In general I’m not a fan of remakes. I understand why they exist, the in-built audience and familiarity with a franchise or character, but my main issue is there are thousands of new ideas out there crying to be developed. Sadly, some amazing ideas will never reach a large audience, because the risk of adapting something that is completely unknown, from a creator no one has heard of before, is too great a risk for some. Not all, but some.
Sometimes, remakes take the original material and they bring something new to the table. They update it for a modern audience and realise simply reshooting the material with new actors and better special effects isn’t good enough. That’s a point I’ll come back to. Some remakes have really impressed me and despite being initially wary they won me over, such as the new Battlestar Galactica. In my opinion the remake was better than the original 1980s TV show, which I am old enough to remember from the first time around. I always thought it was cheesy, but it was made for that period and the modern version took the original material and did something new. What followed, Caprica, was pretty dull in my opinion, but the new Blood and Chrome web mini thing, looks like a return to form. Shame it didn’t turn into a new TV series.
So, sometimes, remakes do work and are worth pursuing for characters or franchises. Look at the new Christopher Nolan Batman films for example. In my opinion they’re the best of the bunch, and now we have a new Man of Steel, Superman film waiting in the wings. Time will tell if it equals or surpasses the Christopher Reeve films.
All of which brings me around to two remakes I’ve watched in the last month. The Amazing Spider-Man and Total Recall. With ASM it brought Spider-Man back to the screen only a few years after Toby Maguire hung up his costume. Sony made lots of money from the first three films and, regardless of what I think about their varying quality, they were obviously keen to keep milking that old spider shaped cash cow. So ASM came out in 2012 with Andrew Garfield in the blue and red spandex suit. Ok, let’s start with the good. Garfield, for me, was a much better Peter Parker than Maguire. He was gangly, quiet, and a nerdy genius, which is what Peter is supposed to be. At times Garfield’s Peter did seem a little bit too confident at school and more of a skater-boy than a true outsider, but Peter is meant to be an ordinary kid and, in general, I was convinced. Martin Sheen and Sally Field were brilliant, but then they always are in everything. They felt like a real family with secrets and there were some great set pieces, fights and the CGI was good. Now the bad. It was an origin story. Again. Seven year old children are not idiots. They’ve probably been watching Spider-Man for years via cartoons, playing Spider-Man on video games, and (hopefully) reading the comics. So five years later, they’re just old enough to go and see the 12 rated film in 2012. If you ask anyone on the street, who is Spider-Man?, most of them will be able to tell you something. It’s the same with Superman or Batman. They’re international icons. So who, exactly, was this remake for? The best part of the previous Raimi films was that in the credits for the second film, I think, they recapped the whole of the first film, including Spider-Man’s origin. It took maybe five minutes while names roll past, boom, done, on with the action. So why, why, why, do yet another remake?
At times during ASM I found myself doing something else, flicking through my ipad or phone, because it wasn’t holding my attention as I knew what was going to happen. I’d seen it all before and so had the audience. It did well at the box office, but, not as well as the first Raimi Spider-Man film, or the second, or even the third film! There were some interesting new additions to the film this time, minor plot points, but apart from switching Green Goblin for The Lizard, it was more or less the same film. They’ll do another one, and this time, maybe, just maybe, it will be interesting because it’s not yet another origin story.
One other thing on ASM before I move on, and to me it’s a huge thing and is a major spoiler for the film, so look away now if you don’t want to know. The fundamental foundation of Peter Parker and Spider-Man is, with great power comes great responsibility. He had the power to stop the thief and he didn’t, and because of that someone else paid the price. On that occasion it was his Uncle Ben who stood up and said no. Peter makes a promise and is determined to do the right thing. So, at the very end of the new Spider-Man film, Captain Stacy is dying, he knows who Peter really is and what he’s done. He asks Peter to make him a promise to keep his distance from Gwen, because anyone in his orbit is in danger. He’s going to make enemies as Spider-Man and they will try to find his weak points and exploit them. Villain puts girl in peril, hero shows up to save her, they fight, and sometimes the girl dies in the process.
On his deathbed, Stacy makes Peter promise and he agrees. Peter keeps his distance, Gwen is hurt at first, but then works it out and sort of understands. Then, right at the very end of the film, Peter changes his mind. He breaks his promise to her dead father, he breaks his word and decides, ah, sod it, he’s never going to know and I know best, and I want to be with Gwen and he can’t stop me. What a load of bullshit. Utter, utter bullshit. That goes against everything. He may as well just let certain criminals go because he can’t be bothered to catch them. I mean, why not? If making a promise to a dying man means nothing to him, if his word means so little, if he is that bloody selfish, why not? This completely undermined the film for me and it undid all of the goodwill they’d built up. So, in ASM2, Gwen will no doubt get into trouble with the next villain and she may die, and then they can bring on Mary Jane from the wings for the end of ASM2 and she is the love interest for ASM3. Utter crap. I didn’t see ASM at the cinema and won’t be rushing out to see ASM2 either.
Total Recall. Ugh. I admit, the original film isn’t the best film ever and despite the fact that I haven’t read the source material, I’m confident in saying the Arnie film deviates a great deal. However, it was charming, interesting, exciting, different and a great deal of fun. This remake was built on a crap premise to distance it from the whole Mars thing. All of the action was set on grimy Blade Runner-esque Earth in a post apocalyptic world where people take a lift from the British colony to Australia for work. That’s right, they commute, through the centre of the earth on a lift to the other side of the world.
Ignoring that, and putting to one side the updated CGI and special effects, the modern actors who are people I (normally) enjoy watching, I’m struggling to find anything original this film brought to the table. In general the film was just dull and really didn’t hold my interest. This wasn’t a shot for shot remake, but there was nothing we hadn’t seen before. The duplicitous wife, Melina coming to rescue him, the fight to find out who he really is, then rejecting that and deciding to side with the rebels. Fighting for a good cause, and for some reason, destroying the lift that connects the two sides of the planet. It was just really boring. It has been a long time (relatively) since the original Arnie film, and there were some nods in there for older viewers, the women with three breasts, the woman in yellow going on vacation for two weeks at the scanner, and probably some others I didn’t spot as I was doing two other things while watching this at home. It made it’s money back at the box office and some profit on top, so the film makers are not complaining too much, but it wasn’t the runaway juggernaut at the box office they were hoping for by trading on the name.
This, more so than ASM, was an example of where a remake was, for me, completely pointless. If they’d tried to do something new and taken the story in a very different direction, but had held onto the central premise of buying memories for recreation to become a spy, or fighter pilot or whatever, then I might be more enthusiastic. At least, even if it didn’t work, they had tried to do something new and fresh. This was just lazy at its core. I’m off to read something original, novels seem to be the best place for new stories.