Why does Hollywood love remakes so much? If I tell you there’s a remake of Brian De Palma’s classic Scarface in the works, I guarantee your reaction will be something along the lines of “But the original’s so good, why would you need to remake it? How could you even think of replacing Al Pacino? You couldn’t even make a film like that these days, they’ll turn it into some sterile piece of nothing starring Shia Lebeouf as Tony Montana and with Rihanna instead of Michelle Pfeiffer. I definitely won’t be seeing that.” And yet… someone must be watching these damn films or else they wouldn’t be remaking Scarface. I wasn’t joking. It’s actually happening.
Supposedly there’s less risk in doing a remake of an old classic. If people loved it before, they’ll love it again right? That seems to be the logic. But I only need direct you to Colin Farrell’s attempt at replacing the mighty Arnold in Total Recall to prove that’s not true. People loved the original films because they were ORIGINAL. Back in 1990 no one had ever seen a mutant Martian woman with three breasts. Now they have. So it has less impact (and yet was still the only memorable part of the film). To succeed in remaking a film you have to have a reason for doing so. You have to bring something new to the story. You have to have a cast who are up to the challenge of competing with the original actors. Don’t just remake Conan the Barbarian because people liked the original. Or because Jason Momoa needs a vehicle to show off his six-pack. That only leads to a forgettable film with a mediocre script which will just remind people how much they preferred the original.
And if you really feel the need to remake something Hollywood, remake something that was terrible the first time round. Pick something that was a good idea but got ruined by horrible execution. You could do a version of Alien vs. Predator for adults. Or a reimagining of Pearl Harbor that’s historically accurate (and with the word ‘harbour’ spelled correctly). Or you could remake all of Clive Owen’s films, but instead of Clive Owen, you could cast a large marrow. Or maybe a broom handle.
So here’s my list of ten upcoming remakes scheduled for 2014. I’ve tried to be optimistic where I felt it was warranted, but some of these… just watch the originals.
The original Robocop was extremely violent but at the same time very effectively satirized the growth of corporate culture. It envisioned soulless corporations, driven only by profit, that would become so ubiquitous as to control entire cities and the lives of their inhabitants. Basically, it’s about Tesco. Or Starbucks. Or Apple. In any case, the film is even more relevant today than it was back in 1987. So why remake it? I don’t know. I can’t really see any reason whatsoever for this one. The trailer looks like I, Robot without Will Smith. I quite liked Joel Kinnaman in the American remake (another remake? Surely not…) of The Killing. But is he capable of pulling off a starring role in a film that appears to have a lot more running, jumping and shooting than acting? Robocop also has Samuel L. Jackson playing the character of Justin Hammer from the Iron Man franchise – a millionaire douche trying to throw dangerous robots at innocent people. Michael Keaton is also present, wearing a lab coat but apparently more concerned with Robocop’s paint job than anything else. Looking at the trailer, I’m guessing most (if not all) of what was clever about the original film has been sacrificed to make room for more gunfire. Kinnaman definitely doesn’t look particularly conflicted about his rebirth as a murderous mandroid. The only original thing I can see in the trailer is Samuel L Jackson’s hair…
The only thing that gives me a little enthusiasm for this Mad Max interpretation is that Mel Gibson will be making an appearance. He won’t be playing Max Rockatansky, the character he made so iconic back in 1979 though, instead he’s been cast as “Drifter.” No matter what that role entails, it’s pretty certain Gibson will have little difficulty stealing the show from Tom Hardy. Because Hardy is that actor I always feel I should like. Honestly, I want to like him, but he just keeps letting me down. He was physically very impressive in Warrior, but he mumbled most of his lines at barely audible volume. Same goes for his performance in Lawless, although fortunately for Hardy, Shia Lebeouf was there to make him look much better than he was. Is it just me, or does everyone get the urge to shout “Speak up!” at the screen every time Hardy opens his mouth? And I know I’m treading on dangerous ground with this statement, but I even disliked him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Again, physically he was great, but the voice? Half his lines were unintelligible. The rest just sounded stupid. There’s not much information available about Mad Max so I’m not passing judgment yet, let’s just say they’ll have to work very hard to pull it off.
Death Note comes from a series of Japanese manga comics. It was then adapted as an anime cartoon and a series of live-action films in Japan. And of course, even though the Japanese film is really good, we need an American remake to save us from the apparently impossible task of reading… On the plus side, Shane Black will be directing this one. If you discount Iron Man 3, Black has a very impressive history; Lethal Weapon, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and The Last Boyscout are among his writing credits. He also directed Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang which is well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. The writer of the original manga, Tsugumi Ohba, is also attached to the Death Note remake so maybe it won’t be a total disaster. The story involves a Japanese student named Light Yagami who finds a notepad. That’s not all though. When he writes someone’s name in said notepad… they die! The original film is fun, quirky and suspenseful. The Hollywood version will probably star Joseph Gordon Levitt as a high-school student.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain to anyone why Scarface doesn’t need to be remade. I won’t say it’s a career-best performance for Al Pacino, because angry lovers of The Godfather might leave a horse’s head in my bed… but Tony Montana is definitely one of Pacino’s top two roles. The immortal words “Say hello to my leetle friend,” have become some of the most-quoted of any film script in history. It’s difficult to explain how the story of a Cuban immigrant with an extreme case of ‘short-man-syndrome’ resonated with so many people… so we’ll just call it awesome and leave it at that. Tony Montana is a manipulative, psychotic, abusive, egotistical, arrogant, violent arsehole. But he does whatever the hell he wants all the time and he’s afraid of no one. We all sometimes wish we could murder our boss and take his job, his girlfriend and his massive pile of cocaine. But we don’t do it. Because we don’t want to go to prison. Or die. So we just watch Scarface instead and imagine we’ll one day have the guts to take what we want in life. Preferably using a grenade launcher. Anyway, it’s impossible to imagine anyone coming close to Pacino in this role. And I can’t imagine a director being as brave with the material as De Palma was. Just watch the original.
The Wild Bunch
Another film so iconic and brilliant it renders any attempted remake unnecessary and unwanted. And as the Western seems to be so out of fashion these days anyway, why remake an old one? The bloody finale to The Wild Bunch would be impossible to top, even with today’s standards of violence. It seems no actors have been attached as yet but unless they pull off a very impressive ensemble to attract audiences I just can’t see this story making any money today. The film is about a group of older gunslingers as they come to the end of the Wild West era and find their outlaw ways are becoming, well, outlawed. Horses and six shooters are becoming obsolete at the advent of the machine gun, so our heroes undertake one last score. Because those never go wrong… The film is about the demise of the old West, so inevitably the redundant cowboys are killed off in spectacularly violent fashion at the end. Can you imagine a remake today in which pretty much the entire cast is killed in the final scene? They’ll probably give it a happy ending whereby the grizzled bandits are carted off to a retirement home where their grandkids come to visit once a month. I’m not watching it. Well, let me qualify that; I’m not watching it unless they get Clint Eastwood to direct. And they cast Jeff Bridges, Gary Oldman, Russell Crowe, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Downey Jr. Damn it, that’s way too expensive to ever get made…
Don’t do it. Please don’t do it. Highlander is only remarkable for being downright weird. The story is bizarre, the casting is even stranger. Sean Connery played a man named Juan Sanchez Villa-lobos Ramirez. And Christopher Lambert played Connor MacLeod…? It makes no sense whatsoever. The script doesn’t really hold up to any kind of mild scrutiny. The acting is pretty bad. The special effects look like they were improvised using a broken toaster and some string. Clancy Brown decided to play the part of the villain, The Kurgan, by literally going mental on screen. A bunch of immortal lunatics are engaged in a competition which none of them seem to understand, and the point of it is to cut everyone else’s head off. First prize is something called ‘the Quickening,’ which is never clearly explained… if I’m honest, I must have seen Highlander at least five times and I still don’t really know what the hell’s happening. Mind you, I’ve never attempted to watch it during the day, it’s one of those films that’s always on TV at 2am… Highlander can’t be remade; it’s a completely futile endeavour, and whoever attempts it had better be prepared to endure truckloads of career-ending ridicule.
Now here’s a film that actually deserves a remake. If we’re talking about it in terms of the dire Matthew Broderick movie from 1998, in which Godzilla, the destroyer of cities, is taken out by precisely two unimpressive-looking missiles. Yes, I can actually see this one being worth watching. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was great in Kick-Ass and Savages (despite the extreme handicap of being from High Wycombe) so he’s probably up to the task of leading the blockbuster this will hopefully be. Bryan Cranston has earned enormous respect as Walter White in Breaking Bad so I’m sure he’ll attract a decent audience. Elizabeth Olson is obviously lined up for big things as she’s in Spike Lee’s upcoming Oldboy remake and the next Avengers movie. The only major cause for concern with Godzilla will be the monster itself. Special effects have come a long way since 1998 so hopefully the monster will be as monstrous as it should be. But please, no baby Godzillas this time. That was just embarrassing.
Everyone loves Pinocchio, which is weird because most kids were traumatized by the 1940 Disney animation. Remember the evil puppet-master Stromboli who kept Pinocchio prisoner? The blue whale Monstro who ate Gepetto? And the sinister Pleasure Island where little boys are plied with beer and cigars before being transformed into donkeys? Pretty dark for a kids’ film. I’m still scared of puppets. And whales. And donkeys, moustaches, string… However, if we look at the description of the new Pinocchio, as directed by Guillermo Del Toro, it says; “A darker version of the classic children’s fairy tale.” Darker. So this will be cheerful. Christopher Walken is rumoured to be involved, which is promising. Whatever you think of Del Toro, his name guarantees the film won’t be boring. Whether you’ll want your kids to see it is another matter…
This is not a difficult one to call. No director working today springs to mind who could equal the late Alfred Hitchcock in creating suspense. Also, the thought of a flock of CGI birds attacking people just doesn’t seem all that scary. Remember Resident Evil: Extinction? You don’t? Oh, it’s possible I was the only person who saw that… anyway, there was this flock of zombie crows that looked kind of okay, until they moved and then I forgot whether they were crows or large bees or just a flying river of shit… So the special effects for The Birds will have to be flawless. Or they’d have to use some very clever shots of real birds, as Hitchcock did in the original. In which case, why remake it at all? In terms of the cast, they’ll probably turn it into another mundane teen-horror film starring a bunch of actors whose TV series is about to end. Like one of those dudes from Supernatural. And someone from 90210. So I guess it won’t matter all that much if the film’s rubbish because no one will bother to watch it.
Escape from New York
Who will play Snake Plissken? There are no bad-ass actors around these days. Jason Statham should not do this. As I’ve said before, I enjoy watching the guy punch other guys in the face, but Statham is not a great actor. Kurt Russell brought a lot to the role of Plissken; his cynicism shone through and made the character memorable. He makes it clear that he’s saving the President’s life because it’s the only way to save his own. I’m guessing the remake will be drenched in self-righteous American patriotism, which will render it unwatchable for the rest of us who aren’t quite so enamoured of the stars and stripes. In fact, if films like White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen are anything to go by, America will probably be invaded by a foreign power who will imprison all the innocent Americans in New York, and then President Snake Plissken will parachute in and headbutt everyone until America is free again. Hooray. Don’t bother watching this.
That brings us to the end of the list. Of course, there are many more upcoming remakes I could have included, but I wanted to stick to ones that look like they’ll actually be happening. And aside from Mad Max, I didn’t include any so-called reboots, which I personally don’t think are any different to remakes in most cases. Take The Amazing Spider-Man for example, I don’t care if it has The Lizard instead of the awful Green Goblin, it’s still a remake of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man. It tells the exact same origin story. But somehow, changing one character qualifies it as a reboot. And anyway, even if it is a reboot rather than a remake, who says that’s any better? It’s still recycling an old idea. Most remakes aren’t entirely faithful to the original material, so why should we allow producers to take some imaginary moral high ground by labeling their film a reboot just because they told a slightly different story using the same characters. And don’t even get me started on the term ‘reimagining,’ they’re just trying to make a remake sound like it has something to do with art. We seem to be trapped in an endless reboot/remake/reimagining hell in which it’s somehow considered reasonable for Ben Affleck to play Batman. Oh well, maybe I’ll do a list of upcoming original films soon… if I can even find ten.
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