Featured Article: Remakes.Originals.Soap.
Tired of remakes? Love them? Want to make sweet sweet love to Godzilla? J.G. Barnes gives us his take on modern derivative cinema.
Where is the originality?! Remakes, adaptations, and re-imaginings, oh my! Is it a new age of the derivative? We are certainly in the age of social networking and now it's even easier to be a huge entitled whiner. I see a lot of people love to complain about all the remakes out there and a lack of originality in Hollywood. Much of the blame, however, lies upon those same vocal detractors. But they're too busy wailing to admit that. If you morons would just shut up for once and take a step back outside of your tiny world, you'd see a lot of spectacular and original work is out there, but you're too busy with your fingers in your ears and yours eyes tightly shut while you do what you do best -- which is nothing constructive whatsoever -- bitching and moaning.
Why exactly are you to blame? Oh, you are paying attention now? Well, how about you transfer some of that energy you've been using on your incessant whinery into discovering and supporting original films? How about instead of going into forums and message boards adding more hot air to the room you make it a point to seek out what's good and spread the word? It's not a very difficult thing to do. A lot of these films aren't hiding in the shadows of the underground or anything. Do you like Christopher Nolan's Batman films? Ya know that guy that plays Bane? Well, he's the star of this little ol' British film called Bronson which is incredibly good, not very well known, and also not a remake. Ya know who directed that? Nicolas Winding Refn. No idea who that is? He directed Drive; the film meat heads hate because there aren't enough ricers and Vin Diesel biceps.
Ever heard of Rian Johnson? No? Well, I'm sure you've heard of Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Bruce Willis, right? Well, they're in this new totally original film called Looper that's lookin mighty bad ass. Go to the theater. Show Hollywood that you like originality. Show them with your wallet. Rian Johnson, by the way, is the writer and director of Looper. He's also the writer and director of two very unique, under-the-radar films, Brick, and the star studded Brothers Bloom.
Brick takes a certain je ne sais quoi to detect the context of its tone by your average viewer. I nearly turned it off the first time I watched it, but then...it clicked! Take a noir 40's detective script and replace the setting and actors with high school kids, in high school scenes, doused in a delightful, but subtle, mockery of ultra-serious high school drama. There isn't anything else like it out there.
Brother's Bloom has perhaps one of the slickest and smartest scripts I've seen put to screen in years. It's a smart romantic caper comedy borrowing from the European film formulas of a decade prior. And it doesn't skimp on the stars with Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel Weiss headlining the cast. It blows my mind that this wasn't nominated for best screenplay -- it's a crime and offense to the film industry.
If you would make a conscious effort to consider who made the films you love and who's in them instead of just using movies as space fillers for the boredom in your life, then maybe you could see what they're really worth and what simply being observant will reward you. There is an endless spider web of connections you can make between the films you love and discover lesser known, very original work, that maybe didn't get the awards or attention it deserved. So, get out there and start making those connections and you'll see that there is much more than remakes going on lately. I'll make it easy for you and list, just from my blu-ray collection alone, some of my favorite original ideas in the last few years of cinema...
500 Days of Summer, Behind the Mask, Book of Eli, Cloverfield, Crank, The Descent, District 9, Drive, The Fall, Faster, The Fountain, The Hangover, Insidious, Immortals, JCVD, The Kids Are All Right, Kill Bill, Lucky # Slevin, Martyrs, Megamind, Monster House, Mr. Brooks, The Other Guys, Pandorum, Planet Terror, Reign Over Me, A Serious Man, Seven Pounds, Shoot 'em Up, Sky High, Smokin' Aces, Source Code, Splinter, Stranger than Fiction, Super 8, Tropic Thunder, Up, Walk Hard, Wall-e, The Wrestler, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and Zombieland. And that isn't nearly all there is -- not even half -- not even a tenth of what's out there. For very unfair reasons in the universe, I can't afford to buy every single awesome blu-ray in the entire world. So very unfair.
One last thing before I steer this back into remakes. Subtitles. If you can't sit through a subtitled film, then you probably shouldn't be driving, voting, raising children, or being alive, really. I notice there is an alarmingly large population of dullards who won't watch subtitled films because "I don't like having to look away from the action to read a movie. If I wanted to read, I'd read a book." Actually, no you wouldn't. You wouldn't read a book either. You're far too lazy and dumb for that, too. If it's really so darn time consuming for you to read a line or two of dialogue that causes you to miss the action, then you have deeper problems than a film market saturated with remakes. There are tons upon tons of original films out there from those dirty furr nurrs that offer a refreshing alternative to the conventions of American film making. It will open doors you never knew of, and plus you might even learn something and get a little cultured while you're at it, Jesus forbid.
I would venture to bet there has got to be a correlation between people who don't watch subtitled films and an increased chance of car accidents. Seriously, think about it. If you can't simultaneously pay attention to the action of a film while also reading a few lines of text, then I would imagine your general awareness is severely hindered especially when trying to read those pesky street signs while the steering wheel attached to a 4,000 pound death capsule is in your grip. Go watch more subtitled movies. Not only will that keep you off the road, polluting the world less, but you'll also not be interacting with me through your inane small talk or by running me over. It's better for everyone.
What's the use of seeing all these original films, though, if no one's going to like them? That's the paradox you've built for yourselves, though, isn't it? You cry that you want more originality, yet when something original comes along; "It's too weird. I didn't get it. I don't like subtitles. Who's this actor? I've never heard of him. I've never heard of this movie. It can't be good if I haven't heard about it."
Sometimes I just don't want to live on this planet anymore.
Well, what about remakes, Mr. Sophisticated Film Critic Man? They're everywhere! Aren't they dumb?! Actually, I welcome remakes. I love remakes. This subject can be tricky, though, because while you can find unique films out there, everywhere, the remakes can both be a blessing and a curse. A curse because Hollywood can often see them as an easy sale. The work has already been done for them. There is already an established fan base. Why not just remake it? When it's just an easy cash grab and not backed by respect and passion, that's when it can get ugly and quite the nuisance.
The myth, however, is that this age of remakes is unique to this generation. Sure, there has been a recent spike in the rehashing of the old, but it's a practice that's always been around in the film industry. Always. Did you know there are four versions of 12 Angry Men? There are three King Kongs (not counting spin offs). Romeo and Juliet has been adapted and readapted both in literature and on film. The list is immense and it goes all the way back to a film called Battle of the Sexes which was a 1928 remake of a film from 1914. Just go ahead and Google "remakes." In the Wiki there are hundreds of remakes throughout nearly every year and every generation.
I can't wait to see where they go with the new American Godzilla. Why? Because Roland Emmerich's 1998 interpretation was a travesty and an embarrassment. It's our duty as citizens of a free country to apologize to every Japanese person we meet for that film. Godzilla was envisioned as a metaphor for the insanity and horror of nuclear warfare. As silly as the fiction has gotten -- and hell I fuckin love the stuff -- it's serious business with a story that's ripe for not only endless entertainment, but societal relevance and cultural education. If we didn't have remakes and re-imaginings, some really special legendary icons might get lost to the noise of history. Seeing the evolution of stories and characters over the course of several years or decades is fascinating and fun to debate, analyze, and interpret. So what if there are some bad seeds? What if this next Godzilla is the best Godzilla film ever made? Maybe it won't be. So what? It's not the end of the world if the film sucks, it will just be forgotten, and it will make life just a little bit better if it happens to rock.
Robocop is another remake I'm dying to see. I adore Paul Verhoven's original. It's one of my all time favorite films. I don't think it can really be made much better per se, but I strongly believe that the cultural relevance for the film is stronger than ever and it couldn't be remade at a better time. The story has potential to illustrate a new and fresh moral or philosophical perspective that the original, though no slouch in this department, maybe didn't touch on. With a cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, and Hugh Laurie as the villain...uh, yes, please!
And Dredd...Oh, boy, Dredd.
Karl Urban's lips are gonna win the first ever Oscar for going full mean mug for 100% of the running time in what is said to be one of the most gratuitously violent films in years. Nuff said.
There are a lot of good remakes that have been made. I guarantee that if you totaled up the number of good remakes plus all the great original stories, that number would shadow all of the shitty remakes out there. Yes, maybe Hollywood has been going a little overboard with the remakes lately, but if you claim there's little to nothing original anymore, you obviously don't care all that much about finding it. There is a plethora of very cool new worlds and characters to discover, you just gotta take off your blinders and help spread the word about the little jewels you do uncover and maybe Hollywood will see where the money is heading.