Let’s face it, in 2014; we’re living in a remake culture. If it isn’t a remake, it’s an adaptation, a re-imagining. So far this year, our five highest grossing releases were, from highest, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Maleficent, X-Men: Days Of Future Past and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Out of those five, three are comic book adaptations, one is a
re-imagining and one is based on an existing toy license. While the last one I can forgive, it still means that the most successful releases of this year were all ideas ripped from other material. Is originality a dying notion in mainstream cinema?
However, to play devil’s advocate, is this necessarily a bad thing? If we were to look at IMDB’s five highest rated titles in their Top 250 category, how many are truly original? The list is topped by The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, The Dark Knight & Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction is the only title in that list with no source material. Now, in no way am I disputing the excellence of some of the titles mentioned in this piece so far (Transformers: Age Of Exctinction aside), but what does this say about our rose tinted spectacles regarding some of cinema’s greatest masterpieces? Does our preconceived notion that all remakes are poison affect these classics? Or should we embrace the practice, considering the practice is no less necessary than adapting from page to screen? It begs the question, at the time, were people complaining about these box office hits?
Many people believe that remakes are truly killing the industry, that we’ve run out of ideas. Whilst the latter could be argued as valid, it seems some of the stronger remakes fly somewhat under the radar, whilst the worst rise to the fore. For example, 2010’s terribly received A Nightmare on Elm Street remake gained a worldwide gross of $115,407,296, while 2004’s fantastic Dawn Of The Dead remake made $102,356,381. While the difference in earnings couldn’t be labelled as huge, the two film’s receptions could be, with the former currently holding a 15% Rotten rating on rottentomatoes.com, and the latter a significantly larger 75% Fresh rating.
It could be argued that the average audience member old enough to attend a showing of Romero’s original Dawn Of The Dead might have passed their desire to see material of the kind, the same could also be said of A Nightmare On Elm Street. Is it possible that nostalgia is a tool only being utilised by film companies recently as an excuse for these remakes to be produced? This presents a new argument in itself. Sure, nostalgia has a massive effect on what we as an audience are appealed to, but is the feeling so strong that we’re prepared to ignore any prior warning to a material’s quality? Reviews at the time of the film’s heights would have been readily available in newspapers, online and on television.
What this all comes back to, is choice. We chose to see A Nightmare On Elm Street. Currently, the film stands as the eighth all-time highest grossing slasher in unadjusted dollars. What if we didn’t choose to see it? What if the film had made mere pennies at the box office, would we still have this culture we appear to be drowning in today? We have a responsibility to support those the content we enjoy and most of us choose to do that by voting with our wallets. So why don’t people take into account majority opinion before spending their hard earned cash? If people don’t want remakes, why do they still head along and see them? Why are they the highest grossing films each and every year? It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re good or terrible, we still throw our cash at the screen.
In 2015, we’re seeing a screen adaptation of the immensely popular 50 Shades Of Grey, a reboot of the badly received Fantastic Four and a remake of classic Poltergeist. Out of those three, I wonder which one will make the most money…