By Karl-Erik Mills, Staff Writer and Videographer
//There’s a general feeling in the film community nowadays that remakes are some kind of plague and the source of all bad movies when, really, these people might be surprised by the number of good remakes out there.
Does this mean that the question of ‘should Hollywood continue making remakes?’ should be dropped forever? No, there are plenty of poorly received remakes to go around. The real inquiry comes down to ‘does it make sense to keep remaking movies?’
With the upcoming release of The Magnificent Seven, which is a remake of a classic western, which was a remake of an even older Japanese Samurai film, it is time to take an in depth look into the critical, financial and ethical impact of movie remakes.
2016’s own summer movie season included four prominent remakes. In contrast to many preconceived notions of how these movies would perform, The Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon and the ever so controversial Ghostbusters were all in fact well received, while the critical flop was Ben-Hur.
Both The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon were retellings of the classic Disney films. They both received certified fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and sat well with fans too; The Jungle Book, sitting at an 88% audience rating and Pete’s Dragon sitting at an 81%. These particular films defied the expectation that they would be repeats of old stories and covered brand-new ground.
Ghostbusters’ reception came as a surprise, after its trailer became one of the most hated videos on Youtube; it earned a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Its audience score, on the other hand was rotten, at 57%. Ben-Hur received a disappointing 26% critical approval rating.
By far the most surprising outcome of any of these films is Ghostbusters. Coming off of so much hate before it was even released, it still had to face the critical courthouse which was sure to seal its fate as another failed remake. But its widespread positive critical reviews came as a shock to most, and possibly helped boost expectations for the film.
“I enjoyed it,” Junior Brian Ohleyer said. “I thought it was reasonably funny and it added to aspects of the original.”
Ohleyer’s opinion varied from most of the general public, like junior Jack Lattin who chose not to see the movie entirely.
“What Ghostbusters was doing, obviously including the all female cast was interesting, but I don’t think it sold me enough to go see the same thing of the ghosts all over again,” Lattin said.
This opinion on the film seemed to be much more in line with moviegoers, as Ghostbusters suffered massive box office losses. According to Box Office Mojo, Ghostbusters losses are north of $70 million, and any likely hood of a Paul Feig-directed sequel is lost.
In fact, most remakes in the summer 2016 season were box office failures, losing millions of dollars even with critical acclaim. Pete’s Dragon, although a well reviewed remake, has barely broken even with its production budget of $65 million after an almost five week run. Its opening weekend, it went up against the latest raunchy comedy from Seth Rogen, Sausage Party, which ran with a production budget of $19 million and is, as of September 14, 2016, tracking at over $91 million.
Ben-Hur was possibly the biggest flop of the remake batch. It ran with a production budget of $100 million and has domestically taken in just over $25 million through nearly four weeks.
The outlier in box office results is Disney’s The Jungle Book. Disney clearly had faith in their revamp of the classic animated feature, as this live action adaptation was made for $175 million. As of September 14, 2016, it has earned over $300 million in nearly 22 weeks, with a nearly one billion dollar international tracking.
It is clearly possible for remakes to make money and be well received, as proven by The Jungle Book, but these conditions are not usually met. Regardless of the critical or financial success, remakes might still be threatening the art film industry.
It is no secret that smaller art films are the top picks during award season and receive the generally more positive reviews, but their industry is constantly threatened by blockbusters and Computer Generated Image (CGI) filled action romps. It has become increasingly harder for budding directors to get a foot in the door with their art films when all studios look for is a big billboard and an electric teaser trailer.
“I think that overall, movie remakes are going to be something that start to die off over time,” Lattin said. “As new technology comes, filmmakers are going to be more intrigued in the idea of having new ideas. So I think that for the time being, independant films are definitely being bogged down by all the blockbusters and the remakes but in the future I think we’ll find more original things.”
Originality does seem to be the goal for most new filmmakers but it’s undeniable that studios are more interested in capitalizing on their, or other’s successful efforts. Warner Brother’s Suicide Squad went through a massive reshoot period and multiple different edits in effort to emulate the more fun tone of films such as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which clicked with audiences so well.
Suicide Squad resulted in a critical flop but achieved major financial success. For Warner Brothers, this strategy does looks good on paper, and recently a spin off movie has been announced for Suicide Squad’s most popular female character, Harley Quinn. As one can probably guess, this is another ensemble anti-hero film, much like Guardians of the Galaxy.
“I think there are enough artsier films being made,” Ohleyer said. “However, Hollywood isn’t being original anymore.”
But this trend could be dying out sooner than later. The fact that Ghostbusters director, Paul Feig, came out and stated that he would not make a sequel to his remake is hopeful for skeptics of these films, as their strategy may in fact work.
It is clear that remakes are going to stay a part of our reality for some time no matter what, though. As long as the timing and tone is correct for the film and there is continual originality for blockbusters and indie films, remakes could even become a refreshing treat every summer movie season. At least we will always have the originals.