Closing Time for Remakes?

Few words are as damning or worrying for a film’s prospects as ‘redundant’. ‘Terrible’ can be reframed so it seems like critics are just being critics, ‘dull’ can be spun to mean ‘fun for a target audience’. But redundant? That is a cross no film wants to bear, because redundant does not sell. Variety magazine’s review of The Amazing Spiderman 2 began by saying, ‘Redundancy remains a problem.’ And what’s really amazing is that no one has pointed that out sooner.

Do you remember the original Spiderman movies? Of course you do, because Spider-Man 3 only came out five years prior to this reboot. The hysterical rapidity with which this latest cashcow for Marvel was churned out is doubly deplorable. One, I entirely refuse to believe that anyone, anyone, grieved the end of the previous incarnation of the franchise. Second, and far more importantly, is that this is only one example of the ‘rebooting’ frenzy that has swept cinema; a relentless cull of original content in favour of established and done-to-death concepts that are easy sells. Redundant to say the least

Hollywood is a devious critter though. Reboots are rarely brazenly advertised as such, instead being masqueraded past audiences otherwise oblivious to the regurgitated content being sluiced into their eyes. Take the last outing for that adventuring rogue from the 80’s, Indiana Jones. 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was unremittingly awful, yet cunningly branded as the long-gestated fourth part of the older Indiana Jones trilogy. But Crystal Skull was not a sequel. It was an abortive attempt to introduce young viewers, too young to have seen the originals in cinemas or even to have heard of them, to the franchise, and posit Shia LaBoeuf as the successor to Ford’s legacy. Thank goodness George Lucas couldn’t find a plot in a graveyard, as it left the film roundly condemned as the latest peal in the creative death-knell of cinema.

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Looking at a list of releases from recent years, it reads like a cinema programme from a time capsule. This year’s revival of Robocop confirms Hollywood’s rabid fetish for 80’s memorabilia. 2012’s Dredd was a reboot of the one from 1995. 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a remake of Tim Burton’s version from 2001 that was itself a reboot of the Charlton Heston 60’s classics. Versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th from within the last decade are all bootlegged mutilations of their esteemed horror progenitors. And lest we forget, Godzilla is released on May 16th, a remake of the 1998 version, itself an Americanised botch of the Japanese original from 1954. I think you’ll agree, it’s a sad, sad situation.

The problem is self-evident. By rebooting content, something new is inevitably pushed aside, delayed or outright destroyed. Pixar’s recent history demonstrates this perfectly. The Good Dinosaur, an original story about life in the prehistoric, was originally slated for a 2013 release, only to be side-lined for the unwarranted second helping that was Monsters University. A disquieting move, made even more galling for a film studio otherwise as lauded for its creativity and constant stream of originality as Pixar.  

It’s scarcely imaginable how many innovative original scripts have been mercilessly crammed into the shredder by thoughtless film and television executives. Yet, the idiocy of canning new ideas for dust-laden relics from by-gone eras is so overwhelming that it is almost self-defeating. To rephrase my first point, how many new franchises, that themselves could be rebooted, maybe within five years or less, have equally been eviscerated? We shall, mercifully, never know. 

I know cinema is a business, not a rescue home for creativity. I know not all reboots are terrible, as Christopher Nolan’s vanquishing of the pantomime drag-queen legacy attached to Batman from its multitude of embarrassing predecessors attests. But most reboots are appalling. And injudicious. And leaden. And dribble-inducing. And creatively cancerous. And they really need to stop.