Wednesday, October 16, 2013

5 Remakes That Matter

Ever since Gus Van Sant's misguided 1998 experiment in redoing Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho shot for shot, REMAKES have gotten a bad rap. Fans cry, "Hollywood has run out of ideas!" and "They're going to ruin a classic!"

Still, every year, the Academy manages to find five films to nominate in the Original Screenplay category, and to date, there has never been an instance of a classic film's negative, prints, and home video copies all being destroyed by its remakers.

Some remakes suck, but here are five reimaginings that brought something new to the table:

5. DISTURBIA wasn't officially a remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window, just like Fatal Attraction wasn't officially a remake of Clint Eastwood's Play Misty For Me. Nonetheless, James Stewart's mid-40s photographer sidelined with a broken leg was updated to Shia LaBeouf's juvenile delinquent under house arrest, the plaster cast upgraded to an electronic ankle monitor, and the murderer across the way bumped up to serial killer status, making this hip 2007 retelling a hit with the millennials.

4. Shakespeare's four-hundred-year-old tragic romance has been retooled countless times, as a ballet, a number of operas, a zombie rom-com earlier this year, and best of all, as a stage and screen musical with the Capulets and Montegues transformed into the Sharks and the Jets, rival street gangs of 1950s Manhattan. Baz Luhrmann's 1996 MTV-style reimagining kept the Bard's original text but modernized everything else, bringing a singularly unique vision to ROMEO + JULIET. The Julian Fellowes remake that opened last weekend added nothing new, tanking with just half a million dollars on 461 screens.

3. A franchise reboot. An origin story prequel. A quasi sequel with a subplot bridging the original cast and universe to the new. J.J. Abrams' 2009 STAR TREK managed to be all that and more. A new incarnation of the familiar Trek characters in a more modernized future world with faster pacing and more intricate storytelling. The masterful techniques of screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are explored more fully in ScripTipps: Star Trek, an in-depth screenplay analysis.

2. Another reboot that doubles as a prequel/origin story, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is also a remake-of-sorts of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth movie in the original series, whose three final installments were all prequels to the 1968 original. However you slice it, the 2008 do-over beats the pants off the 2001 Tim Burton remake. Rise gives the franchise a genetic explanation for the talking-ape mutation, the result of a touching, human drama involving a scientist racing to find a cure for his father's Alzheimer's. After the midpoint separates Caesar from his foster dad, the screenplay flips the entire franchise on its head by making us sympathize with the simians.

1. Now this is how to remake a classic: make it your own. In THE FLY, a scientist invents teleportation. His reintegration on a trial run is complicated by the unexpected presence of a fly. In the 1958 version, the man and fly swap heads and one arm. In the 1986 remake by David Cronenberg, they're fused at the genetic level; Jeff Goldblum experiences a much more gradual and grotesque transformation into a creature that makes the 1958 version look comical. The remake was written with intelligence, humor, and pathos, while also educating moviegoers on the fly's disgusting digestive process. Both films created memorable catchphrases: "Help me," says the fly with the human head in the original, while the oft-quoted line, "Be afraid, be very afraid," originated with the remake.

This Friday, Boys Don't Cry director Kimberly Peirce dares to reinterpret Stephen King's debut novel, CARRIE, first filmed by Brian De Palma in 1976. Will she bring something new to the table? Revisit the original with ScripTipps: Carrie, an in-depth screenplay analysis that explores the changes screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen made from the book and highlights aspects of the source material that are ripe for a fresh, contemporary perspective.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE REMAKES? Leave a comment below.

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