SOAPBOX Reboots and remakes are a good thing
SFX editor-in-chief Dave Bradley challenges fans’ knee-jerk condemnation of rebooted movie franchises [extended from magazine column]
Typically webmaster Dave Golder posts a PURE GOLDER blog on a Tuesday but he’s taking a well-deserved break. So in his place, here’s SFX‘s overlord Dave Bradley explaining why you’re wrong to complain about Hollywood’s “lack of fresh ideas”:
Spider-Man! Battlestar Galactica! Superman! All being rebooted – again! “Has Hollywood run out of ideas?” goes the instant internet response. But this reaction drives me barmy; I believe remakes and adaptations are valid artistic undertakings.
You see, our culture is built on them. Without each generation discovering and updating the classic stories, we’d all have forgotten about King Arthur or Robin Hood or the Trojan War by now. There’s a long and respectable history of polishing up and passing on the tales we enjoy. It’s a relatively modern phenomenon to assume a storyteller is only doing their job if their characters and plots are completely new.
The finest works of the greatest writers of our language were often reboots of traditional tales. Sorry fans of Shakespeare In Love, but The Bard didn’t invent Romeo And Juliet – it was based on The Tragical History Of Romeus And Juliet (itself inspired by popular Italian stories). Chaucer and Shakespeare both wrote pieces based on the Troy saga. From The Canterbury Tales to Tennyson’s Idylls Of The King, our literary treasure trove is stuffed with retold versions of traditional tales. But the thing is, these are all masterpieces regardless of their inspiration.
As Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund said in an interview in SFX a couple of years back: “There’s only X amount of stories, just like there’s only X amount of bad dreams. They’re very common. I don’t mind that Hollywood remakes stuff. We do remakes because audiences fall in love with certain characters and certain stories. The thing that makes us different from animals is we sit around campfires and tell stories, and we have to retell some. You can’t get f****ng kids today to see a black and white movie! And there’s black and white movies they’d love…”
And let’s be honest: a modern film you don’t like doesn’t actually do any damage to the original. Unless you’re really shallow, the artefact you loved in the first place will be unaffected. You can go and thrill to 1951′s The Thing from Another World if you happen to hate John Carpenter’s 1982 version, which is itself still there on your DVD shelf if you don’t approve of the 2011 update. You can go and read John W Campbell’s original 1938 novella if you hate all of them. None of these things ceases to be of value just because a Hollywood team decided to sniff out a new audience.
Our own Rob Power recently complained, “Where there’s money to be made, there’s always a corporation ready to push artistic considerations aside and chase the readies. There’s no stopping the hounds of commerce once they’ve caught the scent of cash.” Of course I’m not naive: when the studios dust down a 30-year-old franchise of course they’re thinking about making money. So was Shakespeare, probably! But Hollywood is also staffed by screenwriters and producers who love old movies and want to pass them on, and they have every creative right to take a swing at an existing plot if they think it’s due an update. As Englund says, why not build a business introducing kids to great stories?
Take Spider-Man for instance. When the Andrew Garfield-starring reboot was announced fans groaned that it was too soon to do the origin story again. There’s nothing new to add after Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire, right? Come off it. That take on the origin story was released 10 years ago. The audience for whom the story of a teenage boy’s transformation has most relevance were just tiny children then. I like to think the iPhone generation is entitled to its own version of this modern myth.
The 2012 reboot isn’t a sign of creative sterility – new films like this must be made if superheroes are to go on being relevant.
To read more about The Amazing Spider-Man pick up the Spidey themed back issue of SFX now!