Give Remakes a Break!

Written by Mark Filipowich December 09, 2011

Remakes Deserve Better

In the last few decades, between the recordable video tape, the proliferation of video games and the wide reaching influence of the internet, the film industry has had number of threats closing around its once insurmountable influence on culture. With audiences finding new ways to find entertainment at lower costs while expecting more out of Hollywood, moviemakers are understandably worried. And when worries start to mount the best thing to do is cling to what’s familiar and wait until it all blows over. Thus we are in the decade of the remake, reboot and reimagination of retired properties. And as oversaturated as theatres are with 80’s nostalgia pieces, there’s nothing inherently wrong with an adaptation.


With so few movies being original anymore it’s easy to blame a faceless greedy producer slashing masterpieces for putting his studio far enough into the black. But most movies have always been adaptations of some other work in a previous medium. Until recently that never seemed to be a huge problem for people. A movie without an original screenplay is treated as if the filmmakers had cheated to bring the film into theatres. Similarly, it’s easy to forget that not all original screenplays are The Matrix, a good many of them are closer to The Tourist.

A film doesn’t have to be original to be good, or even great. Translating Breakfast at Tiffany’s from a novella into a film, for example, completely transforms the story. Narrative technique and stream of consciousness are exchanged for cinematography and acting as subtle or outlandish as the director instructs. Adaptations transform something that exists in one medium into a completely new experience. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.


Granted, with the current myriad of remakes shoved down audiences throats every year (particularly during blockbuster season), it’s difficult to defend the practice. But for every time something like Transformers gets dragged corpse out of pop-culture’s past, something like The Muppets get a glorious return to grace. The upcoming Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake might force a few cringes to Whedon loyalists, but if Sylvester Stallone can make a comeback than all hope can’t be lost.

There’s a chorus that rings out whenever the discussion of art and originality comes up: “nothing is original.” And even if that’s true at best it’s defeatist and at worst it’s completely the wrong way of looking at the subject. Rather, everything is original, even if its title came from something else. A core story, retold in a different light or shown in a new way, opens profoundly new ways of interpreting a work. Original screenplays are great and surely they deserve to keep being written. But they’re in no way more valid than adaptations, even if there are a lot of them in the market.

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About Mark Filipowich

Mark Filipowich has a degree in English and Psychology. Every week he writes about video games with varying degrees of pretension for Popmatters and Joystick Division. He's barely able to hold down a regular job.

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