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Point/Counterpoint: Should Hollywood Stop Remaking Classic Films?

January 18th, 2008 1:45pm EST



Sweeney ToddAlright, alright, let's not get carried away here. I know what the popular stance is going to be on this subject, especially among movie purists. You will cry boo, hiss, and nay to remaking movies. You'll note big wastes of time such as the remakes of "Planet of the Apes" and "Psycho." You'll cry out for originality and cry against the destruction of what were already timeless classics. You'll say, "I saw that movie, but it was such a waste of time. I love the original so much more."

In many ways, you're the type of person who feels the book was better than the movie or that your favorite band used to be good until they sold out and started making money. Sometimes you're right, maybe, about the band and the book, but in this case I say: Not so fast. Let's try and remake your opinion.

First things first. The idea that all remakes simply ruin the original is false. If you don't believe me, here are some remakes that outshone the original and improved upon the story:

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)- Which, oh yes, just won the Golden Globe for best Musical/Comedy.

3:10 to Yuma (2007) - One of the biggest films this year.

Hairspray (2007) - See above.

The Departed (2006) - I think we all remember this one - but most of us don't remember it as the Japanese film "Infernal Affairs."

Casino Royale (2006) - Bond is back! This is the best Bond feature in years.

Casino Royale

Daniel Craig kicked butt as the new James Bond.




The Lord of the Rings - Originally three animated features.

Scarface (1983) - Where would the culture of American films be without "Say hello to ma li-al' friend!"

Batman (1989) and every other Batman that follows - True, that includes the tragic Batman and Robin, but it also includes the new, darker Christian Bale flicks.

The Ring (2002) - The Japanese version is scary, but I couldn't sleep for a week after the remake.

Scent of a Woman (1992) - Don't you dare take away Al Pacino's Oscar. WHO-AH!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) - The "original" animated classic. Without this movie, the 70 years of cartoon movies that follow just don't happen.

Meet the Parents (2000) - Did you know that this cult comedy is about as original as Stiller's replacement jinxy cat.

Ben-Hur (1959) - One of the greatest movies of all time. Period. Winner of 11 Oscars... which is tied with James Cameron's Titanic - another remake.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) - A Humphrey Bogart icon. A staple of film noir.

The Birdcage (1996) - One of the funniest movies of the 90s.

The Birdcage

A hilarious remake.




The Ten Commandments (1956) - Charlton Heston's Moses appears on TV every year at Passover/Easter. Willem Dafoe in "The Last Temptation of Christ" is also a remake.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - And every other Robin Hood spin-off that followed, including Men in Tights.

The Parent Trap (1961) - It's not just the Lindsay Lohan 1998 version that was a remake.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960) - Another iconic movie.

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) - Who says remakes are a product of the 21st century?

The Mummy (1959)- and every living dead flick that followed. Oh, and almost every Frankenstein and Dracula movie you can think of branched off of pictures from the silent era. Yes, that includes "Young Frankenstein."

So, throw out remakes and you throw out that list - which would mean throwing out hundreds of awards, directors, and classic movie quotes, plus the careers of Al Pacino, Charleton Heston, Mel Brooks, and Humphry Bogart just to name a few.

Yes, you say, that's all well and good, but what we're talking about are the movies that absolutely destroy the memory of the original: "Godzilla," King Kong, "Psycho," "Planet of the Apes..."

The problem is, all these films make money. You may hate them, but you and all your friends go and see them. They are, in the case of many of them, sure things in the eyes of the studios: guaranteed box office giants, available for worldwide distribution. Studios lean on movies such as these to make back most of their money for year. It doesn't just cover the flops, but allows them to reach out and take chances on smaller pictures, ones that are less likely to succeed. So if you like your "Little Miss Sunshine"s and your "Clerks," and documentaries and foreign films as well, then you better embrace your colossal "mistakes" with a grain of salt.

The Departed

A remake AND an Oscar winner.




Besides, these movies at their very worst remind us all of how good the first versions were. Sales of the original version of "King Kong" skyrocketed with Peter Jackson's remake. "Godzilla" did the same. When a movie is that strong, it can't be destroyed by an overproduced, over-commercialized version - no matter how tasteless the newcomer may be.

So remember, saying remakes are bad just because once in a while one turns out awful is like saying we shouldn't bother making movies because so many flop. Many more movies tank than succeed each year, but it is the dream to give it a shot anyway. Remakes are often approached in the same way. More often than not, it is done out of love and respect for the original and with a new idea that is so exciting it just has to be shared with the rest of the world.

Don't forget, most of Shakespeare's plays were remakes themselves. It is not always the content but sometimes how the content is presented. Go ahead and judge a book by its cover, especially if the cover dares to be better than the original.

Agree? Disagree? Make a comment!

Counterpoint by James Fagan
Starpulse contributing writer