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Stuck on Repeat: Why Are We So Obsessed With Remakes?

By and | Published November 13, 2016

One of the most anticipated cinematic releases of 2015 was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which saw the re-emergence of eternally loyal Star Wars fans, and a profit of almost $1,000,000,000 in the USA by May 2016.  Brands went crazy to profit from the release, with Star Wars merchandise appearing everywhere, and people queued for hours to see the first showings of the sci-fi epic; there was Star Wars hysteria. Yet this was nothing new. The audience knew what they were going to see, and negative criticisms came from cinema-goers who thought that the film differed too far from the originals. The Force Awakens was almost not allowed to be too new, it was to stick to the 70s and 80s format that people loved and treasured. Fans wanted the new film to play to their long-lasting love of the originals, posing the question: Is the cinema industry stuck on repeat?

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As good as the original?

 

Ghostbusters: The original 1984 comedy

Ghostbusters: The original 1984 comedy

When asking a film student why they chose their course, they told me ‘When I first watched Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging I loved it… but thought I could’ve directed it better’. Do creatives always have an incentive to improve upon another’s work, or build upon an existing piece? 2016 has seen many remakes, or films that work off the success of their predecessors. Ghostbusters came out in 2016, with an all-female cast, and received generally strong praise, but there is a feeling around the film that it will soon be forgotten, unlike the

The cast of the 2016 remake

The cast of the 2016 remake

original 1984 Ghostbusters, which will keep its label of a cult film. Finding Dory was also released this year, obviously working off the huge popularity of childhood film Finding Nemo, with audiences watching as an attempt to reconnect with the joy of watching the original. The Jungle Book was given an updated makeover, with the 2016 version employing modern graphics and effects. Studios know that they can rely on a viewer’s deep connection with their favourite childhood films.

Horror stands out as a genre full of remakes, updated versions and re-releases. Foreign horror films, especially, are often remade by American studios, if the originals do well critically and culturally. Examples of this include Michael Hanneke’s Funny Games, Swedish film Let The Right One In (which was remade as Let Me In) and Spanish horror film The Silent House, which was unpopularly remade in 2012. Is this necessary? Is the remake ever as good as the original? Or is it not about improvement, but merely profit? On the remake of Dawn of the Dead, original director George A. Romero said ‘The first 15, 20 minutes were terrific, but it sort of lost its reason for being’[1]. A lot of the time, the essence of a film is lost in translation, and American or English remakes of foreign-speaking horror films do not capture the core of the original, and therefore fail to make a similar impact on the viewer.

Big entertainment companies profiting from remakes can be frustrating to those looking for something refreshing within cinema culture, with big, CGI-packed movies taking the spotlight. However, small, original, art-house films are still able to make an impression, with old favourites such as the Coen Brothers and Woody Allen releasing new and refreshing films Hail, Caesar!  and Café Society, and films such as Almodóvar’s Julieta, the slow-building horror The Witch, and the bizarre but soon-to-be-cult film ‘The Lobster’ receiving critical and cultural acclaim in 2016. Remakes are very much in the foreground of current cinema, but there will always be space for the original.

Lanthimos' 2015 film The Lobster. Do art-house and indie films still have a place in society?

Lanthimos’ 2015 film The Lobster. Do art-house and indie films still have a place in society?

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2016/sep/16/how-dare-you-remake-my-classic-when-directors-attack