OK, so this is a good news/bad news post.
GOOD NEWS! The Princess Bride is not going to be remade. (Not yet.)
BAD NEWS! Your favorite movie is going to be remade. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon…and for the rest of your life, there will be a remake of your favorite film, if there isn’t one already (there likely is.)
BEST NEWS! Your favorite movie will be fine even if it is remade.
I know some of you are already mad reading that. However, if you are in a place of listening, I invite you on a quick read which I hope will help you stop worrying and at least accept the remake because they are not ever going away.
Before we had Trump shutting down society at large to make us angry, the topic of a movie being remade was an easy to get internet mob mentality out in force. The fact of the matter is remakes are neither a new phenomenon or anything other than business as usual. And quite frankly, the sheer volume of anger said remakes has received cannot always be described as rational.
Movie remakes can be traced back to the late 1800s in French cinema and early 1900s in Hollywood: https://filmschoolrejects.com/hollywood-remake-history/
Why does Hollywood insist on a constant stream of remakes? For the same reason Hollywood does anything – because they make money. And before one writes that off as simple studio greed, that money being is coming from an audience who says “yes, I will spend my disposable income on a remake.”
Audiences don’t hate remakes. Audiences LOVE LOVE LOVE remakes. Audiences flock to remakes creating hugely profitable properties and have done for decades.
And they’re going to for decades more.
You don’t have to take my word for it:
*Love Pacino in Scarface? A remake.
*Netflix’s content creation empire was launched by House Of Cards – a remake.
*Which version of A Christmas Carol is your favorite?
*A Star Is Born – again – remade and not only ate up box office but brought tears to a live audience who forgot those are actors.
*We now have three different versions of Mr Spock – all supported by a robust audience, except actually for Leonard Nimoy’s at first. That was the one that got cancelled.
*”Wait – there were other Doctors BEFORE Christopher Eccleston???”
*Ocean’s 11, The Lion King, every other horror movie. Hell, I just found out doing research for this that Scent Of A Woman (which Pacino had to clear some shelf-space for) is a remake. Late last year, someone I know posted “Oh God! I can’t believe they’re making Little Shop Of Horrors!!” I asked which version was being remade.
*Also, West Side Story will have to thrown out with the bathwater as well. That’s all kinds of remake.
Here’s my favorite example to cite:
Clash Of The Titans in 1981 worldwide gross about $115,000,000 in today’s money (pretty good)
Clash Of The Titans in 2010 worldwide gross – $500,000,000 (spawned a sequel the sequel)
That is a gross increase of 400 million dollars. 400 million. 400,000,000 increase in business.
If Hollywood were to stop doing remakes, it would not just be a poor business decision. It would be malpractice.
But still, whenever a remake is announced, one can find a very angry corner of the internet – usually of a particular age group – expressing a near existential rage at the very IDEA that such a thing could occur. And often, the sourcing of that anger is well, I don’t want to say invalid or misguided but it can be driven from a false premise. Let’s take a look at some of those.
Looking at the Princess Bride for example. “But it’s perfect!!” many said to me about Princess Bride.
Hey look, I LOVE The Princess Bride. Tremendous storytelling from a master Director and the guy who literally wrote the books on modern screenwriting. Action! Adventure! Comedy!! And as if that’s not enough – ANDRE THE GIANT!!! Even though he was playing a bad guy in the WWE when it came out, this movie helped immortalized Andre as wrestling’s gentle giant good guy beloved by the public.
The Princess Bride is just WONDERFUL viewing great for any family!
Quick question about The Princess Bride – where’s the Black person?
Another question about The Princess Bride – how come the Spaniard is being played by a Jewish actor from New York?
The answer is there are no people of color in the Princess Bride. If I’m wrong about that, please correct me. There are two gay characters – and they’re the villains.
And back in 1986, casting actors out of their ethnicity was perfectly acceptable. It’s not so much these days. Mandy Patinkin is an AMAZING actor & seems like a very nice man. But in 2020, his being cast as a Spaniard out for revenge would create as much outrage as the remake has received and he would be out of the role by the end of the day it was announced.
So when news of the Princess Bride remake hit, I took to the facebook (something that actually ages me even now) and I said “Not only would I remake it, I would diversity the shit out of it!” Here’s my cast list for a 2020 Princess Bride:
Michael B Jordan – Wesley
Rihanna – Buttercup
Benicio Del Toro – Indigo Montoya*
James Franco – Humperdink
Randall Park – Count Grugen
Uzo Aduba – Vezzini (oh real damn conceivable)
Big Show – Fezzik
Jordan Peele – Miracle Max
Chelsea Peretti – Mrs Miracle Max
Laurence Fishburne – The Grandfather
Miles Brown – the kid
(Mr Del Toro is Puerto Rican but I’ve seen reports that he is of Spanish descent and was granted Spain citizenship in 2011)
You would have thought I posted pictures of murdered animals. This list and this very idea of remaking The Princess Bride was considered blasphemy. I should point out no one of color objected to this list. Just the opposite. All of the objections came from Left-leaning White people. In other conversations I had about this – the world seemed obsessed with this for two weeks – “Why does it have to be remade?” I was asked by some. “Why can’t today’s Black or Latino kids have their version?” was my response. Because the old one is notably absent of people who like them. Many cries of “why do they have to have one?” sounded quite a bit like the “why do Gays have to be married? Why isn’t a civil union enough?”
Because it’s not enough.
And look, part of me gets it. Part of me really really gets it.
Movies are not just movies. TV shows are more than that. They’re EXPERIENCES. That becomes all the more clear when you become a creator of these things. “What experience am I giving the viewer?” Thanks to the irresistible pull of nostalgia which only grows more powerful with each passing year makes those experiences something sacred, something precious that much never be touched or encroached upon.
While I see how a remake might feel it’s doing that, a remake is not doing that. Your most precious memories have nothing to fear from a remake. I’m not being glib. I’m being sincere. There is nothing to fear from the remake. So please allow me to assure you –
Your favorite movie is safe.
Nothing and no one anywhere can take away your experiences with your favorite movie. My two favorites are Jaws and Casablanca. Both have not technically been remade. Both have been remade thousands of times. Nothing and no one anywhere can take away those movies and my memories or experiences watching them. And as a working screenwriter, I would take the gig to rewrite either one of them tomorrow. (Oh, you want the shark to be the hero this time? No problem)
A remake is not a special edition recut of your favorite film. No one is going to come into your home, remove any DVD or Blu-Ray copies of that film. No one is going to delete any digital copies. Whatever your favorite movie is, you can watch it once every single day or however much you want until the day you die.
And a remake of Jaws is not going to magically erase the 45 years people have spent watching the original. (Sorry Mandela Effect)
I own the entire original Transformers cartoon series on DVD. It was my favorite as a kid and I’m glad to have it those pulls of nostalgia. I saw Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie. I liked it fine. I found it fun. I saw Michael Bay’s second Transformers movie and there my journey with Michael Bay’s Transformers came to an end. The box office receipts for that franchise assures Mr Bay and his crew that my absence from the theatres was not debilitating to their success. And Bay knew the moment he took the gig “not everyone who grew up on this will love this” because it wasn’t made for me or the generation who grew up on that cartoon. If we like it, great! But we’re gravy. The kids & teenagers at the time were Bay’s target demo. As they long as they enjoyed it and kept coming back for the sequels – mission accomplished as more perils for Earth and Cyberton were dreamt up. And I had my originals. Safe and sound on my shelf. Literally – everyone wins.
(There is one notable exception to this rule but we’ll get there)
“But the original is PERFECT!!”
No movie is perfect. Casablanca? Goddammit, why does Ilsa say “boy.” Jaws? Peter Benchley, the author of the book, has spent the rest of his life trying to undo the misinformation about sharks the story spread.
No movie is perfect. The memories of certain movies are perfect. The experiences and feelings that movie give you are perfect. And again – those are untouchable. Even as the world races into the future around us which is always a scary prospect as we grow older. The blue skies and golden sunsets that you felt/feel with your favorite movie are eternal.
There’s a reason the dying Tycoon was thinking of his childhood sled in his final moments. It was the one thing the world who hated him could not take away.
“The original should be good enough!”
OK, when you were a kid were you watching the newest, hippest cartoons everyone was talking about? Were you begging your parents to take you to that new movie opening because “Mom! Dad! EVERYONE is seeing it and I’m missing ooouuuuttt!!”? Did you race to get all the latest toys tied in with the biggest blockbusters of the summer? Was your wallpaper covered with Gremlins, Goonies and Marty McFly?
Of course it was!
Or were you watching the Marx Brothers every night? Were you looking up old episodes of the Milton Berle show used to fill up late-night weekend slots? Did you beg your parents to put in the VHS of Gunga Din just once more, pretty please?
Of course not.
Sure, you caught old stuff like the Three Stooges or Andy Griffith et al. But the children of the 1980s were not molded by the content of the 1950s. The children of the 2000s are not going to be molded by the content of the 1980s.
And there’s nothing anyone can do about that. It’s practically a kid’s job to hate the stuff their parents like. Before you argue that, remember your reaction to when your parents showed you their favorite movie. You don’t have to answer that out loud.
“But the original does not need to be improved upon!!”
This one always baffles me. Maybe there’s a remake out there that was trying to improve upon the original. Dear reader, if you know of one, let me know. I can’t think of a single remake that tries to do that. That’s just not how it’s done.
Let’s go back to the Princess Bride. Yes, I would diversity the shit out of it. No, I don’t think that’s necessarily an improvement. It’s updating, sure but that’s just making it more accessible to modern audiences and diverse audiences. Are filmmakers putting their spin on it? Sure. But that’s not unique to remakes. (The Temple Of Doom is one giant love letter to the Morlocks’ underground world in George Pal’s Time Machine)
If Hollywood was trying to improve a movie, then you’d be seeing remakes of long-accepted crap but fire up your favorite streaming service and you are not bombarded by remakes of Ishtar, Howard The Duck and Leonard Part 6.
Yes, Hollywood is trying to cash in with remakes of popular, established properties. But those are not efforts to improve. If you watch the original The Thing From Another World and then John Carpenter’s The Thing, you will see two totally different interpretations of the same story, both of their time, both trying to scare audiences, both in two totally different ways. Which one is better? In addition to the answer being totally subjective, both movies while similar are so different it’s like asking “what do you like better? Lamb chop or apple sauce?”
Time is a funny thing. You graduated high school yesterday but really it was over 20 years ago, if you see what I mean. It’s easy to not see how much changes when we’re in the middle of the times we live in. The internet recently erupted when a bunch of people learned that Robert Downey Jr played a comedy lead – IN BLACKFACE!!! Tropic Thunder isn’t ancient history, it happened 12 years ago as of this writing. Your favorite movie is likely very outdated, dull and boring for today’s audiences. And it doesn’t matter what year “today” is in.
And as even that example shows, yes, Tropic Thunder does not fit 2020 sensibilities. Neither does The Princess Bride. So a fresh coat of paint for today’s audiences brings the story up to speed. No improvements made. Just sensibilities being recognized.
“I just wish Hollywood made more originals!!”
Fortunately, Hollywood makes a ton of original material but the success for those is mostly found in the world of TV where the profit margin is safer for original material and where an audience is more likely go “ooo, what’s this?”
But at the movies? Originals for many decades have long had an uphill battle. There are several production companies who have committed themselves to producing original, unique films that are different from everything else in the market. Sadly, they teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.
No one wants you watching original material more than Hollywood. Many careers have been shortened and many fortunes have been lost in trying to get eyeballs in front of original material.
Apple TV’s rollout of purely original material was seen around the business as a massive flop (immediate resignations kind of flop) and they’re hoping to rebound with Foundation – an adaptation of Issac Asimov’s legendary novels. Disney+ hung their hat on a new Star Wars property and watched subscriptions roll in by the millions – literally.
Originals are the toughest property to try and sell and market. But Hollywood keeps trying and will keep trying.
“But I just don’t like remakes”
OK, fine. Never watch another remake again as long as you live. That is your right, your prerogative as a discerning consumer. Every single day you choose not to watch a movie and you can continue to do so. Watch what you like. Ignore what you don’t.
There is no obligation anyone is putting on you to watch a remake ever again. Sure, there’s some cultural pressure if the movie is all the rage but think about how many movies or TV shows that are major conversation pieces in your circle that you’ve actually missed? I bet it’s a lot. Hell, there’s no way everyone can watch all the award-worthy TV being made nowadays. Hollywood has lots of data that sees how much you choose not to see a movie.
“I don’t want to see a remake because I just don’t like remakes” is a perfectly sound reason to skip one.
Dear reader, I’ll be honest – I don’t always love remakes. In fact, I rarely like remakes. I like being surprised which after this long in the factory is all too rare. I love new, original fresh voices. “Beasts Of No Nation” blew my mind when I saw it a few years ago. But remakes being old stories up to speed with changing times only makes those stories last longer. It shows Hollywood reflecting changing times. These are good things that any smart business should keep in mind if they want to last. Adapt and overcome. Evolve or die.
No, remakes don’t ruin the original.
No, remakes do not improve the original.
No, remakes do not replace the original – especially in this age of movie/TV libraries at our fingertips.
Screaming at remakes is like screaming at the changing seasons. It’s like getting angry at nightfall. Time is going to move in one direction and the world changes with those times. I think that’s at the heart of all this. “My experience was so perfect! There does not need to be another one! Don’t replace those experiences…don’t replace me.”
Are you over 40? You’re not the key demo movies are made for anymore. I know. I’m there with you. It sucks and it hurts. Even those R-rated horror movies are made for 18 – 20 year olds, not us cynical old people who are stuck in our ways. It was true 40 years ago. It’s going to be true 140 years from now.
No remake anywhere is ever going to make me mad. No remake anywhere is ever going to upset me because remakes can’t take anything away from me or my experiences.
But as I said, there is one notable exception.
I type and post this on May 4th, 2020. I cannot pull up the original Star Wars movie on Disney+ I cannot reach over to my shelf and pull off the original Star Wars on Blu-Ray. Oh sure, I can pull up some special editions which have been recut, reedited and reshaped by new special effects. And the original filmmaker has forbidden any commercial release of the original film. There was a low-resolution version put on a DVD a few years ago to quiet those of us who complained but it’s not the same. The resolution is such that the film is actually difficult to watch.
This day has been dubbed “May The 4th Be With You” but The Force is not with me today.
I cannot watch the movie that I grew up on, the movie that made me love movies so much I’ve dedicated my life to them. That childhood favorite film that meant so much has been taken away from me.
No remake did that.
No sequel did that.
The original filmmaker did that.
It’s worth noting that many parents have relayed tales of trying to show their kids Star Wars and even with the updated special effects, the kids cry “BORING! Put on Pixar!” I get it. Yesterday’s Star Wars isn’t for today’s kid. But this kid from yesterday sure wouldn’t mind another look at the twin sunset with Luke Skywalker.