Remakes are the scourge of Hollywood, a crutch for lazy writers and directors, a simple way for producers to turn a quick buck by betting on a sure thing. There artistic risk is minimal as the previous box office results are there to see – the filmmaking equivalent of tracing.

And just as copies of copies tend to lose their definition, remakes often dilute the original artistic intent. Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita was a brilliantly dark film about an unlikely assassin, but the
sin was that it was filmed in French and had to be subtitled for North American audiences (“eww, reading!) When the movie was remade a few years later we got the sunshiney Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return, turning it into a generic thriller.

The same occurred with the Dutch film The Vanishing, a chilling film about a mysterious disappearance and the obsession of one man’s search for a missing loved one. The ending was so pitch black that when director George Sluizer remade the film in English he was forced to alter the ending, destroying the impact of the film.

This travesty isn’t limited to foreign films. Witness the atrocity that was Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes. Burton is a talented director, but his greatest folly was taking a sci-fi cult fave, dropping millions on it and making it dull and uninteresting. The list goes on – Gus Can Sant’s pointless, shot-for-shot recreation of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho; Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away.

Based on the previous examples – and the legion of others – it seems a slam dunk to say there should be a moratorium on remakes. But it’s not that easy. On the whole, I’ve seen more good remakes than bad. George Clooney & Brad Pitt’s Ocean’s 11 was great fun and full of style. Was it better than the Rat Pack’s version? I don’t know, I didn’t see it. Al Pacino’s Scarface is so well known that few people even realize that it is a remake. Again, I haven’t seen the 1932 Howard Hawks original. Same goes for The Magnificent Seven, a remake of Japanese master Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Should I see the source material? Sure. Have I? No.

And that is the crux of the problem. It is easy to say that everyone should see the original films, that they should forgo the new release sections at their local video store and get to know their film history, but it’s not going to happen. For better or worse, film is not a static art form, where once the images have been committed to celluloid they remain untouched and treasured for all time. Much like plays are reinterpreted year after year, films of the past will always be a source for its present.

A bad remake can destroy an original vision, but the best remakes can rescue good stories from obscurity. If remakes are must be made (and it appears that they are) perhaps the best we can hope for is that directors don’t plunder the classics, but help repair flawed work. It’s a long shot, but there is always hope.

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The task at hand is to determine whether a moratorium shall exist where Hollywood Remakes would be either disallowed or limited by some length of time between the original and the remake. If time limits were determined, who shall preside over the implementation and enforcement of said limits. Before such decisions can be made, our case and ruling is hereby presented for the Court’s review.

Emotions in Motion
Just like musical covers, film remakes evoke strong emotions in those who fell in love with the original presentation of the artwork. Even video game remakes illicit rousing discussion, as exhibited in Kotaku’s Great Debate of 2007: Remaking the popular video game Speedball 2. So one might presume that a pop culture judge for instance, who experienced their own coming of age during the John Hughes heyday of the 1980s, might have certain emotions attached to those films that would render him or her incapable of coming to an unbiased ruling. However we are here to set those emotions aside and weigh the arguments to a final decision.

The Good the Bad and the Unnecessary
Like all movies, remakes come in varying degrees of quality. Cinematical writer Bob Sassone has compiled a very convincing list of seven remakes that he deems better than their original counterparts. This analysis makes a strong case in support of the remake: you might end up with something better. However, most remakes are mediocre or worse than awful, they’re completely unwatchable. Fortunately, taste in films is individual and varied and thus we are not here to debate the quality of a remake but rather its ability to exist in the first place, bad or good.

Anything You Can Do I can Do in Color
Another argument for direct remakes is the advancements cinematic technology. CGI and Color are impactful and compelling draws for the younger movie-going generations. See illustration labeled Exhibit C (for color and CGI). These young movie fans are surrounded by color and effects and have been since birth. For these fans it is a difficult challenge to be forced to imagine the color and realistic effects into a film. It distracts them from checking email and texting while watching a movie. Therefore they cannot enjoy the experience as much as they would when the color and explosions have been pre-placed in the film. Hollywood Studios and their wallets production teams know this and have taken a strong stance vowing to remake any film that doesn’t meet today’s technological standards.

Exhibit C
happyteen

Great American Profiteering (GAP)
Remakes are good for the economy. Just like shopping! Imagine if you will, the tens of thousands of tween girls cruising MySpace, deprived of any prior knowledge of film and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn. We’re talking about a generation of girls left without an Audrey Hepburn Myspace page layout. It is simply an American tragedy. Left to their own devices they might be forced to use Julia Roberts for their MySpace page layouts, who’s not even dead and was never even filmed in black and white. Unless you were to include that pathetic Frankenstein movie which you really shouldn’t. Totally not cool.

The remake of Sabrina in 1994, starring Juliet Binoche and Greg Kinnear inspired millions of future MILFs to seek out the original film starring Audrey Hepburn. Years later after having spent their own tween years sketching Audrey Hepburn on their Pee Chee folders and wearing pencil thin black leggings, these “cool moms” passed this knowledge onto their daughters. And thus the MySpace Audrey Hepburn page layout revolution. So, like totally cool.

Now take all of those MILFs and tweens and recall the GAP ad featuring Audrey Hepburn dancing to Back in Black [exhibit G].

Exhibit G

One could argue that had there not been a Sabrina remake in color, that campaign would have failed even more miserably. In 2002, Harry Knowles of Ain’t it Cool News reported that Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart were negotiating the purchase rights to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and planning to take on the lead roles themselves in what would surely have been hotly debated remake. Nothing has come of that rumor but imagine the impact would have had on sales at the Gap. OMG.

Final Judgment Day
Having taken into consideration the previous analysis and the economic impact of Hollywood Remakes, we have come to our decision in support of the Hollywood Remake. Remember, you don’t have to watch the remake, and it may draw new fans to the original. That being said, regardless of our final ruling here today, we would like to communicate this message to the studios in Hollywood: please keep your grimy money-hungry paws away from the John Hughes films, and Pretty Woman and When Harry Met Sally.

Should there be a moratorium on direct remakes in Hollywood?

When talking about the lack of original ideas left in Hollywood, most people tend to cite the flood of remakes that seem to hit cinemas on a fairly regular basis. From The Getaway to The Longest Yard, it seems as though Hollywood just can’t seem to make the remake work — but is that really true?

People are too quick to cite examples of bad remakes and tend to gloss over all of the good over the years. As well, people tend to neglect how much of our television media has successfully remade British programming over the years. From Three’s Company to The Office, a great majority of successful US sitcoms are direct remakes of BBC productions. Two of my most anticipated new shows over the next few years will be the US remakes of The Thick of It and Life on Mars — two of the best shows on TV anywhere in the world, being remade for American TV by Mitchell Hurwitz and David E. Kelly respectively.

Considering the appeal of the different US and UK markets, one could argue many of these shows are adaptations rather than remakes. They may be right, but does it matter? Is there really that big a difference between a remake and an adaptation? Aren’t they both just different approaches by different artists on the same material? Does it really matter if the medium differs? And can you really place a moratorium on one without placing it on the other? If we do go so far as to place remakes and adaptations in the same boat, we would have never had recent classics like Sin City or A History of Violence, not to mention big budget films like Harry Potter or the Batman franchise. Placing a moratorium on one creates a slippery slope in which remaking any form of media into a film could be placed in jeopardy.

In the end, it really comes down to one simple fact — Hollywood makes good movies and bad movies, and judging by the evidence at hand it would seem that the ratio of good to bad is no different with remakes than it is with any other niche. The only thing a moratorium would accomplish is limiting the exposure a younger generation has to classics of the past (or world cinema) that they otherwise may never have explored. Some remakes may be better than the originals (The Thing, Scarface, Dawn of the Dead) and some will be worse (The Departed, The Omen, Psycho) — but they’re all films that can be judged on their own merits — and gaining exposure to a different take on a familiar story can be just as fascinating as a film with a completely original story.

Should Hollywood place a moratorium on film remakes? In other words, should filmmakers be forced to wait a certain number of years after a movie’s release before they’re allowed to remake it?

I firmly believe that such a moratorium would do little to address the actual problem we face today: putting a stop to awful, ill-conceived Hollywood remakes. I believe that the number of years that transpire between the release of a movie and its eventual remake has little or nothing to do with how well the remake turns out. Instead, the success of any film remake is the product of the skill and vision of the creative forces involved and the quality of the source material itself.

That’s not to say that remaking an earlier film is usually a good idea. MSN Movies’ list of the worst remakes of all time drives home that point rather clearly. Remaking a television show into a semi-watchable movie is even more difficult, as demonstrated in
AOL Television’s list of the eleven worst movies based on TV shows.

Do terrible film remakes like 1998’s Godzilla starring Matthew Broderick (Rotten Tomatoes score: 25%), 2002’s Swept Away starring Madonna (Rotten Tomatoes score: 5%), or 1998’s Psycho starring Vince Vaughn (Rotten Tomatoes score: 37%) suggest that Hollywood should implement a mandatory waiting period between a film and its remake? No, they do not. Time is a red herring; poor filmmaking is the true culprit.

Consider Sam Raimi’s cult classic, The Evil Dead (1981). For all intents and purposes, Raimi remade this film as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn six years later and improved on the original in almost every way imaginable. Yes, many fans still maintain that Evil Dead 2 is a sequel rather than a remake. If you ask me, though, when a director makes two movies in a row that feature the same main character going to an abandoned cabin in the woods where he battles various demonic forces with a chainsaw after someone inadvertently unleashes them by reading from the Necronomicon, that sounds an awful lot like remake. The point is, however, that Raimi waited only six years before remaking The Evil Dead, yet the remake turned out significantly better than the original. Consider also The Magnificent Seven, released a mere six years after Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

On the other hand, Peter Jackson’s King Kong was released a full 72 years after 1933’s King Kong. With a little over seven decades of turnaround between the original film and its remake, even as skilled a filmmaker as Peter Jackson was unable to create a movie that didn’t suck monkey ass. Waiting an extra ten years or even an extra fifty years isn’t the answer. Making a decent film — remake or not — is the answer.

For every regrettable remake like 2004’s Alfie or The Stepford Wives, there’s a worthwhile effort like 1991’s Cape Fear or 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven. Time, however, is not the driving force.

Therefore, Hollywood should not place a moratorium on film remakes as it would not address the actual problem of craptastic retreads of old favorites. Instead, Hollywood should consider instituting a system of harsh punishments for filmmakers who release bad remakes. I’m thinking maybe repeated forced viewings of Tim Burton’s “reimagined” Planet of the Apes and Ron Howard’s live-action version of The Grinch. Then again, that probably violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Hollywood seems to like making two types of movies, the Sequels and the Remakes. Remakes are generally seen in a negative light, and many people see them as Hollywood running out of ideas. Some feel that remakes do a disservice to what made the original movie so entertaining. However, I don’t believe writers should be held back from making a remake of an older movie. There have been a few remade movies that have ended up equal or better than the original.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I found the remake a little more entertaining than the original.

The Longest Yard: Not as good and toned down from its R-rated counterpart, but still an okay movie.

The Departed: A remake of a Hong Kong film. Different than the Hong Kong one.

Ocean’s 11: Much better than the rat pack version.

Yet, I fully understand why people aren’t too warm about remakes. For every good remake, there are five bad ones in the wing. The Amityville Horror, Poseidon, The Stepford Wives, are prime examples. The new Planet of the Apes is devoid of any of the political subplots that old movie had, which also made it special.

While I think there should be less remakes in general, I don’t think we need to tie the creative people’s hands on making them.

So, I am going to vote no on the moratorium. But, I’ll must make these statements.

1.

2. Make the movie as interesting as possible without changing storyline completely.

3. Don’t make it a complete shot for shot remake; throw a neat twist to it.

Here’s small list of movies some people felt were better than the original. http://www.movie-remakes.com/film_cat_list.asp?id_c=3

Here are a few remakes coming out.

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Barbarella

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Fame

Hairspray

The question of remakes has been long-discussed elsewhere. The evidence against them is apparent in any number of films made as more or less direct copies of older films, an onslaught that seems to grow every year. But I’ve chosen to focus on just one case against: the 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the 2003 remake of said film.

The original version is a true classic of horror in the best grindhouse tradition. For the first half of the film, nothing much happens, except for characters just talking and yelling and fighting. Some kids on their way to a concert get lost in rural Texas, and stop to use a phone. One unlucky soul wanders into someone’s house… and suddenly, a tall man with a mask made of human flesh and a butcher’s smock walks out from behind a metal sliding door, knocks him in the head with a wooden mallet and, like a butcher with a dead pig, pulls him into a blood-stained room. The door slams shut behind them.

And even with the bits of weirdness we’ve seen so far, we’re left to wonder.

What the hell just happened?

That kind of unease is not only what drives the movie; it’s the entire point of the movie. Not the violence—what there is of it; you think you see a lot more than you actually do—but the intense schism between what we know as the mundane of the every day and the sudden randomness of cruelty and terror. In a sense, the film has no real plot, not in a sense that the plot tells a story. It’s fairly simple grindhouse stuff: some kids talk for 45 minutes, then something weird happens, and the last 45 minutes are intense as, for lack of a better word, a monster chases the victims until one of them gets away. There’s no real story there; it’s just action.

But the movie is about something, and it’s much deeper than monster chases pretty girl. It’s about violence. It’s about horror. It is a reaction to the mood of America in 1974, trying desperately to get out of Vietnam and reacting to the tense mood of the country. The death of the sense of brotherhood and togetherness of the sixties was occurring, and it was being replaced with something more selfish and, at the same time, more fearful. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in 1974, said that even in the American heartland, we are not always safe. We can’t walk into someone’s house and treat them in a cavalier manner, because we never know what’s hiding behind the door. And that is the terrifying truth at the heart of the film’s horror.

 

Jumping ahead three decades, the remake of the film is released. The plot is essentially the same, but the effect is completely different. Knowing that the audience is at least passingly familiar with the original movie, the filmmakers try to up the ante by having strange things happen earlier. But they don’t seem to know anything about the grindhouse structure, and telegraph their scares with moody music and overwrought production design. The film simply tries too hard to shock.

The remake also falls straight into one of the problems I have with current American cinema: they explain too much and feel too little. So the film tries to come up with an origin for the monsters, but can’t sell it because of the lack of genuine character in the film. The people in this story are really here to be moved around by the conventions of the action film genre. Which is fine, if you can make it work; the original film was much the same, but conveyed a feeling and made a social point simply by the fact that the film was so genuine. The remake is slick and cynically made to be merely a popcorn movie. It is a commercial enterprise, and all that entails. Nothing more; nothing special; nothing memorable. And there are no surprises.

Ultimately, the remake fails because it trades horror for cruelty. There is a meanness of spirit to it. The film is no longer about anything; America, people, or otherwise. It barely resembles the original, so why even bother calling it a remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Disassociation wouldn’t make it a better movie, but it would at least give the illusion that the filmmakers set out to make something that wasn’t merely a copy for the sake of money.

And overwhelmingly, this is the reason why I have to decide that direct remakes should be disallowed in American filmmaking. They trade on a familiar property to make some quick cash, and the few films that actually add something or tell a genuine story are lost in the shuffle or tainted by association with inferior remakes. And with remakes of nearly every truly good horror and science fiction film of the 1970s and early 1980s planned, the future of filmgoing is looking bleak indeed. No wonder more and more of us are staying at home and watching our DVDs of the originals.

Remakes are the bane of the current Hollywood system, and with every passing year, the glut of recycled and modernized versions is slowly destroying our culture. Now I am not talking about movies that take an old tale and reforge for a new setting and audience, like for instance O Brother, Where Art Thou’s take on The Odyssey. No, I am talking exclusively about the direct remake, because let’s face it, for every Ocean’s Eleven or The Thing, there are five remakes like The Wicker Man, Alfie or Planet of the Apes.

And the onslaught of remakes is getting worse year after year, as the studios rely on these kinds of movies as safe investments. They choke out the flower of original thought from being developed by the studios much like weeds and with the power of those same studios and theatre chains behind them, for every remake that is produced, that is money that doesn’t go into original production. And it is getting to the point where even relatively recent independent films are starting to be remade as star vehicles, like 1992’s Meet the Parents, which was transformed into a Ben Stiller/Robert DeNiro blockbuster just 8 years later. And one would think that will television being less hospitable for writers because of reality programming there would have been a net increase in the breadth and quality of cinematic writing, but that has not been the case.

It is true the argument can be made that throughout the history of the arts, certain stories get told over and over again, and it is a totally valid argument. But at the same time, these stories were propagated in societies that produced a wide variety of original thought and expression, whereas the current crop of remakes are quite frankly creatively bankrupting our collective cultural experience. And it isn’t like this is a recent problem, as one only has to look back on 1976’s King Kong to understand that, or the fact that in the past 100 years, there have been 7 versions of Brewster’s Millions. Seven. Did there need to be seven version of this same story? I don’t think so. Granted, I can imagine young entertainment writers in the 1950’s and 60’s lamented about the fact that the major studios were remaking Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments with cutting edge technology, even though in many cases, the parties remaking these films were the original filmmakers themselves.

There is a certain arrogance that these filmmakers have to have, especially when they set out to remake a film that is either a classic or has a cult status, to think that they can somehow bring something new to these projects. For example, Gus Van Sant must have just been full of hubris when he took on the task of remaking Psycho shot-by-shot, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s classics, or Tim Burton believing he could somehow erase the memory of the original iconic Planet of the Apes with his own tepid effort. Yes, there are those rare occasions when a second look at material provided room for it to develop into a better story, but what usually happens is a ham-fisted production that is often devoid those elements which made the original what it was.

But my problem with this phenomenon goes further than that. When you look at the history of filmmaking, yes, there were almost always remakes, but the ratio of these kinds of films to original work was much more balanced. Think about it… if you compare how many remakes were being made even 10 years ago and the output today, it is quite startling. Using lists compiled at Wikipedia to come up with a rough estimate for remakes scheduled for this year vs. those released in the year 1997, the ratio comes out to 35:21, a 66% increase More than a few of those titles in 1997 were television productions as well, and if factored into that rough calculation, today’s remake output is nearly double that of a decade ago. At this early date, the totals for 2008 are already up to 14 in development or production, with almost 18 months left until 2009, so this trend looks likely to continue.

There are two things that happen when you see a bad remake of an earlier movie you haven’t seen. Either you want to see the source material to see what the current cast and crew were imbibing when they agreed to do the awful remake or you are forever soured to that storyline entirely. But I worry not so much about myself, because, let’s face it, I’m a big boy and I can look after myself. No… I worry about the children. I mean, if all they ever get to see are crappy remakes, how will they ever know quality cinematic entertainment? Even though a lot of the movies that are being remade now weren’t A-List material to begin with, they still collectively represent a sizable part of our shared pop cultural heritage.

So on the question of “should there be a moratorium on remakes”, there is only one way I can answer? Absolutely, because if we don’t stop them now, they will soon come after every movie we ever loved. They are already coming for Clash of the Titans, Escape from New York, Adventures in Babysitting, The Birds and Logan’s Run. How many more of the movies we loved as children and young adults must be sullied by inferior remakes?