The old idiom “don’t fix what isn’t broken” readily comes to mind when considering the veritable deluge of recent movie remakes. My initial thoughts on the topic have been dismissive: “they’re just running out of ideas,” or “they’re just doing it for the money.” While I don’t doubt that a desire for profits and an apparent lack of creativity play a role, there are other issues at play.
When previews for a Ghostbusters remake featuring an all-female team of phantom-fighting scientists started circulating the internet I became immensely agitated. I don’t object to a predominantly female cast. I object that Ghostbusters, a classic movie that hallmarks American culture in the 1980s, is getting remade. Dare I ask what was wrong with the original?
Ghostbusters is not alone. Several other iconic movies have been remade or rebooted recently: Star Trek, Poltergeist, and Mad Max to name a few. While I imagine each of these examples was intended to be a respectful homage to its namesake franchise, they arguably pervert and ruin the content.
The Star Trek remakes, while visually appealing and, in general, good movies, completely alter what Star Trek is about. The Poltergeist remake lacks the subtlety and creepiness that made the original so frightening, and doesn’t add any substance to the franchise. And Mad Max: Fury Road seemed over-the-top in terms of special effects and lacked compelling characters or plot. While it did contain some subtle political undertones like the original, the messages of the two movies were undoubtedly different, reflecting different generations’ political struggles and ideals.
At first glance, it may seem like a good idea to remake older movies to fit a new audience. After all, with advances in special effects visually appealing movies are practically mandatory. And I will admit, there are remakes that were done well. The Dark Knight trilogy for instance added depth to the character of Batman, all while keeping mostly true to the original story.
But that is the exception, not the rule. Yes, some stories have very pertinent messages that younger generations should consider, and reframing them in a way that will draw younger viewers is economically sound. But considering the talent and creativity that exists in Hollywood, why waste money and time recreating an older story that younger viewers should already be able to appreciate? Why not come up with something original?
More importantly, why should we as a generation settle for the same stories our parents told themselves? Why should we continue to beat a dead horse and reuse the same characters and stories for our own agendas?
We should appreciate what we have: hundreds of good movies that were done right the first time and don’t deserve to be treated like a smartphone in need of an upgrade. We should focus on what we don’t have: original stories that no one has imagined yet, stories that are compelling and ask the questions older stories don’t. And when we create, we should be proud to stamp our names onto something we came up with ourselves, without relying on someone else’s ideas as a starting point.