Oh remakes. Certainly tons and tons have already been written about them. My hat’s in that ring too. I’ve said a few things here and there, though often I’ve gone against the grain. I don’t hate remakes. Some movies can be done better. When that’s the case, why not give it a shot? Did anyone think Mother’s Day was untouchable? Of course not. Then again, certain films can’t be made better. John Carpenter’s The Thing, itself a remake, is practically a perfect film. For now, classics like Casablanca and Gone with the Wind remain untouched, and that’s good. The odds of anyone making those particular stories better are low.
Then there are the foreign films. Despite Rob Hunter’s best efforts, wide audiences aren’t really that interested in reading subtitles. Some films do quite well for themselves with subtitles, but whether it’s the audience or just the studios, subtitles don’t sell. So foreign films generally get short theatrical runs and DVD releases. If you want to see that story on the big screen, generally someone has to remake it. Or hey, there are plenty of completely unknown foreign films that are dug up and the stories remade, without many people even knowing that film already existed somewhere else.
The point is this: sometimes remakes make sense. Sometimes they’re good. But in the modern age, with that series of tubes called the internet and a massive selection of titles available on DVD, domestic and imported, the speed at which films are being remade is absolutely soul crushing.
Case in point. Let Me In, the just released remake of the 2008 film Let the Right One In. Yeah, that’s right. It’s 2010 and Hollywood already has a remake of a film that came out just two years ago. Even worse, most Western audiences didn’t even get a shot to see Let the Right One In until 2009, when it became widely available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Let’s examine the situation: that movie just came out on the shores of America. It has a huge following. People know it. People sought it out. It was on most Top 10 Horror lists for 2008 and/or 2009, depending who saw it when. It’s a popular movie. Yet here it is being remade. Here it is making only $5.3 million in its opening weekend, failing to surpass even the comedy Easy A in its third week of release.
Let Me In is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s a very good movie. It is well directed and well acted and well shot. In some ways it surpasses the original, but there is one gigantic, glaring flaw: it’s not unique. It’s not surprising. Despite the fact that it is a good film, I was bored. I was tired. Disengaged. Why? Because I had already seen it. Less than a year ago.
Hollywood. Seriously. You’re getting lazy. You don’t deserve our money sometimes. I love all the fun we have together. We laugh and cry, but you’re not even trying anymore. I mean, shit, what’s the cut-off? How long should a film exist before it’s remade?
Hopefully we’ll never have to see an Oldboy remake, but that’s been circulating for a while now. With the original out all those many, many years ago in 2003, maybe it’s too old. It’s been seven years! I mean, after all, 2006’s The Departed was a remake of 2002’s Infernal Affairs. Not even five years, don’t want it to get stale! The Hulk and The Incredible Hulk, while not totally “original” and “remake” had a half-decade between them. Wow.
Remakes are going to happen no matter what, but there’s no reason for them to happen on this accelerated scale. You’re never going to outrace technology. You’re not going to outrace the internet or even the home video market. No matter where you dig up these films, pretty significant numbers of people are already going to have seen them. Then they’re not going to go see the remake in theaters. It’s sad that a good film like Let Me In is the one to suffer to show this, but hey, you shouldn’t have remade it so quickly.
So let’s make some rules. We’ll keep it simple. There will only be two.
First: only remake a film that you can make significantly better. You’re not going to improve on Jurassic Park or Jaws. So don’t even try. Just let it go.
Second, don’t remake any film in too short a time period. I’ll cut you some slack on this one. Don’t remake any domestic film for a minimum of 20 years. Don’t remake any foreign film for a minimum of 15 years. It’s for the best. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this, but for every year closer together the remake is to the original, there’s an exponential rise in the degree of my boiling point.