Reinventing the Reel

28-Aug-07 12:53 PM by
Filed under Films; 6 comments.

"Twentieth Century Fox has set Keanu Reeves to star in The Day the Earth Stood Still, its re-imagining of the 1951 Robert Wise-directed sci-fi classic." Story continues at Variety.

I've never quite understood (from a critical, not business, perspective) Hollywood's proclivity for remaking classic films, as it seems to be a formula for failure. When a seminal movie defines an era or genre, not only does it set a nigh-unreachably high standard, it also defies the need for reinvention. What could a remake do that the original did not? Has a remake ever surpassed its source? Instead, directors should take quality concepts with flawed executions and bring out the potential that was previously unrealized. They can't do it any worse, can they? Granted, remaking Clonus into The Island wasn't the most brilliant display of strategery. But I, Robot could've been either a good Isaac Asimov adaptation or a good Will Smith sci-fi action thriller — two good concepts which drowned each other in execution. Pick one, remake it, and you might have a single good film.

As for the specific remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, Star Trek author Dayton Ward has already envisioned a worst-case scenario better than I could, so I'll leave the acerbic commentary to him.

6 Responses to “Reinventing the Reel”

  1. GeneD adds:

    Although I agree that many movie remakes are unnecessary, there are some that are as good or better than the originals, such as The Blob, The Fly, Little Shop of Horrors, Scarface, The Thing, and Zorro.

    Interestingly, many of the worst remakes are poor adaptations of the source material (like I, Robot), too close to the prior version (Psycho), or not faithful enough (Godzilla). Horror movies tend to be remade most often, probably followed by romantic comedies.

    A good remake is faithful to the spirit of the source material and freshens the story and cinematography (including effects and pacing) for a new generation. Some classics can't be improved upon (despite its dated effects, Jaws might be one example), while others (like the works of Shakespeare) can be adapted multiple times.

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  2. Dayton Ward adds:

    As I said in comments at my own blog, I'm not opposed to the notion of remakes in general, for many of the same reasons "GeneD" already stated. I count The Fly and The Thing among the SF remakes I hold up as favorite films, along with non-genre flicks such as The Fugitive and Ocean's Eleven.

    The recent mindset for remakes (as well as updating some TV show from the 70s) is to make it virtually unidentifiable when compared to the source material. Whether that means turning something into a comedy spoof or whatever, that sort of approach always disappoints me.

    On the other hand, I am really looking forward to I Am Legend, which looks to be its own serious take on the original novel, rather than a remake of either of the previous two adaptations.

    What will be interesting to see in this case is if it's an actual update/remake of the original TDTESS, or a new take on the short story from which it was adapted ("Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates).

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  3. Ken Gagne adds:

    There are two slightly different but equally complicated creatures here: adaptations and remakes. (And that's not counting unnecessary sequels.) I briefly blogged about adapting existing properties to film, noting that TV shows, comic books, and video and board games have all been made into good films often enough to deny any rule of thumb.

    Remakes, though, are a different matter. As noted on your blog, some people actually believe black-and-white movies need to be remade into color. It's a sadly mistaken belief that "old" and "good" are mutually exclusive.

    As for I Am Legend, Angela Gunn and I are trying to figure out a security or tech angle so that we can review it for Computerworld. I've read two other books by the author, though not this one, nor have I seen the two previous film adaptations. I hope that, rather than being uninformed, I can view this adaptation with an open mind and a fresh perspective.

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  4. Dayton Ward adds:

    The original I Am Legend novel has been one of my favorites since I first read it in grade school. It's been recently re-released ahead of the upcoming film, so if you're of a mind, give it a go. The new book actually includes the novel (which is rather short) and several Matheson short stories. I think it's one of those stories that can be adapted/updated and done well. From what I've seen so far, this looks to be an update that remains faithful to the original story, and I confess to being a Will Smith fan for both his comedic and dramatic roles, so I have high hopes.

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  5. Ken Gagne adds:

    Here's the trailer for the new The Day the Earth Stood Still:

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  6. Dayton Ward adds:

    Dagnabbit. YouTube pulled it down before I could see it.

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