Michael Lee Simpson
REBOOTS, REMAKES AND THE MONEY MACHINE ROARING BEHIND THEM? (PART 2)
During Part 1 of the Remakes and Reboots series, we explored the business and creative rationales behind the phenomenon of dusting off old films and TV shows and breathing new life into them. Studios are looking to mitigate their financial risks and audiences want more of the characters they love. Are we really running out of ideas or playing it safe? Let’s continue this discussion in Part 2.
“When filmmakers thirst for a larger paycheck than what is offered in the independent society of cinema, the artistic palette becomes challenged,” said screenwriter and The Death of Francis Stevens author Randy Maizuss. “Movie directors succumb to making an array of remakes and reboots that line a studios’ yearly film slate and balance sheet; in contrast to independent films, corporate studios mostly venture in projects that offer familiarity in contrast to challenging themes. Conglomerate studios like Sony, Paramount, Warner Brothers, and Fox/Disney, continually provide reboots and remakes which have a built-in audience.”
“These familiar movies are also cyclical as they are rolled out to a new tranche of audiences. In the previous decades, classic toys from decades ago, were produced and prepared for major distribution, as The Transformer series reappeared from 2007 to 2018, The Lego Movie debuted in 2014, which convinced studio executives to construct a few more Lego films, The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part; and then, in 2012, the well-liked board-game, Battleship, was turned into a military science film that grossed over $300 million. Ultimately, studio executives and employees in development have to justify producing a $100-$200 million dollar project and spending another $100 million in distribution and marketing; and the simplest way to attract an audience is through familiarity.”
Other huge franchises—Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Halloween, Saw, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Rocky, Star Trek, Star Wars—leave us in the dark, wondering if Sylvester Stallone will step inside the ring as an old man, or if Michael Myers will stalk Laurie Strode again, or Harrison Ford will team up with Spielberg and pick up the hat and whip one last time. Despite what they might say at the time, it’s likely they don’t know themselves whether there will be another one or not.
“I think remakes and reboots are studios’ poor attempts to gain money,” said Amanda Lou, screenwriter and former features writer at TheThings. “Sometimes they are trying to capture nostalgia from their targeted audiences. It just comes across as pointless and lazy. I don’t think filmmakers are running out of original ideas, because I’m sure there are a plethora of filmmakers like Jordan Peele, who make original content for major studios. I think they care more about money. While I can understand why filmmakers want to resurrect a franchise to explore creative visions, it’s better to leave things in the past.”
“I think running out of core ideas is a part of it,” commented writer/producer Tasha Hardy, producer on Star Trek special World Enough and Time. “Audiences are never going to be able to witness the very first sci-fi western or comedy horror flick ever again. I usually cringe at remakes, but look forward to reboots that have had an organically engaged audience in the past. Cobra Kai is a great example of this. Who doesn’t want to see what happened to those guys years later—it’s just a perfect mess. I think that horror films like The Mummy and remakes of old movies like True Grit are recipes for better remakes. We don’t expect as much with horror story wise, and it’s more fun than anything to see what the modern effects will look like. If you do a remake of a movie from the 30s, the quality will be such a contrast. The only similarities are the underlying story and themes. Fewer layers to compare to. The Departed is a great example of an exceptionally executed remake. It’s actually a reboot of a film from Hong Kong called Infernal Affairs. Because it focused on such a complex and fascinating fictionalized version of crime boss Whitey Bulger and was friendlier to English speakers, it blew it out of the water, as Martin Scorsese rarely fails to do.”
“Oh, that’s always so silly,” said voice actress and producer Laura Summer (The Real Ghostbusters, Garfield and Digimon), referring to the notion that ideas are getting scarce. “As modern storytellers, it’s important to remember that thousands of years before Hollywood existed, people gathered around fires to share tales. It was the custom to share traditions, proverbs and history. So many of our major story types today are based on those folklores that were told and retold over generations. Every story or character doesn’t have to be brand new to hold value. And the ones that still hold relevance stick around and come back and are reinterpreted by new writers and directors. What resonated with your audience in the past under one set of circumstances and who judges your art in the future are two wildly different things.”
“Still, even if a project has strong pressure to succeed commercially, it’s an actor’s responsibility to inhabit a character with integrity. I’ve had the privilege of inheriting characters from others as well as creating my own—and you just hope to connect with your audience…give them something they can cherish. Without question, being part of The Real Ghostbusters, Garfield, Hello Kitty, and Digimon franchises has given me a front row seat to the battle of public opinion about beloved characters, reboots, and new visions. That’s not an argument my single voice is going to settle; not twenty years ago, and not now. Even when something is called ‘ineffective,’ I bet there’s a kid out there thinking, ‘I’m going to grow up and do better than that.’ That can give birth to a whole new life for really good source material. What’s probably important is knowing why something was successful the first time and how it can be successful again in a new world.”
“I used to be very anti-remakes, reboots and sequels. However, if you look at my career, most of the films that I’ve done are remakes, reboots, and sequels,” said Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saw 2 – 4, The Devil’s Carnival and the upcoming Spiral, the ninth installment in the Saw franchise. “I think sequels are fine as long as you can bring something new and unique into the world and story without invalidating the films that came before it.” On remakes, “I have a mantra with these. I won’t touch one unless the original creator signs off and supports my vision and the project. For a long time, I was attached to The Scanners remake. I got the chance to meet David Cronenberg and approached him. When I told him I was attached to the remake, his face contorted in agony. I dropped out the next day. However, something like Mother’s Day, I called up Lloyd Kauffman and his brother Charlie and pitched my take on a remake and they were not only supportive but giddy at the concept. Boom, I signed on.”
-Creative Screenwriting Magazine