The Rules of the Remake

I think it’s fair to say that Hollywood is so bereft of – or perhaps most tellingly unwilling to take a chance on – new ideas, that any request to cease the endless assembly line of remakes and reboots would instantly fall on deaf ears.

Wealthy deaf ears.

That said though things are obviously getting out of hand, I mean Spiderman is being rebooted less than a decade after Sam Raimi’s perfectly entertaining film version was released. It’s not his fault the directors of both sequels were so misguided and lost any sense of magic created by the first film… oh he directed those too? Oh that’s awkward.

Regardless, might I propose that we adopt a series of basic rules governing the ‘dos’ and ‘do-nots’ of the remake/reboot craze that has inexplicably swept the movie industry since Y2K.

This short series of rules ensures that remakes are made with reasons other than those that rhyme with ta-shing, and will ideally do two more important things;

  1. – ensure that unnecessary remakes don’t taint the memory of films that are already excellent and in no need for enhancement or reimagining.
  2. – allow modern technologies and FX, and a fresh perspective from new blood to create better, more entertaining flicks where no-one can begrudge success and profit.

First let’s look at perfectly logical criteria that might justify a ‘second go’ in the first place.

The Criteria

Instant Green-Light

First and paramount, give the right answer to any one of these four criteria and you have yourself a ‘GO’ project sonny.

1/ Would the original premise benefit from the process?

This might generally apply to B movies and low budget genre films, films that didn’t have the funds, technology or cast to create the film that could have been. Old school horror and futuristic sci-fi seems the most logical genres here, though it’s fair to say that several have been tried out with limited success.

Often these guilty pleasures and largely unknown genre flicks got the core elements right but didn’t quite have the ability or funds to finish the job, a few dollars and the right treatment and there are more potential gems to be found.

The glaring difference here is normally found in the production budget and computer generated effects (CGI), nowadays dollars and some nifty Mac work and you’ve got a totally different film. Hopefully a better one…



If you can answer YES go for it.

2/ Could the original film legally buy a beer by now?

I think a generation passing is sufficient time to warrant another crack at most flicks, this means that for the most part the 80s are fair game. After all there are quite a few films that held appeal at the time for various reasons that simply don’t hold up today.

Films that could use a tune up

  • The Gate
  • Robocop (Apparently on the go.)
  • Warlock
  • Roadhouse
  • Demolition Man (actually anything Stallone appeared in until around 95, that is if you can get to it before Stallone himself).

If you can answer YES go for it.

3/ Is the film about a comic book character or superhero?

If it hasn’t already been perfected… go nuts. What do I care if The Punisher 2014 is worse than The Punisher 2004, or the fact that no-one realises Superman is simply a lame character regardless of how many crappy non-kitsch movies they make? Not my problem.

Comic book movies are meant to be a throwaway laugh, so aside from Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Iron Man have as many cracks as you can find boneheads willing to finance your moronic misguided endeavours (and seriously do you really someone would try a new Batman film in the next decade and risk it being compared to the Nolan trilogy?).

For every 27 Green Lanterns we can only pray for a Blade 2 to bring balance to the universe. Just call me when you fluke a good one.

If you can answer YES go for it.

4/ Was the original film subtitled?

Have to acknowledge it: It can be annoying to ‘read’ a film, especially when there is a lot going on onscreen. I personally don’t mind it 95% of the time, but there is undeniable benefits to be had if the English language adaptation is done right – which it nearly always isn’t…

If you can answer YES go for it.

Think twice before you make any rash decisions.

So we’ve run our idea through the four screens above and so far it’s all ‘NO’s’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to bother coming up with something original – after all who does that these days!?!

No, all it means is that you have a few more filters to consider before you get your answer.

While the ‘Instant Green-Light section required Yes’s, we ideally want to be able to run the table here with a bunch of No’s before we should seriously consider the implications fo proceeding.

5/ Was the original film an undisputed classic?

What value can be created with another ‘The Exorcist’? Will we really benefit from ‘Pulp Fiction 2014’ with Hayden Christensen in the Tim Roth role and Will Ferrell playing against type as this generation’s version of Jules? If a movie can be watched and enjoyed by someone who wasn’t even alive when it was released, there is no reason to remake/reboot/refresh anything. Let them find the movie by themselves…

We want to be able to say NO here.

6/ Did the original make the best of the premise?

Similar to Point 3 really , but this should protect some of the biggest films of the last few decades from crass cash-in exploitation.

Does the world really need new versions of Back to the Future / Lethal Weapon / Rambo / Rocky and Die Hard when there are perfectly effective versions in every uncle’s DVD collection?

I think not. And we might want to wait a few years at least before trying Tower Heist and Real Steel remakes, not because either are classics – far from it – but because it’ll take that long for the taste of bland to disappear.

We want to be able to say NO here.

7/ Does the original feature any of the following:

  1. Steve Martin or Bill Murray.
  2. Jackie Chan – until 2000 (If you can make The Medallion 2013 rock then good luck to you.).
  3. Eddie Murphy – from 1984 to 1990 (Bowfinger is saved from a remake by the presence of Steve Martin. Phew, the system works!).

Where those 4 gents above are concerned, you can’t do it better. Even if you think you can and spend an inordinate amount of time, resources and good old American dollars. You think you’ll do it justice.

You won’t. This one rule singlehandedly saves;

… and over a dozen classic Jackie Chan films from unnecessary tinkering and embarrassment. (Though I’d be interested to see what Tony Jaa might do with say Police Story…)

We want to be able to say NO here.

8/ Was the lead the only guy for the character:

Even if you don’t like the Wayne’s World or Austin Powers films can you really imagine anyone other than Mike Myers in the lead?

There’s a reason that sequels/spin-offs to The Mask, Ace Ventura and Dumb and Dumber failed dismally, Jim Carrey is not easily replaced.

We want to be able to say NO here.

9/ Did the original have a spark that cannot be replicated:

Doesn’t matter if the original was deeply flawed in other ways, you can’t copy a fluke or a film with quirk-value, regardless of how you might try.

Leave ‘em all alone please, even if they’re imperfect they’re fine just as they are.

We want to be able to say NO here.

10/ Was there more than one sequel (that wasn’t straight to VHS/DVD):

Let the ‘franchise’ rest. By all means churn out as many straight to DVD sequels as you can if there is a niche audience for them. But once you have squozen the big-screen juice from the orange you throw the battered and bruised peel away right?

To quote Little Richard “(They) went through the test, (they’re) out of this mess. Be my guest and let (them) rest”.

We want to be able to say NO here.

The Acid Test

OK we’ve laid out the ground rules, let’s take a closer look at a few films already released and some set for 2012 and beyond to see if they are justifiable remakes or brazen cash-grabs:

First let’s look back at the main remakes of 2011:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo * (Review of Original)

An instant Greenlight: The original was in Swedish, plus while I really liked the originals I can see room for improvement, particularly in the two sequels (if they are remade).

I would asterisk this one as I think Noomi Rapace kicked all sorts of foreign language arse as Lisbeth Salander.

Fright Night (Remake Review)

An instant greenlight: The first film was made in 1985, the remake took advantage by revamping the plot a little (see what I did there?).

The Thing (Remake Review)

An instant greenlight: Ordinarily the advancements of CGI should be a no-brainer in bringing 80s B movies into the present day, but if anything The Thing from 1985 had such cutting edge and creative non-CGI effects that the 2011 version just looked like a cheap CGI rip-off.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Remake Review)

A reboot of a reboot that was less than a decade old! This film gets by as the Tim Burton 2001 film was quite ordinary, and because it took the older films and gave them an incredible facelift thanks to the CGI. (I think the sequel should be even better.)

Conan the Barbarian (Remake Review)

An instant greenlight: Not sure if the Conan franchise is actually based on a comic-book or not, but it sure as hell feels like it to me. This wasn’t bad considering how limited the premise is in the first place.

True Grit (Remake Review)

An instant greenlight: Considering the original starred John Wayne and he died in the 70s, I think enough water has passed under the bridge. Another worthwhile quality remake actually.

Let Me In (Remake Review)

An instant greenlight: Again due to the fact that the original was in a foreign language, again it didn’t do much to improve upon the first film aside from the fact that viewers didn’t have to read it. I think at the time I was more happy that they didn’t mess with the plot and characters too much.

Now let’s jump in the DeLorean to look at what is on the horizon for the rest of 2012 and beyond:

Evil Dead (Review of Original)

Look I know that this is over 25 years old but gee whiz this feels like a cash in. I won’t even be silly enough to claim Bruce Campbell made the original – if anything it made him – but messing with an All Time genre classic is grounds for concern.

The Amazing Spiderman (Reboot Review)

I thought the first Sam Raimi effort, disliked the second and loathed the third, but as I say it is a comic-book superhero franchise. Have at it fellas.

(Should the fact that two Sam Raimi films are seen as being fit for a do-over be a concern?)

The Crow (Review of Original)

Another real worry for me. The Crow saw what should have been the launch of Brandon Lee into superstardom but for his tragic death. The original is another genre classic. Be careful guys.

Oldboy (Review of Original)

The first film blew me away even before the twist floored me. Choi Min Sik was all kinds of min-sik here, if anyone ever owned a role it was him. The sad thing is I know I’ll end up watching out of morbid curiosity. Good luck with the hallway hammer scene.

Total Recall (Review of Original)

The 1990 film was a straight up kitsch classic with Arnie in bicep bulging, English butchering form. I can see a remake perhaps being more accomplished and better realised, but I really doubt it will be near as much fun.

Red Dawn (Remake vs Original Review)

The first was so effective because it was so unexpected, a bunch of kids taking on the Red Army was never supposed to become a cult sensation. I think that they can make a better fist of this film, but I doubt they will be able to resist the temptation of filling the cast with reality stars and pretty boys.

Man of Steel

Superman = Superhero (and a crappy one if you ask me), go till you’re blue in the face.

Tomb Raider

Really? Already? Depends on who is in the suit with the nip-nips out. I bet it’s Jolie clone Megan Fox, but I’d probably go if it were Hayley Atwell or Jennifer Lawrence – and what do I mean ‘probably’…


With Godzilla, Dune, Short Circuit, Scarface and Point Break all in the works it seems there will be no end to the remake-madness, and I guess just as they get to the end of that line it will be time to take another crack at Avatar, Inception, The Descent and probably Tomb Raider again.

Time – and box office – will tell…


About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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