Attack of the remakes



by Cory Stringer

Many movie goers are beginning to wonder if there are any original ideas left in Hollywood at all.

In recent years, audiences have been offered an increasingly heavy diet of remakes, reboots and re-imaginings.

The vast majority of these remakes don’t measure up to the original films, but that doesn’t mean that Hollywood plans to stop the tidal wave any time soon.

As a matter of fact, the major studios are pressing forth with an even more ambitious slate of remakes and reboots of such classics as: Lethal Weapon, Total Recall, Spider-Man, The Wild Bunch, The Dirty Dozen, Frankenstein, Godzilla, Cleopatra, Annie and many, many more.

While a healthy portion of the movie-going audience looks at that list and prepare for unnecessary remakes, a studio executive can look at the same list and see what others in boardrooms all over Hollywood see: a safe bet.

Although critics and audiences complain, the fact remains that even a widely panned remake can make a healthy bundle of money out of the gate before plummeting in its second week of release. By that point, assuming the film was made cheaply enough, it will have already made most of its production budget back, leaving the studio with a good, old-fashioned cash grab at the box office. In other words…easy money.

Film industry journalist and author Nicole Laporte recently explained the “safe bet” mindset of the Hollywood studios.

“Whether the film is good or not, your marketing is done,” Laporte said. “People know what it’s about. The overall sense is that if you do these kinds of pictures right, you will still make money.”

That may sound cynical, but it’s true. Otherwise, Hollywood wouldn’t be doing so many remakes.  In fact, with the budgets of the average major studio film coming in at a minimum $100 million, and the profits from DVD sales continuing to fall, the major studios will undoubtedly continue to play it safe by going through their vast back catalogs looking for more classics to repackage.

The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart’s immortal 1941 noir classic was actually the second remake of the original film. Third time was definitely the charm here.

The Thing

Utilizing claustrophobic sets, an amazing cast of character actors led by Kurt Russell, and the unmatched FX work of Rob Bottin, John Carpenter’s chilling 1982 remake of the schlocky 1950’s sci-fi classic raised the bar for remakes.

The Wizard of Oz

Released in 1939, the Judy Garland classic easily triumphed over the various silent film versions that came before it, becoming so entrenched in the public’s consciousness in the process, that many people aren’t even aware that it was a remake.

The Fugitive

The Harrison Ford action classic took the basic premise of the original TV series from the 1960s, and improved upon it in every conceivable way, earning co-star Tommy-Lee Jones an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

The Departed

Directed by Martin Scorsese, this 2006 crime epic is one of the few remakes to ever win the Academy Award for both Best Picture and Best Directing.

True Grit

Doing what few ever dared to do, remake an iconic John Wayne western, the writing and directing team of Joel and Ethan Coen did what many considered impossible: They outdid the Duke.