The issues surrounding remakes has been discussed throughout the blogosphere for years and in traditional media even before that, and as such, they seemed to be an ideal subject to adjudicate.

Each justice has presented their own set of arguments regarding the above question, and we as a court have come to a decision regarding the subject at hand.

By a vote of 6 to 3, the court has decided that there should be no Moratorium on remakes in Hollywood, despite their flaws.

Concurring: Nikki, Jim, Jess, Jeremy, Heidi, James
Dissenting: Becca, Aaron, Matt

Presenting the Majority position will be Justice Nikki and presenting the dissenting opinion on this subject will be Justice Becca.

The Majority Position:

To propose there should be a moratorium on movie remakes would suggest that the problem with movie remakes is not leaving enough time between the original and the remake. But timing is not the issue — a movie remake can be successful, depending on the remake director’s respect of the original film, understanding of the concepts and themes behind it, willingness to put his or her own spin on it, and a possible involvement with the people who made the original. I’ve considered four categories of film and chosen a good remake and a bad one (in my opinion) to show that timing really has nothing to do with how good or bad a remake is going to be.

I should preface this by saying that generally I hate remakes, and therefore I’ve never seen many of these movies, but I’m going by critical reaction as opposed to mine. I believe most movie remakes are unnecessary, though there have been a few excellent exceptions. (And the same goes for television; while most American versions of British shows are terrible, The Office remains one shining example of one that worked. And Battlestar Galactica, a remake of a 1978 short-lived series, is one of the best things on television.) But for the most part, choosing film remakes that I hated was easy; choosing good ones was a lot more difficult.

The idea behind most sci-fi film remakes is usually that the special effects are now better than they were before, so it will necessarily make the movie better. (See George Lucas’s original Star Wars and his updated versions in the 90s to see how that idea can be total crap.)

Didn’t work:
Planet of the Apes (1968), with its bad costumes, campy premise, and overacting, is nonetheless a sci-fi classic. Its impact on popular culture is immeasurable, and that twist ending is one of the greatest climaxes in cinema. (It’s no surprise that Rod Serling played such a big role in it.) So why do a second version of it? For his 2001 version, Tim Burton knew that fans would know the twist, so it’s not like he could shock us with it. He knew how revered it was, spawning sequels, action figures, and a cult following rivaling that of Star Trek, so he couldn’t be looking to shed light on a previously overlooked movie. Burton simply had the ego to think he could do it again, and do it better. And he was wrong. The twist at the end was completely different, yet very much the same, and I still remember the moans of “oh COME ON” that came from the audience when that ending happened.

War of the Worlds (1953 & 2005), on the other hand, took a movie that was similarly revered, but rather archaic, and made it new. The special effects were spectacular, the psychological horror and suspense were thrilling, and the story was engaging. Of course, it had a typical Spielberg ending, but hey, the guy can NOT do endings (see A.I. for the perfect example of an atrocious ending that killed a brilliant movie). While I have not actually seen the original, most of the reviews at the time said Spielberg’s version trumped it by a long shot.

Foreign remakes are common, and are a special category because they’re usually different interpretations of the same film, and can often be quite successful. Plus, for most of the mainstream audiences going to films, they don’t want to make that effort to read subtitles, so a Hollywood actor will translate it for them.

City of Angels (1998), starring Nicholas Cage, was a remake of Wim Wenders’ genius Wings of Desire (1987), a gorgeous film with the idea of everyone having angels (albeit morose and depressing ones) on our shoulders. Cage, as usual, overacted his way through it, it watered down the premise, and of course, it lacked that long scene in the bar at the end of the Wenders film where the angel has a very long monologue about life and death and everything in between.

That’s why:
The Ring (2002) was one of the most successful horror films of all time. Based on the similarly successful Japanese film Ringu (1998), The Ring was terrifying for its suspense and psychological mindfraks. Little easter eggs were stuck throughout the film, such as a single frame of film of a ring that flashed during an otherwise boring scene, and the imagery was enough to give nightmares to even the most diehard horror fan. This is another film where I haven’t seen the original, but many friends of mine did and said it wasn’t nearly as frightening as the U.S. remake.

Comedy remakes are usually done to showcase the talents of a single actor. Someone who has made their name in comedy — often physical comedy — thinks they can take on some of the great films, and they’re usually doomed to a lot of finger-pointing and derision.

This is a comedy?:
The Pink Panther (2006) was just baffling. A remake of the Peter Sellers gem A Shot in the Dark (1964), which is one of the funniest films of all time (disagree with me on that… I dare you), it was one of those trailers that when you first saw it in the theatre, your jaw dropped in shock and horror. Steve Martin… what has happened to you?! You used to be awesome, and you haven’t lost it — Bowfinger is one of my favourite films EVER — but then you have the balls to go and think you can top Sellers’ performance? Are you kidding me?! I’m THRILLED to say I didn’t see this one.

The Nutty Professor (1996 & 1962) was originally a Jerry Lewis film (barf) and while it was immensely popular, Eddie Murphy’s remake was funnier. I know this is one several people might disagree with me on, but I thought it was funny, and Murphy made it his own by coming up with the idea of playing most of the roles. Of course, he should have stopped there, but the guy has no filter in his brain, so now we’re subjected to disasters like Norbit. But I like to think of him as the OTHER guy in Bowfinger… The movie was not only funny, but it had Jerry Lewis on board collaborating, so the remake showed respect to the original while still making it seem like its own.

Classics are remade just because producers believe “kids nowadays” won’t watch a black and white film. They could be right, but it’s the classic remakes that tend to get people’s undershorts in a tight bunch. There are very few exceptions to the awfulness and unnecessary nature of these films, but one is a standout.

Psycho (1998 & 1960). I don’t really need to say much here. Gus Van Sant — the ego to end all egos — filmed this movie shot for shot, right down to the second. Scenes were timed and reshot if they went a millisecond over Hitchcock’s original. In other words, it was remade only as an exercise in technical proficiency, and comes off that way. I’ve only seen part of it, and had to shut it off in disgust. Shame on Vince Vaughn for agreeing to this garbage.

Cape Fear (1991 & 1962), on the other hand, is a lesson in brilliant filmmaking. The movie stands on its own, is riveting, and Robert De Niro turns in one of the performances of his career. It’s very much like the original, and many scenes are almost exactly the same, but Scorsese had an immense love of the original, and wanted to pay homage while making it his own. He rarely wavers from what the original movie did. Where Psycho comes off as a lesson in futility, Cape Fear — which used even the same music as the original film — somehow made audiences just want to see the original to compare it. Was Max Cady as creepy and perverted in the original as he was here? Was the tension the same, or has it been modernized? It took a special kind of director to pull that one off, and Scorsese managed it.

What does all of this show? Cape Fear had 29 years between films; Psycho had 38 — Van Sant waited longer, and the wait did him no good.

The Nutty Professor took 34 years to get to a remake; The Pink Panther took 42. Again, Murphy’s version came out sooner, but was better.

City of Angels had only 11 years between the original and the remake, where The Ring had a mere 4.

Only in the first instance does the idea of a moratorium hold weight: it took Spielberg 52 years to improve on the classic, where Burton waited only 33. Perhaps when it comes to sci-fi, waiting slightly longer really does make the movie better, since the goal simply seems to be improving on the technology of the first one. That said, if someone remade The Matrix 50 years from now, there’s no way they could improve on it, new technology or no.

Therefore, in the end, I believe a moratorium would have no impact on improving remakes. Bad remakes usually come down to large egos involved, whereas good remakes are ones where the new movies respect and refer back to the originals. A ban on egos would be a hard one to pull off, because if I were a bettin’ woman, I would have said Murphy’s movie would have been terrible based on what we know about him, but it wasn’t. But the timing between the original and the remake would have no impact.

My ruling is no.

The Dissenting Opinion:

A few weeks ago some of us bloggers got together and decided to create a blog to discuss and present our opinions on a variety of pop culture topics. We’ve decided to call our group The Pop Culture Supreme Court and much like the real world counterpart we will use precedent, experience and opinion to reach group decisions.

The first question we have decided to discuss is the following: Should there be a moratorium on direct remakes in Hollywood?

Before jumping into an immediate opinion…something I find myself doing far too often in the real world…I tried to consider all sides of the question, the pros and cons as it were of film remakes in Hollywood.

There have been a lot of movie remakes in Hollywood going as far back as the silent era right on up to today; they’ve remade silents into talkies, classics into moderns and foreign cinema into big budget American popcorn flicks. In fact if Hollywood can get the rights to remake a film they’ve probably done it. Arts & Entertainment has an interesting piece on remakes, what qualifies as a remake and what does not.

John Huston one of American Cinema’s greatest filmakers once said “Don’t remake good movies, remake bad ones!” but was he right? Let’s explore the possible reasons why a remake should be made:

1. To improve upon the original.
Angela Coleman thinks the only time someone chooses to remake a movie is for lack of personal creativity but that said there have been many instances where a new take on old material has given us a great movie…King Kong, The Mummy, Freaky Friday. But for every good remake there are 4 or 5 bad ones…Planet of the Apes, War of the Worlds, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thomas Crown Affair The Hutch Report has the theory that the “copy usually isn’t as good as the original and most of the time Hollywood remakes popular television shows and old movies because there is less risk of failure when a proven idea is recreated once again.” Perhaps that’s true and the recognition factor clearly had something to do with the movie’s success.

Of course there is something else to take into consideration when you are remaking an older film: society changes. People change as time does the same and ideals, perception, relationship roles and standards all change. Is a story from 40 years ago still relevant, does translate to today? A good example of changing a films story to match societal changes is the 1978 remake of 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and then the 1993 remake just called Body Snatchers. All three movies changed their story and characters to make it relevant to the era’s current societal beliefs and problems. In 1956 it was a communist allegory, in 1978 it was an attack on the selfishness of the me generation and the 1993 version focused on conformity and militarism. These are three films that did it right, there are many more that haven’t.

2. To see a new actor/ writer/ director’s take on pre-existing material.
On the surface of things this always seems like it will be a good idea to see a talented individual whom you appreciate take on pre-existing material but Kurt Russell had an interesting quote in Entertainment Weekly on the proposed Escape From New York remake “I didn’t play Snake Plissken. I created him!” and to me that is the final word on the matter. I don’t know of one instance where an actor was able to adequately recreate or rein vision a role enough to blow the original out of the water or even equal it. For example Gene Wilder will always trump Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, Sean Bean is a great actor but how can he compete with the menacing Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher. So on and so forth…

3. To modernize the look of the film, add new effects, make the story more current.
asipreynccce suggests that modern effects cannot create the same magic that the original held and I have to agree with that. Like any movie remake or no it comes down to the story not the effects. If you don’t have a good story then you don’t have a good movie. Would a CGI Kraken make Clash of the Titans any better a movie? Ultimately no.

4. To take a foreign film and explore how the story would unfold in our culture as opposed to theirs.
In theory taking a foreign movie and adapting it to American societal ideas is intriguing but rarely are English remakes of foreign films good movies. The Japanese cultural horror film Ringu became the fatuous and ridiculously boring The Ring. The riotous yet emotionally adult La Cage Au Folles became the over the top, silly and childish The Birdcage which scored a. The hilarious, again French, Les Visiteurs en Amérique with Jean Reno and Christian Clavier became the mediocre Just Visiting oddly enough it also starred Jean Reno and Christian Clavier; but even with the same actors in the leading roles this movie could not soar any higher than run of the mill comedy. Hollywood should just stay away from foreign remakes.

So taking the previous statements into consideration I would say yes there should be a short moratorium on direct Hollywood remakes, The Moratorium Would even take that further saying lat out says Hollywood should take a 20 year break from remakes. “Walk into any bookstore and you could spend a life time going thru all the DIFFERENT stories. Why are they not adapting more books into movies? I’ll tell you why. LAZY. Why should I go thru the hassle when I can just take some funny 70’s movie and just throw some big stars in it and be done with it? ”

Ultimately the few entertaining remakes that we enjoy do not justify the mountain of terrible ones that torture us and I would say that most of my fellow bloggers agree with me.

For more on remakes visit Movie Remakes a website dedicated to movie remakes of all types good and bad.