You know, we really need to get the studios together, have a big sit-down and write out a set of rules. These rules should be simple, concise and unwavering. These rules should be about one, and only one thing: What, exactly, they are allowed to remake. But before we get all the studio heads together in one room, strap them to a chair, and lay down the law with a pair of pliers, a tuning fork and a baseball bat, let's figure out exactly what those rules should be. Shall we?
There are three reasons a movie should be remade. The acting was bad in the original, the movie didn’t do justice to the story it was telling, or the film has become so dated that no one will watch it. The Killers is a great movie. It’s got John Cassavettes and Lee Marvin, two guys who can’t be replaced. But the villain is a girlfriend-slapping, mean-spirited Ronald Reagan. And that’s hard to watch without laughing. The Killers isn’t a comedy. We’ll let you slide on that one.
Films that appear on anything titled Top 10, Top 20 or Top 100 should never be remade, unless that Top list is extremely specific (for example, the top 10 films in which Corey Feldman appears). This includes the numerous lists of Top 20 Horror Films ever made. These lists are meant to tell people what they should see, not to tell executives what they should acquire the rights to. Really. Stop it.
No film in which Corey Feldman appears should ever be remade. Not because the movies were good, but simply on principle.
Films that garnered an Academy Award for best picture. For example, oh, I don’t know, this week's All The King's Men, should never be remade. The Best Picture Oscar usually means the movie was pretty good and people liked it. Really. Stop it.
If a film was nominated for one of the big 8 Oscars (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor or Actress, Director or Adapted/Original Screenplay) do not remake it. This also means people thought it was pretty good. Really. Stop it.
The perfect candidate for a remake is a film no one even remembers, and if they do remember it, they barely remember it. Who could recall that Man on Fire was a subpar 1989 Scott Glen action film set in Italy? Nobody. I’m doubting even Scott Glen remembers it. Everyone remembers the kickass Denzel Washington version set in Mexico. Now that was a remake.
If for some reason you choose to remake a perfect film, don’t remake it. Adapt it into something new. The Seven Samurai was a perfect film. The Magnificent Seven was a perfect remake, because they didn’t just Americanize the film. The filmmakers made it their own. And yes, I am fully aware that Hollywood tools are already putting together a new version of The Seven Samurai. Really. Stop it.
If your remake was adapted from a book, the remake should be closer to the book than the original. People like books. They read them. They like it when the movie is very close. Re-imagining is a buzz word for, “The screenwriter got some crazy ideas while on his Benzadrine bender.” Really. Stop it.
If you’re going to remake a foreign film, see to it that the foreign film gets distributed here first. Don’t just buy the rights and put it out on DVD after your version comes out. If it flops then remake it. The Japanese make films, not just ‘live-action horror screenplays.’
Really. Stop it.
These rules apply to everything, and I mean everything, except Shakespeare. We’ll let you slide on Shakespeare.
There. That ought to clear things up.
C. Robert Cargill