October 19, 2009

The Mondays: "I Liked The Original Better"

You've probably said it yourself a time or two, usually after sitting through two hours of rehashed refuse. You liked the first one, heard some good things--or maybe just some good hype--about the remake, and decided to give it a go. But it turns out it was all a ruse by Hollywood, just to get your hard-earned cash in return for suffering at the hands of a dullard director and his derivative drivel. You were duped. We all were.

It's a tricky thing, recycling movies. So tricky, in fact, that it's rarely successful, and causes me to wonder why directors and screenwriters even try. Oh yeah ... the money. Could there be any other reason for the remarkable Steve Martin to wallow in sub-par cinema like The Pink Panther? Or for a charismatic Kurt Russell to render a ramshackle version of Poseidon?

I've always been of the mind that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's an adage lost on Hollywood. It's kind of deplorable that Slumdog Millionaire couldn't get a distributor in North America for the longest time, yet producers were practically selling their mothers down the river to get a piece of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. But, Revenge of the Fallen was a sequel, not a remake. The remakes might be even worse.

A prime example, in my opinion, is Psycho. The original iteration by Alfred Hitchcock is a stroke of genius. Even in the 21st century, the story and the movie hold up. Yet, someone took it upon themselves to produce a new version at the start of this century. I can only guess, for no other reason than the fact that Hitchcock's indelible film was in black and white, a director whose name escapes me saw fit to give us a colorized version. Hell, Ted Turner and his Technicolor dreamcoat could have done that over a long weekend with the stock footage of the first film.

And if daring to tread on a such an iconic piece of cinematic history wasn't enough, the director actually filmed the new movie shot for shot, frame for frame, to the original up until the infamous shower scene. Why? That's like the directorial equivalent to lip syncing. If you're not going to at least give a new twist or take on the subject matter, and you're simply going to copycat the cinematography, aren't you wasting everyone's time? I sure thought so when I watched the movie.

Casting is another big hiccup when it comes to redoing an established movie. I adore Steve Martin's comedic talents, but he is no Peter Sellers. They're styles are so dissimilar. Just as Vince Vaughn is no Rock Hudson--I'm still trying to figure out the rationale for that casting choice. Definitive and proven films are like the proverbial lightening in a bottle. Can you imagine the audacity it would take for someone to attempt a remake of Citizen Kane or Dr. Strangelove? It's unthinkable, yet there is at least one unimaginative filmmaker out there who wants to give it a go. And God only knows who he would cast in those roles immortalized by Orson Wells and Peter Sellers ... perhaps John Goodman and Will Ferrell?

The reason I felt compelled to rant about this was because I recently read online--I know, I know, a grain of salt--that there were plans to remake one of my favorite horror films of all-time, The Thing. No, I say. Don't touch it. Kurt Russell is king, so it doesn't matter who is cast as the bad-ass chopper pilot in the remake because it won't be Kurt Russell. I can already see someone giving it to Vin Diesel.

And you know somethin'? I can't help but accept the irony of consternation about a Thing remake, since it was itself a remake of sorts of a 1960s sci-fi B&W flick. Go figure. Maybe I should just quit while I'm ahead.

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