Remakes and Reboots: Has Hollywood run out of ideas?

by Cora Quigley

For a while now remakes and reboots have been quite the in thing to do in Hollywood. As an audience we are no stranger to it and it has become extremely commonplace. However, lately it seems like it has become more widespread than ever. Why? What is the reason?! The common accusation is that Hollywood has run out of ideas. With an old familiar franchise at the centre of a movie with a ridiculous budget it is evidently a far safer bet than something that hasn’t been done before. Spending 300 bajillion dollars on an original idea? God forbid! (Unless you’re Christopher Nolan). Alleged remakes coming our way in the not too distant future include ‘The Crow’, ‘Dirty Dancing’, ‘Red Dawn’, Mad Max’ and ‘American Psycho’ to name but a few. Coming up we have ‘Total Recall’ and most recently had a complete reboot of ‘Spiderman’, alongside the news that Batman shall potentially be rebooted as soon as 2016. Despite the fact that Hollywood has always had a bit of a penchant for this sort of the thing, surely it’s getting a bit ridiculous?

One reason for the constant rebooting of comic book franchises is to keep it relevant and modern and to prevent the characters and conflicts from becoming outdated. It would seem that Hollywood is taking some inspiration from the traditions of the comic book industry and retroactive continuity or ‘retcons’ –

“On the one hand, the constant change of creative teams keeps a comic book character fresh, as new people bring new ideas to the table, and keep the character relevant and connected to the (at that time) current generation. On the other hand, there is the danger that a prior idea may become outdated, unsustainable over a longer course of storytelling, or was simply born of an era and/or social context that no longer exists. When that happens, comic book creators rely on ‘retcons’ to right (and re-write) the (possibly) outdated aspects.”

There is also the issue of widespread recognition of a certain story or a franchise. Companies can relax when it comes to the investment of an insane amount of money in a certain movie when it is almost guaranteed to rake in some cash, especially if it possesses a blatant nostalgia factor or was a previously successful venture. With the Spiderman reboot there is also the issue of Sony having to keep releasing related media products in order to retain the rights to it. So, essentially most of the reasoning comes back to issues of money, as per usual. It’s not that there are no original ideas left; it’s just that taking such a gamble in something that is truly unique seems to be too frightening a prospect to bigwig producers. Rehashing and investing in guaranteed cash cows like Spiderman and Batman will always be the safer option. And while Christopher Nolan did bring something new to the table with the most recent Batman movies, the alleged future 2016 reboot does sort of undermine everything he has done for the series.

Two future remakes I am rather curious about are Park Chan Wook’s ‘Oldboy’ and Brian De Palma’s ‘Carrie’. Do they even need to be remade? That is a silly question, of course nothing needs to be remade. Nonetheless, with remakes of foreign films, the evident reason for an American version would be the language barrier. Remaking ‘Oldboy’ would sort out the problem of how people with too much of an aversion to reading subtitles would avoid such a film like the plague. It would potentially expose a wider audience to an interesting story. That said the language barrier being a reason for remaking something is a rather infuriating one for lovers of foreign film in the first place. It isn’t at all difficult to read subtitles and hell, what’s so bad about reading?! But less digressing about society’s attitude towards exerting minimal effort. ‘Oldboy’ is based on an 8 volume manga series in Japan and the initial film actually departed drastically from the original storyline. The Hollywood version will only be based on the film so it can’t really be said that it is a different interpretation of the source material. It is understandable to be annoyed by the fact that this is even necessary. There is a sense of pandering somewhat to Western audiences. Perhaps less people are inclined to check out acclaimed foreign films because of the likelihood that there will be an American remake in the future. It does often seem like Hollywood is basically investing in people’s unwillingness to check out something that could be considered as an effort to watch.

No stranger to remakes herself, Chloe Moretz is set to star as Carrie in the remake of the 1976 classic film, based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King. Moretz has been quoted as saying there is a distinct weird, Black Swanesque vibe to the film which does sound interesting. She is a talented young actress no doubt. There is no question that her portrayal of the tormented telekinetic teen could very well rival Sissy Spacek’s own interpretation. What is bothersome about this remake, at least to me, is the fact that they’re not using it as an opportunity cast Carrie in a way that is more faithful to the Carrie described in the original book. I have written before about how films based on books don’t actually need to be a direct adaptation as long as the overall essence of the story is captured on screen; however I do find it difficult to imagine Moretz as such an awkward teen. In the book Carrie is described as chubby, spotty and not in the least attractive. Moretz is pretty damn beautiful. And while Spacek was by no means fat or ugly, she did bring a certain awkward gangliness and anxiety to the role that made it work. I feel as though Moretz is going to have to undergo a serious make under in order to be truly believable in the role.

All things considered, remakes and reboots aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Recently there has definitely been quite a few clear examples of it working, with directors producing works that could very well be deemed as far superior to the original films. All we can do now is hope that the sheer quantity of reboots and remakes coming our way in the new future will be worth our time and money and not just complete rehashes that lack originality and charm.

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