The curious case of the remake: has Hollywood run out of ideas?

When Hollywood remakes an old movie, something is diminishing. It’s either the writing talent or the bank balances, and no doubt, occasionally both.

Some films are destined never to be remade. Successful franchises such as Star Wars, Jaws and The Godfather (although Godfather III should arguably never been made), are a no-go zone for scriptwriters and bankers alike. Iconic films such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly have a 200-mile exclusion around them as far as Hollywood is concerned.

There are plenty of others as well but the question is whether the studios have got the message.

We’re not talking Pacino’s Scarface, Sutherland’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers or De Niro’s Cape Fear. Everything about those films was excellent, from the script writing through to the acting; they possess durability in spite of their age.

The studios took their eye off the ball with Psycho. It would be a brave man or a fool to take on a remake of Hitchcock’s iconic film but Gus Van Sant did just that. He travelled the spectrum from bravery to foolishness with his 1998 version, but he’s by no means unique is misjudging the mood.

While Hitchcock delivered spine-tingling moments, Van Sant’s was spine-numbing, mainly from the awkward position which we assumed falling asleep in his dreary film. It isn’t just Hollywood which misjudges the past; television studios are equally adept. Or inept, depending on your view point.

Hawaii Five-O is now Hawaii Five-0. A subtle acknowledgement that it’s not the same programme. Jack Lord still holds sway in his black suits and black sedan and no amount of CGI can bring him back to life, despite the creepy efforts of the current series maker.

Let’s ask the modern Danny Williams’ father whether it’s a good idea if The Godfather is remade. Well, you can if you like; I dread to think what James Caan would say if anyone tried to play Sonny Corleone nowadays.

But this Hollywood and good taste is, well, so gauche.

Virtual Reality: Hollywood’s Saving Grace

Cult movies are fair game, it seems. Some need remaking, others need a better remaking. In coming years, it won’t be any surprise to find that the action genre is the major ‘beneficiary’ of Los Angeles’ largesse.

Wherever there is a movie, there is merchandise to be had. Not just the t-shirts, prints, movie stills and figurines of yesteryear; games for PCs and other platforms dictate whether the studios give the go-ahead for a remake as much as the script itself. A good license fee is worth as much as the box office take.

Oculus Rift and Touch, and the future VR technology, with their readiness for role play and adventure are set to change the market but for now, And save the remake. A good game will enter the psyche and change perceptions of the film itself. Granted that it isn’t quite saving the whale but some of the remakes in recent years have been so bad that we might consider the worthwhile remake an endangered species.

Edward Norton’s Hulk was a criminal movie but the PS3 game was its ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card. Sony redeemed the Hulk’s reputation; Legend of Tarzan has been saved by the licensing deals which created the slot game, Tarzan at Betway. Having fun after the event alters perceptions of the real thing.

It could be worse for the jungle hero; he might have been a Ghostbuster. Inexplicably, Paul Feig’s reboot of the 1984 classic got off the drawing board and became reality. Not even Activision’s original game from thirty years ago could save the film from a lack of artistic merit.

The sadness of the Hollywood remake is shown when the merchandise and secondary markets make more money for the studios than the original. Or when the public derive more pleasure from them.

Some crossover the other way is happening and it’s not hard to think that in the future, someone will be having a conversation about how good the original Assassin’s Creed movie was compared to the original film made in 2016.

That in turn will lead a new generation of gamers back to Ubisoft’s original creation. The remake may not be the best in the world but the revenue streams and partnerships

The movie industry got itself into murky waters with remakes. On more than a few occasions, they been grateful to virtual reality for saving their financial bacon.