Remakes are becoming a way to make money off of nostalgia, a powerful force in entertainment today. This is the age of “Remember that movie?”.
Remakes aren’t exclusively capturing that spirit of old that audiences love, as reboots and long-awaited sequels are abundant as well. We just saw the explosive return of Star Wars to theaters, boasting practical effects and sets and commanding us to fall in love with the galaxy far far away again. Some responded to The Force Awakens by calling it a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope. While that’s not technically the case, the film pretty much re-did scenes and plot points from A New Hope (as well as Episode Five and Six). I love The Force Awakens, but I can’t deny that they took the safe route and gave us something familiar in the interest of building a new audience and satisfying the long time fans. And it obviously worked, as it’s the biggest earning movie of all time. On the horizon we have Ghostbusters, which has been said to be a reboot, but the twist here is that the new team of Busters are all women. The 80s is a gold mine of nostalgia and IP’s to dip back into, and despite the over population of remakes, that does excite me. The Robocop remake was’t very good, but they got me to watch it, because I know who Robocop is.
Point Break had a remake that was released late last year. Really think about that. Point Break isn’t remembered fondly because it’s a classic. It’s a Keeanu Reeves movie, and people generally make fun of his acting skills. On top of that, the original featured Gary Busey and surfers that rob banks. It’s loved for it’s corniness. The remake tried to make it a legitimate action story by throwing a bunch of extreme sports into it. But somebody had to have seen this movie, I just really wonder how many fans of the original were sitting around wishing for a remake. I doubt very many.
Remakes aren’t going away any time soon, but the day will come when studios have just about run out of old films to go back to. Although a film doesn’t necessarily have to be that old to get the redo treatment any more. A recent rumor came out that Christopher Nolan’s Memento was set to be remade, which confused almost everybody. Not only is the film not that old in the grand scheme of films, it’s aged really well. Also, it’s a Chris Nolan film. For my money, that means it’s at least made with a lot of passion. While I don’t necessarily hold this film on the same pedestal as a Nolan film, but Jumanji was included on a list put out by Sony of films on their release schedule. I cannot help but think the death of Robin Williams prompted some Executive to do a remake. The allure of a film Williams is so fondly remembered for getting remade would surely get attention out of curiosity and tribute by fans. This particular remake may not even be greenlit officially, I'm not sure, and I really hope not. Because if the pursuit of cash has lead studios to play off of the death of someone just to sell tickets, that is going from annoying and crossing over into despicable.
While new versions of old stories will continue to provide some decent entertainment for us, we have a lot of crap to endure.