Thursday, March 30, 2017

Why I Don't Like Remakes

Entertainment is built upon the foundation of everything that came before. Comedy would not be the same without the early pioneers of the craft. Drama would be nothing without the Greeks.
When a production decides to build upon a classic and remake the same story with a new cast, and new elements, it is my belief that they do so to attract a new audience. In production, the goal is to make money by making art. There is an equal part of the desire to make something beautiful and to make that object profitable.

The remakes of 2017 are many. Beauty and the Beast is one of the many treasured titles that I will pay to see remade this year. I love the original 1991 animated film. I think the music is nearly perfect and I believe that it is probably the best musical that has ever been written. The fact that the best musical ever written was originally presented as an animated film is interesting but maybe not significant. The technology to make the magic happen believably simply did not exist in 1991. A 2 dimensional drawing of magic happening was more than possible.

To update the best musical ever written, the Disney Corporation decided to use the 21st century technology now available to bring that magic to life. The technology has caught up with 1740’s imagination and 1991’s big dance numbers. MOSTLY.

The art of animation and 2 dimensional drawing itself can (with the right artists) create more emotion than a live action movie or stage production can. My own stage production of Beauty and the Beast in 2015 captured some of the emotion of the 1991 version. The 2017 live action movie captured a different piece of the emotion pie (it may be cake).

Both productions still pale in comparison to the 1991 animated film. Like many remakes, the action of the live action harkens back to those closely held memories of the feelings the audience had when seeing the original. The music is there, the songs are different, the voices are not the voices of those characters that the audience has locked in their memories.

I have never been a fan of remakes. I have dutifully paid my money to see remakes of my favorites and I have almost always been disappointed.

I believe that every remake is intended to reach the hearts and minds of the next generation. The people who are 26 years older than they were in 1991 (most of us are) have statistically spawned a child or two in the interval. A new generation deserves a new version of the classics. The classics may not have aged well. The technology has improved and modern audiences may not be able to get past the use of processes from decades past.

A new version of a classic film may open an audience to the emotion of the story on a fresh new level. However, the emotion of the original may be a stronger pull. The emotion of the actors in the original is surely different from those in a remake. The stakes are so much higher in an original piece than in a remake. How many movies fail to be profitable each year? The number of movies that the general public NEVER hears about in a given year is staggering.

I may eschew the next list of remakes. I may send my sons to see the remakes of the classics that I loved at their age. Maybe the remakes will become the movies that my sons love in 26 years.

I’m trying to think of a remake that I loved 26 years ago. I will need to do some research to discover which of my beloved classics are really just remakes of other older films**. The fact that I cannot think of one either indicates that I don’t love any classics that are themselves remakes or the remakes that I have seen have always disappointed me. I am disappointed in the 2017 Beauty and the Beast. It’s a great story and the quite possibly the best musical ever. It just isn’t the 1991 original. It just pales in comparison. I have become the old man who watches movies from nearly 3 decades ago.

**In my investigation, I have come to the conclusion that I am writing here of the remake of an English language film remade as another English language film. Many of the stories we enjoy were originally foreign films adapted to the American film making paradigm. They are “original” only in language but that seems to count when we don’t speak other languages.


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