These days, it seems that no movie, no matter how beloved or esteemed or sacrosanct, is safe from being run through the Hollywood remake factory. What movies do you consider so sacred that you’d be appalled to see them remade or rebooted?
Yes, this week’s topic was inspired by the new ‘Ben-Hur’ remake hitting theater screens this weekend. And yes, I fully recognize the irony that the famous 1959 version of ‘Ben-Hur’ was itself a remake of a silent movie from 1925. Nonetheless, William Wyler’s film was a major cultural touchstone, won 11 Oscars (a record still yet to be broken), and has endured as a classic over the past six decades. Based on the trailers, I see no reason to believe that the new remake will unseat it as the definitive adaptation of the story, and I’m a little appalled at the notion of turning such a respected piece of cinema history into flashy CGI-fest music video by the director of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’.
I think this one is actually being remade as we speak, but ‘The Fugitive‘ is perfect. Everything about it is sublime. It was nominated for Best Picture (back when that still meant something). Harrison Ford has never been better than he is as Richard Kimble. Tommy Lee Jones won a much-deserved Oscar. This is a case of a movie taking a story that had already been done well as a TV show, and completely nailing it as a movie. I’ve watched this movie time and again. It’s one of my all-time favorites. When Hollywood tried to reboot it as another TV show, the results were disastrous. Leave well enough alone. You cannot improve upon perfection.
Since Warner Bros. has been pretty protective when it comes to any attempt to reboot classics the studio owns (or own the rights to), such as ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Citizen Kane’, I didn’t go with the obvious in this week’s Roundtable. I think the odds of Warner ever touching those classics at this point in history is pretty low – although that hasn’t stopped other studios from trying to capitalize. (See: Paramount’s upcoming ‘Casablanca’-themed ‘Allied’ movie.)
Instead, I chose something a little more modern, a movie I hope never gets a reboot or sequel: Steven Spielberg’s ‘E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial‘. Occasionally, someone will ask me to name a “perfect” movie and ‘E.T.’ is always my go-to choice. That’s not to say that the movie is flawless (meaning free of any goofs or glitches), but rather perfect in construction, design and storytelling. It’s so good, even Spielberg has confessed that he’s not sure the current version of himself could direct a movie like that again.
Even when he went back and tinkered with the movie for a special edition that added some scenes and changed others (like replacing the government agents’ guns with walkie talkies) for its 20th anniversary, the film lost some of its magic. Fortunately, unlike his friend George Lucas, Spielberg quickly realized the mistake of trying to fix his 1982 movie and made sure that the original version would also always be available for those who wanted to see it.
While I’ll probably always be partial to ‘Jaws’, and while others will point to the more complex and culturally important ‘Schindler’s List’ as Spielberg’s masterpiece, I really think that from a filmmaking standpoint, ‘E.T.’ is probably his best work. I’m glad he never went through with a sequel (the closest we ever got was a novel) and hope that Universal is smart enough to never try rebooting one of our few modern-day classics.
M. Enois Duarte
Remakes and reboots are nothing new in the filmmaking business. They date as far back as the beginning of the industry itself with such classics as ‘The Great Train Robbery’ and ‘The Birth of a Nation’, which are today now considered untouchable holy grails. With news that principal photography on another holy grail remake (‘Suspiria’) is starting this month, it’s clear that the business side of movies is an unstoppable machine that cares little about the feelings and opinions of cinema lovers.
Another film favorite threatened with rumors of a remake, reboot, reimagining or/and sequel is the beloved cult classic ‘Blade Runner‘. I ardently implore Ridley Scott and his entourage of yes-men to please not let this happen. As demonstrated by what he did with the stupidly bad ‘Prometheus’, Mr. Scott’s talents are not in expanding his cinematic universes.
The unappreciated greatness in the gloomily imagined future of Replicants and humans is largely that it’s a product of its time, a short-lived bubble when movie studios were a bit more daring with weirdly fantastical and complex original stories. We’re currently in a period when Hollywood prefers safer box office bets, such as established franchises or remakes of recognized titles with loyal fan bases. That’s not to say that we haven’t seen a few audacious productions occasionally hit the silver screen, but the stories are usually not very complex, and don’t often try to explore existential questions, or complicate the three-act formula in interesting ways.
With today’s cinema trends and what the majority of contemporary audiences prefer to pay money to see, I really believe that a remake, reboot and/or sequel of ‘Blade Runner’ is just a terrible idea all around and should never even be considered an option for Hollywood to capitalize on.
With so many favorite movies of mine that I consider irreproducible already having had the crummy remake/reboot treatment, some obvious choices are off the table thanks to crap like ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ 2010. At the very least, I think that most of David Lean’s sweeping epics are too large in scale and too steeped in cinematic history to get the quick buck treatment. As one example, ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai‘ just doesn’t substantively mesh with anything currently on a large scale. It isn’t a summer movie blockbuster or an international tentpole. Since these movies haven’t ever really left public consciousness, there’s no point in remaking them.
It’s not often that I wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats, but if ‘Back to the Future‘ is ever remade, I’m sure the middle-of-the-night fever dreams will begin. I grew up watching ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ with great frequency. This summer’s ‘Ghostbusters’ remake didn’t offend me, but if somebody ever goes through with remaking ‘Back to Future’, then I’m certain to become “that guy” who claims that the remake will “ruin my childhood.” It’s sacred, a Holy Grail of a film that should never again be touched by human hands. Not only does it belong on an endangered species list that protects it from ever being harmed by greedy producers and studio executives, it deserves to be a piece of Hollywood history. As the majestic bald eagle represents the United States, ‘Back to the Future’ should be the respected icon for Hollywood, never again touched for the potential for fleeting success, but a fixed and stable sign of all that filmmakers can aspire to achieve. Amidst bad moviegoing seasons, it will stand as the beacon on the hill that gives us hope and guides us through the thickest of fogs.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
To my mind, ‘Jaws‘ is as close to perfect a film as they come. A remake could only be a step down, tarnishing the legacy of the original more than a parade of dismal sequels ever could. Picture a CG shark perpetually in front of the camera. I’m cringing at the thought of Richard Dreyfuss being dragged out for a bit part as a nod to the original. More sex and skin. A lousier sense of humor. A cast whose chemistry can’t help but pale in comparison. Less endlessly quotable dialogue. Scares that are simultaneously overcooked and tepid stacked up next to what Spielberg crafted all those decades ago. Heck, even an adaptation more faithful to Peter Benchley’s novel would be embarrassing, with its multiple trips to sea, unnecessary infidelity, a Mafioso subplot (!), and anticlimactic ending. Spielberg got it right the first time, so dig your claws into a film that’d actually benefit from a remake instead.
As much as I dread the prospect of a ‘Dune’ remake, I’ve resigned myself to the inevitability of that happening. Multiple filmmakers have attached themselves to the project. Although none of those attempts has yet survived Development Hell, one eventually will. I survived the crappy TV remake from the Syfy (then Sci-Fi) network, and I’ll survive whatever garbage version Hollywood cranks out next. I just won’t be happy about it.
Nobody better touch ‘Alien‘, though. That movie is virtually perfect right now. I understand the desire to want to remake it. The franchise has high brand-name recognition and an iconic monster. Some of the futuristic technology looks a little dated, and I’m sure you could do really flashy things with the spaceships and aliens using CGI today. Just don’t. Please, don’t. I’m OK with the uneven sequels. I can ignore the crappy ‘Alien vs. Predator’ spin-offs and the even crappier ‘Prometheus’ prequel. But a remake would be a step too far. We can’t let that happen.
For which movies do you draw a line in the sand? Tell us in the Comments about the movies you never want to see remade.