The rules of the re­make

The cine­mas are com­ing down with re­makes. are about to be joined by a re­makes of and Joe Grif­fin on when to re­make – and when to let it lie and

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

RE­MAKES ARE noth­ing new, but they’re clog­ging up cine­mas these days. In com­ing months and weeks we’ll see Din­ner for Schmucks (based on the French farce Le Dîner de Cons), Let Me In (re­mak­ing Let the Right One In) and Dog Pound (based on Scum).

Next year will bring, among oth­ers, re­boots of Foot­loose, Near Dark, Red Dawn, My Fair Lady and Straw Dogs.

Will Let Me In be a smart rein­ven­tion, like The Fly, or a lazy re­tread, like Psy­cho? Will Straw Dogs be a vi­brant update like Dawn of the Dead or an un­hinged em­bar­rass­ment like The Wicker Man? It all de­pends on the fol­low­ing re­make dos and don’ts . . . were dis­as­trous. Film his­to­ri­ans will look back and mar­vel at the de­ci­sion to re­place Caine with Jude Law in those two mis­fires. And the less said about Sylvester Stallone’s Get Carter the bet­ter.

Just as re­makes don’t ben­e­fit from big­ger star names, clas­sic, grungy hor­rors never ben­e­fit from big­ger bud­gets, as demon­strated by new ver­sions of The Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre, Last House on the Left and House of Wax. Also, Tim Bur­ton’s Planet of the Apes, Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­tory and Alice in Won­der­land had to be re­ally spe­cial to erase mem­o­ries of the beloved orig­i­nals. In­stead, they’re ar­guably Bur­ton’s three worst films. Michael Mann’s 1989 TV movie LA Take­down was re­spectable, but he was wise to re­visit the story in 1995 with the added re­sources of movie stars and stu­dio cheque­books. With a big­ger scope, and the com­bined act­ing mus­cle of Robert de Niro and Al Pa­cino, Heat was not only much bet­ter than LA Take­down, it was pos­i­tively iconic. Look­ing back a few decades, Hitch­cock’s re­make of his The Man Who Knew Too Much also ben­e­fited from star power (James Ste­wart) and a big­ger bud­get.

Don’t be afraid to re­make your own film.

Don’t try to un­der­stand what made the orig­i­nal work. The 1960 Ocean’s 11 (fa­mous for be­ing the only film to fea­ture the full Rat Pack) had a breezy charm and high star wattage, but lit­tle else. Steven Soder­bergh’s ver­sion had a sim­i­larly fa­mous cast, but it also boasted a much tighter script and far slicker di­rec­tion. Soder­bergh built on what worked in the orig­i­nal and im­proved on it.

By con­trast, Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky had the same plot and lead­ing lady (Pené­lope Cruz) as Abres Los Ojos, but sac­ri­ficed in­trigue and pace for pop-cul­ture ref­er­ences and bom­bast.

Trust the his­tory books. Yes, his­tory is lit­tered with bad, bad re­makes, but film-mak­ers cling to the hope that theirs could ac­tu­ally eclipse the orig­i­nal. The afore­men­tioned Heat as well as The Mal­tese Fal­con, The Fly (see be­low) and John Car­pen­ter’s The Thing are tes­ta­ment to that phe­nom­e­non.

Ex­ploit mod­ern events and technology. Fan­tasy films have a good track record for breath­ing new life into old clas­sics. David Cro­nen­berg’s The Fly and Peter Jack­son’s King Kong took ter­rific orig­i­nal sto­ries and added imag­i­na­tive and mod­ern spe­cial ef­fects. Abel Fer­rera’s un­der-rated Body Snatch­ers had eerie crea­ture de­sign (and a wel­come new mil­i­tary set­ting), and Dawn of the Dead, I Am Leg­end and The Cra­zies added post-9/11 para­noia to the mix.

Think about chang­ing the set­ting. The re­make of The Karate Kid moved the story to China, ac­cen­tu­at­ing the main char­ac­ter’s alien­ation. The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven (be­low) took The Seven Sa­mu­rai (be­low left) from feu­dal Ja­pan to the Wild West, and added Amer­i­can op­ti­mism and six-shoot­ers while main­tain­ing the clas­sic story.

Ro­man­tic med­dling is a sta­ple of clas­sic lit­er­a­ture and the­atre, and it made sense that petty ac­tions would be car­ried out by mod­ern teenagers in Cruel In­ten­tions (which re­made Dan­ger­ous Li­aisons), Clue­less ( Emma) and es­pe­cially 10 Things I Hate About You ( The Tam­ing of the Shrew).

Scrubs up badly: Gus Van Sant’s lazy re­tread of the Hitch­cock clas­sic is a fine ex­am­ple of how not to re­make a beloved film

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