Comment On Why We Are Happy To Be Caught In A Web Of Movie Remakes

Why we are happy to be caught in a web of movie remakes

From The Amazing Spider-Man to Total Recall, is our thirst for familiar stories growing, or are fresh ideas simply drying up?Enthusiasm for The Amazing Spider-Man has been tempered by a caveat. In the words of Roger Ebert, "We didn't really need to be told Spidey's origin story again." It's only five years since the same studio gave us the third instalment of a different version of the same arachnid hero's exploits. The pace of cinematic coprophagia seems to be hotting up. So does its volume.Last week on this site, Ben Child bracketed Sony's reboot with the forthcoming remake of Total Recall. However, also coming shortly are remakes, reboots, reinvisionings, reimaginings, reinventions, retoolings, rethinks or reinterpretations of Carrie, The Great Gatsby, Godzilla, Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, American Psycho, Judge Dredd, Tomb Raider, Frankenstein, Akira, My Fair Lady, All Quiet on the Western Front, Rebecca, Short Circuit, Barbarella, Starship Troopers, The Seven Samurai, Scarface, A Star is Born, Suspiria, RoboCop, The Birds, Death Wish, Westworld and plenty more. All this has revived a familiar complaint: why can't we have fresh stories instead?The bleat can be overdone: it's not as though everything is second-hand. An analysis of American-made releases in 2010 found that 60% were neither remakes, sequels or prequels, adaptations from other media, English language copies of foreign titles, 3D retrofits or even retellings of ancient myths. All the same, that leaves 40% that were indeed one of the above, and it's those films that took the lion's share of both multiplex screens and studio budgets.Moans about this state of affairs are long-standing: Ebert's own TV show was grumbling away on this theme back in 1976. Yet even then, retreads enjoyed an august history. Since 1903, Hollywood has made 29 versions of The Three Musketeers. After all, filmgoers have got to know why they're buying a ticket. Trusting your favourite stars and directors is all very well, but there's nothing like buying into a story that you're sure you already like, especially if you've grown to love the characters.In theory, knowing what's going to happen ought to ruin narrative impact. Fury about spoilers on this site suggests that for many, it does. Still, others seem to delight in being told the same old tale over and over again. Those who've tried to get their kids off to sleep without a 48th retelling of an all-too-familiar favourite will recognise the syndrome. Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces helped persuade film-makers like George Lucas that their job consisted of retelling mythic stories. Box-office returns have taught them they can even keep the same protagonists and titles.If anything, a thirst for the old, old stories is actually growing, as "retromania" feeds an appetite for cultural archaeology. Once, the young were repelled by their parents' faves, but in the era of YouTube and Netflix, archive artefacts have acquired their own kind of cachet.It's easy to blame a "creative vacuum" in Hollywood on corporate greed, but ultimately it's demand that shapes commercial realities. Directors may prefer to innovate, but producers need to feel confident that the public will welcome their output. In the 1970s, with the studio system in decline, auteurs enjoyed a day in the sun. The likes of Roman Polanski could get something like Chinatown made without too much difficulty. Since then, big business has tightened its grip, and much bigger budgets mean that there's much more at stake.Nowadays, studios tend to be valued largely on the intellectual property they possess, so they're forced to sweat their creative assets. Remaking their older titles boosts brand value and therefore the total worth of the business. Hence the milking of old faithfuls like The Omen, Halloween, The A-Team, Fame, Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian, Arthur, The Green Hornet and Straw Dogs. If Sony had decided to park Spider-Man for bit, the rights would have reverted to Marvel; it couldn't have afforded to let that happen. Thus it is that unlike Polanski, directors like Marc Webb, who've cut their teeth on a jeu d'esprit like 500 Days of Summer but want to get on, find themselves entangled in franchise-land.So, we can all look forward to déjà vu over and over again. You know you like it really. Some of cinema's greatest triumphs have been remakes, including The Fly, Airplane!, Heat, The Magnificent Seven, The Thing, Ben-Hur, A Fistful of Dollars, The Maltese Falcon and Some Like It Hot.ScreenRant has had a go at setting out rules for what might constitute an acceptable reiteration. These come down to the insistence that something new must be added to what is old. By this measure, The Amazing Spider-Man does pretty well. I'd tell you why, but some of you don't like spoilers.Action and adventureScience fiction and fantasyDavid Coxguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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