Michael Lee Simpson
REBOOTS, REMAKES AND THE MONEY MACHINE ROARING BEHIND THEM (PART 3)
Following on from Part 2 in our series on reboots, we can be both cynical that studios want to squeeze every last penny from a film franchise, or we could became more laterally creative and see what new and exciting elements we can add to elevate it. Are sequels and prequels included in this paradigm? Let’s take a look at the final article of our three-part series.
From the best remakes—Brian De Palma’s revolutionary Scarface in 1983, to the worst — 2002’s Rollerball with Chris Klein and Jean Reno—to the most bizarre, a shot-by-shot recreation of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho by director Gus Van Sant, whose otherwise inspiring portfolio includes Good Will Hunting and Drugstore Cowboy. And then there are sequels, prequels, spin-offs. Films like The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back redefined how powerful they can be, while Son of the Mask (sequel to Jim Carrey’s The Mask) showed what they are at their worst. George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, at the same time also reboots — The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith—and the spin-offs, most popular in TV, Joey spun from Friends and Frasier from Cheers, use backstories that have proven to work with fresh material.
“As someone who has now taken to making a podcast in their free time about the subject, remakes and reboots have been around since the early days of film, said Luke Matheis, actor in Ratched, Daisy and Producer/co-host of the Original V Remake podcast. They are not going away and (in select cases) there is certainly value in them. The Maltese Falcon and The Wizard of Oz, two of the all-time classics, were not the first adaptations of their respective source materials. On the other end of the spectrum, some seem to come off an assembly line for the sole purpose of a big opening weekend. Even those have a place though. The money those make can finance other projects people involved might also want to make. It’s even interesting to take an existing character and create a new story around them.”
“I’ve been humbled numerous times in my view towards judging the art form of a reboot,” said James Buzzacco, President/ Production Director at Los Angeles Cinematic Branding and Production Boutique company Creative Doorway. “I have a real solid belief ideology developed because of the occasions I’ve been deeply wrong about this controversy. The moment when you discover that a movie or show you’ve drawn from for inspiration had an unknown origin from an earlier time period, it forces you to look at this debate with a renewed perspective. I mean, I would have never known of the essence of a particular story if it wasn’t for another handful of artists who decided to breathe life back into it for a new generation to revisit. So, in that respect, I have no choice but to concede and support. However, there is a very important caveat. After decades of mastering the craft of storytelling, I’ve come to understand that there is a certain code we must adhere to in the rebirth of pre-existing story concepts. A new soul must exist in these efforts. A new life force must accompany the efforts to resuscitate without replicating.”
“An audience can subconsciously pick up on the absence of this type of identity. And when they do, it’s like blood in water for a shark…Unfortunately, this style of ‘remake’ showcases another variety of talents. There are many creatives who choose to recreate a movie title simply to leverage the brand for the sake of familiarity. To exploit a trust that was built between the audience and the original writer or filmmakers. I happen to fall into the category where there is a massive responsibility built into my process—to create as if my messaging could help refine the human condition, as cliché as that sounds. It’s almost a creed for some of us. There are artists who are just plain aware that certain creative energies attract similar energies in our viewers. This is actually the exact messaging in our newest original series show, The Absonite, in which, the characters of this story are faced with the same paradox, and I along with them had to come to terms with a massive truth. Do I want to suck my audience or the people around me into a low energy vortex while exposed to my art—my perspective on life, no. I want to play my part and help set them free from the bullshit. I guess we all get to make this choice in our lives. And this is the same crossroad that a creator must stand at to decide what path they must choose: to hijack or reimagine.”
“First off, I am a fan of remakes and reboots, to a degree,” said Sabrina Oertle, producer and founder of Blue Chair Productions. “I love when a filmmaker is so passionate about the original film, and gets the opportunity to remake or reboot. It is because of this passion that a film succeeds. When a Writer/Director gets to geek out and be a total fan, this is the best and always translates onto the screen. Passion is the key here. We have seen some films that are obviously studio vehicles, and to be frank, bad attempts to signal diversity within a studio system, and or simply trying to fulfill a director’s production agreement by throwing them a reboot. I call these plain out lazy productions…you are coming back to these new films with hopes of having those same emotional ties to the original films. I think having the task of knowing your audience has these big emotional expectations, the pressure is high to deliver. You have to pay attention to details and focus on the actors that can deliver the same emotional value that the fans are expecting. Often times we see super ambitious productions, lazy productions, and even sometimes misguided reboots. Too bad, why would anyone who got the opportunity to do a reboot not be careful and pay attention to those details? Not all reboots should be disregarded. I think it can be done, if you have the passion and focus, and get those details addressed, a reboot can be very popular with modern audiences. It can be effective if done right.”
“My first two projects/scripts Seven Arrows, Juvy Cowboys, a modern day western and The Duke, a superhero story, are both original concepts inspired by my life,” said producer/writer Keith Cospin from the Albuquerque, New Mexico. “As a creative thinker, I want to produce original concept films even if it means adding a ‘fresh spin’ on an established genre. Filmmakers need to keep pushing the boundaries of the human imagination, taking us on a journey through undiscovered realms. Original concepts and ideas do exist, we just have to encourage and support them when they present themselves… The superhero genre is one of the more successful genres, so if you have a superhero script (The Duke!) why not push it to make some money? Ask Marvel, DC and major videogame brands. Some filmmakers are big fans of existing brands and want to bring a fresh spin or even a spin-off like Ridley Scotts’ Prometheus. The goal is to make the BEST film possible, no matter if it’s original or a reboot. Just bring Fresh Eyes to the story. There are many aspiring filmmakers in the world with great IDEAS and we will never see their movies if studios don’t give them the chance. The next James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Robert Rodriguez and Ryan Coogler are out there.”
Bousman continued on reboots: “That is the hardest in my mind, as you are taking a rabid fanbase of something that already exists, and saying, ‘Hey, let’s start over, and do it again, but better.’ It’s a stick of dynamite. I think the key here is doing something NEW and UNIQUE—no reason to remake something or reboot it if you are just rehashing something the audience has already seen. Are filmmakers running out of original ideas? NO. From my own personal experience, originality is not dead, it’s just not rewarded. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, look at something from Ari Aster, or Robert Eggers—these filmmakers are doing the most insane, batshit crazy films, and people see them. However, the majority of the time, the more down the middle you are, the more quadrants you hit, the more ‘marketable’ your film is, the greater the reward. People love what is safe. So, what is safe? Things we are already familiar with. It is much easier to get a film green lit that hits that checks the boxes of things that came before it and were successful. I grew up watching A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser. I was a kid then. 10, 12, 13 years old. Now, I am a 40+ year old man. I have a much different perspective as an adult, as I did when I saw it. I would kill to remake one of these films, as I think my life experience, and narrative proclivities could reframe one of the tales in a much different light. The problem becomes that once you find yourself attached to one of these films, the people in charge often want to ensure you are checking all of the boxes of what the audience found effective the first time around. Before you know it, you are remaking the same movie and offering little into new insight.”
“I’m not opposed to remakes theoretically; however, I do feel that certain classics like Jaws, E.T., Back to the Future and the Indiana Jones franchise should always be off-limits,” said director/writer Robyn Paris (The Room Actors: Where Are They Now?, Hart You, Fruitless). “I don’t know that remaking a brilliantly executed classic movie is a good idea from a creative standpoint. The remake will always be compared to the original and usually not favorably. From a studio’s perspective, the purpose is profit-driven as fans of the original feel compelled to see the reboot, even as they denigrate it. On one hand, it’s a cheat—an exploitation of an existing idea, effort and emotional capital. But on the other hand—if the original was released many years ago like Ocean’s Eleven, The Manchurian Candidate or A Star is Born—it’s an excellent way to share a compelling, thrilling story with brand new audiences on a global scale. Or as in the case of a film like the new(ish) Ghostbusters or Oceans 8, a remake can be an opportunity to reimagine a story told from a different, fresh perspective. There have been remakes I’ve loved and others I’ve loathed. As always, it comes down to execution. I was clearly inspired by the cult fandom of the movie, The Room when I created my satirical series, The Room Actors: Where Are They Now? using the original Room actors, but since the actors are playing fictional versions of themselves, it’s not a spin-off, remake or even a reverse origin story. Rather, it’s a fake docu-style exploration of the logical question—what happened to these real actors after they appeared in this train wreck of a film? When I conceived of the idea, I wanted to pay homage to the beloved jokes and fan favorite moments in the original movie, however, it was important that this be a completely original world where these real humans were trying to live out their lives under the shadow of this bad movie they had done. As consumers of entertainment, we crave a deeper exploration of fascinating, fun characters or established ideas we’ve come to love, which is why there will always be room (no pun intended) for spin-offs like the Fantastic Beasts series or even the super hilarious Get Him to the Greek. Sequels, spin-offs, reboots and remakes satisfy our yearning to revisit characters and worlds to which we’re not ready to bid farewell.”
-Creative Screenwriting Magazine