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Film Remakes

The movie industry is of recent origin yet it is becoming increasingly rare to find films that are new and original. Chances are that for every set of Hollywood movies out in the market one or two are movie remakes. Nowadays, more and more filmmakers attempt to reproduce black-and-white classics with color in the hopes of duplicating box office successes of these old films given with a more fresh and modern audience. Others justify movie remakes by arguing it for the sake of artistic representation.

According to them it is done to pay homage to the masterpieces of the past and to allow a better take on the presentation at a day and age of superior effects and movie technology. Whatever the reason, film remakes creates the challenge of equaling if not surpassing the standards and expectations of the film sought to be remade. The film remake must do justice to its predecessors not only through a faithful adaptation of the original but also adding a few modern touches to make it relevant and appealing to the modern viewers.

Improvements in Computer Generated Images (CGI) effects, camera techniques and direction, remaking does provide a different and better experience to the viewers than ever before, but it takes more than a tweak in the visual presentation to capture the very essence of the original film which had made it successful before in the first place. Hollywood film remakes, with the purpose of modernizing classical films, enjoy wider latitude of freedom to wantonly replicate to a certain extent.

Where their motives are arguably driven by market demands and the desire to cash on an idea, both cinema critics and movie-goers become doubtful of the movie remake and only rightly so. Unlike other forms of art films, especially ground-breaking ones, generate a cult-like following that spans across time and different types of audiences. Films that are considered masterpieces of the genre raise the bar at heights inaccessible to even the most well-intentioned artistic replication .

Thus, any attempt to remake would only incur the wrath of the fanatics by coming off as an insult and blasphemy to the sacred tradition of good cinematic taste. Indeed, only a rare few remakes are considered to have escaped the ire of the fanatics with little scratches (read: enjoyed respite from harsh criticisms). As it were, great film masterpieces had such an impact on cinema and the audience to a point where the different talismanic attachments attributed to the film is difficult to erase or at least surmount. The desire to preserve the original form makes the attempt to revise the memory an affront to the senses.

It is clear that the fact that the film was a total success bespeaks its perfect qualities which create a permanent and impervious shield against any form of editing or remaking . Filmmakers, on the other hand, argue for the cause of representation and remakes because times have changed. At this day and age of modern Hollywood technology with an ever-growing complex tastes in the audience, there is no reason why cinema should prohibit a re-telling of a movie what with better techniques available at the filmmaker’s disposal.

The new generation of filmmakers and audiences has every right to experience the same sense of awe, horror and suspense as the old generation has had then. Improved graphics alone, with respect to horror and suspense movies, would magnify the thrill of delight, fear and pity through spectacular means. Arguing, without conceding, that the primary reason why critics and fans look down on remakes simply because the original has achieved a degree of perfection which makes it impervious to unnecessary adornments, CGI technology may make a perfect film even more perfect.

It is not beyond the realm of imagination, in fact there is no limit when it comes to Hollywood movie magic, to say that the original can still be rehashed so then the ideas in the plot may most likely come to fruition . In other words, CGI breaks the barriers that have once held back films to a certain technical cinematic limit. Big budget films, for instance, can take the scope of the story from the small to the large easily.

The point of view is no longer focused on meager details, passing off as an artistic shot but in truth, a desperate excuse for not having enough to go around in producing scenes that faithfully exhaust every possibility in a given context . A silhouette in the curtains, a small white protrusion amidst the sea, a sound of a crashing car and other cinematic subtle shortcuts that would have been better presented in real action with the proper effects and directing. Take for instance, the remake of 1976 zombie-flick horror classic Dawn of the Dead.

At once the characters and the story are interesting and believable in the original. There are brief periods of gore and suspense as dialogue and cut scenes are employed to fill-in the gaps. The focus is on character development and the plausible states of mind of the character during the time of such horrific, inexplicable disaster. The film is groundbreaking because it uses mass extinction by the spread of the zombie disease for the first time in the genre. It makes the claim that once hell is filled with all the sins of mankind, there shall be no more room thus the dead shall rise to walk the earth.

Likewise, it can not be gainsaid that the movie was radical and effective when it was first shown. Indeed, with such success in the box office as it did then, it prompted the remake of it in the 2004 rendition bearing the same title: Dawn of the Dead (2004) . The heads of the zombies blow off realistically and the different prosthetics used in the zombies are immensely detailed which leaves the original version a lot to be desired. There were not just several zombies, there were a horde of them biting and snapping at warm and fresh blood. The entire movie was a blood fest, a great appeal to the votaries of horror films.

Similarly, Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong (2005) revealed tons of exquisite details by the masterful use of effects to depict the scenes which were left out previously . In the first two King Kong movies, the beast was seen as a huge inert unthinking mass tearing down buildings in New York. There was no correlation between Ann, the lady captive, and the King Kong, the beast captor. One can only glean hostility and animosity, inspiring not pity but fear. Fortunately, thanks to better camera techniques and CGI effects, the essential elements that link the emotions of the captive and the captor are drawn out in great clarity.

Roger Ebert writes, in his review of the remade version of King Kong, that by focusing on the gentle parts of King Kong in handling Ann, the movie achieved something that its predecessors did not: To give a sense of humanity in the gargantuan gorilla . Put differently, according to Ebert, the kindness that shown in the latest version was not established before. Specifically, the scenes “are crucial because it removes the element of creepiness in the gorilla/girl relationship in the two earlier “Kongs” (1933 and 1976), creating a wordless bond that allows her to trust him” .

The review concludes by saying that result of the effects and the new take on the plot was “surprisingly involving and rather beautiful movie — one that will appeal strongly to the primary action audience, and also cross over to people who have no plans to see “King Kong” but will change their minds the more they hear” . Lastly, Kong transformed from a brute to a gentle beast to be cherished by people who loves this kind of film genre. In the same vein, CGI effects helped a lot to bring about these changes to which effects the original versions pale in comparison.

Of course this is speaking from the standpoint of a modern audience accustomed to effects and fixated on Hollywood magic for finding movie satisfaction, that the lack thereof would mean the pass or fail of a remade movie against the scrutiny of a demanding audience of today. However, as for the puritans of cinema, they believe that fear and pit may be aroused or heightened through spectacular means but such emotions must also result primarily from the inner structure and essential parts of the movie, which is after all the best test of a masterpiece.

Even without the aid of hi-tech effects, a good movie is still capable of thrilling the audience with abject fear and horror. Movies that employ and rely solely on spectacular means to create visual imagery not of the truly horrific but only of the monstrous and gory aspects of the story definitely do not understand the purpose of horror or suspense films; for there must not be extraneous effects to derive every form of emotions just to cater to the whims of the masses, only those proper and necessary to the narrative.

On this point, although effects more or less improve the visual aspects of the film, sometimes a surfeit of such would yield nothing but an extravagant rewording of the plot. Basically the plot and characters stay the same while their surroundings transform into bombastic scenes. As such, the effects become alien to the purpose of the story. They become mere adornments that only appeal to the visual senses and not the intellect and emotions of the audience.

For anything which presence or absence makes no tangible different, does not belong anywhere in the scheme of the plot. Case in point, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) was a thorough and careful exposition of a deranged person who victimizes women out of a strange psychological interplay of jealousy by a made up personality inside the villain’s mind . The strength of the movie lies on the fact that each scene were calculated to feed on the unknown horror that shall befall the female main protagonist.

Suspense heightens at every turn leaving the audience feeling for the main protagonist with sympathy and concern. The success of the story hinges upon clever manipulation of the emotions, false building of character, skewed camera angles, subtle hints of danger and a good musical score. These elements combined there results a perfect mix of suspense and horror that works rather effectively with the audience of before and up to the present. Nowhere in the film is there a need for extra effects because as it were the film had everything measured out.

So what more is there to add or remake? Gus Van Sant seems to believe that the classic suspense-drama thriller may still find meaning and relevance with today’s audience. Thus, he directed a remade version of the Psycho in 1998 with the same title, keeping insanely faithful and accurate with the retelling . The scenes look exactly the same, the dialogue even felt unchanged and there were no differences in the musical score and lighting. To be sure, there was a change of actors and actresses and the film was shot in color.

Indeed, as many critics would point out, as if it were likely to be believed that a simply change in the set and actors would have the power to elevate or change the substantial historical success of the original. In more ways than one, the remade version was an affront to the discriminating tastes of the fans of the original. Film critics were appalled with how the treatment was so out of style to which the original was largely known for. Critical reviews in online journals citing it one of the worst movie remakes of all time make further proof necessary.

It unabashedly ran down the fame of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece, downplaying most of the essential elements and losing the thrill in the process of Hollywood replication . The movie had several obvious defects apart from the fact that it decided to remake Psycho in the first place. According to Constantine Santas, a professor of film and literature, “the failure of Psycho ’98 must be attributed primariliy to Van San himself and to his apparent lack of artistic vision […] again, one can ask, what was it he was trying to achieve?

[…] What can an exact copy do for a viewer, especially a viewer to whom the original is so readily available? […] an exact copy of a movie made 40 years earlier, even with minor modifications of style, does not seem a realistic endeavor” . In addition, Vince Vaughn, the actor that played Norman Bates, was strong, burly and manly in every respect as opposed to the mild, effeminate and seemingly harmless personality of Anthony Perkins—a mother’s boy. Vince Vaughn was nowhere near to such a character. His masculine stance and demeanor departs from the boyish innocence of his predecessor.

The former did not fit the bill in this respect. He is much more suited in playing comedic roles than in serious thriller drama such as the Psycho. The critics are left wondering what kind of psychopathic mind would have thought of producing such a poorly thought out movie. However, in fairness to the film, Gus Van Sant avers that he simply wanted to do a re-portrayal of the movie for the modern audience as a form of paying homage to the master of horror and suspense. In fact, Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter played an important role in bringing the classic into a different light.

The inspiration was not to rake in money just like most Hollywood remakes to date. It was to re-introduce the genre and hope that the cultic-following of the movie shall grow even bigger in time by adding a number of fanatics to the classic. Nevertheless, again, the only thing that the film has achieved is its place in history as the worst film remake followed closely by “the Fog” and “the Wicker Man” . At any rate, so long as filmmakers continue to experiment with ready-made and established ideas of the past there will always be movies that are remade.

Hollywood is known for its cannibalization of ideas in order to turn in profit. There is a fixation for movie effects and camera techniques with little or no regard for the basic structure that makes a film works so effectively. There may be instances where the effects come in handy in the remade version, but their proper application on a certain movie is few and far between. In most instances, the remade version uses the effects only to deprive the audience from using their imagination to fill in the details.

No connection is made between the film and the emotional states of the audience. Hollywood makes up for this by capitalizing on technology to at least assail the visual senses with colors of blood and gore among many. But such colors and effects, that the modern film industry boasts off even with their poor ability to remake masterpieces, only deaden or dull the original film’s vibrant palette to a shade worse than black and white. Bibliography Ebert, R, King Kong, rogerebert. com, 2005, retrieved 27 April 2008,

< http://rogerebert. suntimes. com/apps/pbcs. dll/article? AID=/20051212/REVIEWS/51203002> Macnab, G, Movie remakes are nothing new, but the current crop contains some bizarre choices, the Independent: Film and TV, 2007, retrieved 27 April 2008, < http://www. independent. co. uk/arts-entertainment/film-and-tv/features/movie-remakes-are-nothing-new-but-the-current-crop-contains-some-bizarre-choices-458818. html>. Moviefone Database, The 25 worst movie remakes of all time, Moviefone, 2005, retrieved 27 April 2008, < http://movies. aol. com/movie-photo/worst-movie-remakes>.

Santas, C, The remake of Psycho (Gus Van Sant, 1998): Creativity or cinematic blasphemy? , Senses of Cinema, 2001, retrieved 27 April 2008, <http://www. sensesofcinema. com/contents/00/10/psycho. html>. Other References Dawn of the Dead, Snyder, Z (Director), Universal Pictures Distribution, 2004. King Kong, Jackson, P (Director), Universal Pictures Distribution, 2005. Psycho, Hitchcock, A (Director), Paramount Pictures, 1960. Psycho, Van Sant, G (Director), Universal Pictures, 1998.

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