Remakes Done Wrong

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Remakes Done Wrong

A little while back, yours truly posted a ToM dealing with remakes that I felt, at the very least, equaled their inspiration for one reason or another. It shouldn’t surprise that reader response was pretty divided, with some people decrying the institution of remaking films as a whole while others brought up great examples I had boneheadedly missed. I thought we’d give this another go-round but change things up a little in that this ToM will focus on remakes that, in my mind’s eye anyway, sullied the good name of their source material. Here are five that get my fanboy blood boiling…

Planet of the Apes - this one is especially bitter given the creative talent involved - this is the best Tim Burton, William Broyles Jr, and great acting talents like Paul Giamatti, Helena Bonham Carter, and Tim Roth could come up with? Oy vey. Ludicrously plotted and littered with bad performances (including a rather potent stinker from the typically reliable Mark Wahlberg), the film careens from one bad decision to the next, culminating with a stupefying “surprise” ending that only reinforces the bad decision-making that drove this project through production. Considering the original Planet - an incredibly thoughtful, stark, occasionally brutal and consistently well-made and entertaining film – had seen its legacy tarnished by years of inferior sequels and spin-offs, one could suppose this wasn’t all that surprising of an outcome. Great make-up, tho.

The Wicker Man - for those who haven’t seen this train-wreck, watch this. There you go. All you need to see. No one can say Nicolas Cage is especially choosey when it comes to work, but even he seems a little lost in this one, a complete slap in the face to Robin Hardy’s supremely unsettling 1973 shocker of the same name. Bizarre, over-the-top performances from an almost DTV-level cast (save for Cage and maybe Ellen Burstyn, taking over for the irreplaceable Christopher Lee in the sinister Summerisle roll) and dull, uninteresting direction from Neil LaBute (who has done much, much better work elsewhere), all in service of a brazenly stupid script, combine to make a toxic cocktail of suck the likes of which… well, can only birth hilariously insulting internet memes. Those brave enough to take this one on are encouraged to watch the unrated DVD (surprisingly brutal in parts) and listen to LaBute’s strangely satisfied commentary.

Psycho - you knew it was coming. Made during Gus Van Sant’s “lost” studio years, there’s really no excuse here other than the desire to strip-mine the back catalog at Universal. An homage to a master is never a bad thing – but the creative choices made along the way and the awful performances from a usually top-notch cast completely derailed the project, turning it into something of an insult to Hitch when all was (re)said and (re)done. Thankfully Van Sant righted himself and has gone on to reclaim his mantel as one of American independent cinema’s brightest lights, but man… this is just a turd. Remember the cast this thing sported? Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy, Robert Forster, James Remar, James LeGros… what possessed such talented individuals to lend their time and effort to such a lame-brained notion is beyond me. There is absolutely no reason to choose this over Hitch’s original – not even morbid curiosity. Maybe some sort of… I don’t know… soul-raping curiosity? Maybe? Eh.

Lost Horizon - as Hilton’s novel was one of the first books to really interest me in writing and fiction, I was of course drawn to seek out its cinematic interpretations. Frank Capra’s 1937 adaptation isn’t entirely successful but it is beautifully crafted and features a superb lead performance from the all-but-forgotten Ronald Colman. Charles Jarrott’s musical – yes, musical – reworked components of both Hilton’s novel and Capra’s film to an unbelievably painful end result. Cast with talent not known (for good reason) for their singing and dancing skills (Peter Finch, Sally Kellermann, John Gielgud, Liv Ullman), if the movie winds up something of a good time it’s only because of its overall ineptitude. Up there with The Apple in terms of gonzo musical productions. If this turned up on DVD I might buy it, mainly to pair it with The Apple and force lingering guests from my home at the end of parties.

Get Carter - this is routinely cited by others as a terrible remake and they aren’t wrong – I just don’t think the vast majority of them have seen Mike Hodges’ 1971 original as all they do is complain about the violence in the film. Hodges’ picture is unrepentantly violent and was hated for that fact upon its initial release – only with time have audiences and critics really come around to what Pauline Kael deemed its “calculated soulness.” Perhaps that’s the break – the Stallone-starring remake of 2000 – despite a decent turn from Sly and a cast filled with interesting faces (including “Where’s-My-Check-Club” charter member and returning player Michael Caine , as well as Mickey Rourke) the film is as hollow as they come, and unlike Hodges’ Carter denies its nasty (and frequent) outbursts of violence any real subtext. Gobs of needless “stylization” don’t help matters.

So, those are a few that really rub me the wrong way. Believe me, I left a lot of deserving candidates on the sidelines. What about you lot - Swept Away (which I love, btw) - Godzilla - The Vanishing…?

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Ard VijnJune 2, 2009 9:13 PM

Rhythm-X: Zinda doesn't count because it's no remake but a blatant ripoff, its director constantly bleating about how far ahead of his time he is in interviews, and that people do not understand his "totally original" movie.

But I agree wholeheartedly with your JOINT SECURITY AREA comments. The only place where that story could possibly be translated would be East-West-Germany during the cold war, or Cyprus a few years back. Heck, let's make it a Wuxia and throw the great wall of China in there...

Another two remakes-in-the-remaking that baffle me are the Korean "Daisy" and Johnny To's "Exiled". I'm not even angry about those, just confused. What is there to remake in those two titles? Surely not the story?

CuttermaranJune 2, 2009 9:26 PM

I would say all the remakes of asian stuff that are coming continously from hollywood is a bad idea. So you can choose, say starting with the ring...

WorthZeroJune 2, 2009 11:19 PM

i dont care if it won academy awards, i really didnt like The Departed.

GeekOfEvilJune 3, 2009 1:19 AM


Beautifully shot, awful execution.

AirchinapilotJune 3, 2009 1:46 AM

The Vanishing -- I hated this one right from its trailers. The *trailer* for the US remake with Kiefer actually spoil the original movie.

Ricki-Oh 90210June 3, 2009 2:35 AM

I think it would be fun if Hollywood remade Hollywood films a few years after they released them. Wolverine 2011: we messed up the first time, so heres another. Ghost of Girlfriends Past 2012: we're totally out of ideas right now.

Wait, I think they tried that with the Hulk already...

Greg RiveraJune 3, 2009 5:06 AM

The Fog - made with a cast of late-twentysomethings pretending to be early-twentysomethings
Prom Night - same as above and PG-13 to boot? Why bother?
When a Stranger Calls - sensing a trend here? Watered down, pretty-young dumb-people-casted crap, totally safe for the audience it panders to and instantly forgettable
The Hitcher - makes you wonder if the makers of that beauty have the slightest clue as to what made the original a critical success while simultaneouly making it very clear that they just don't give a damn, cash it in, cash it in

DrewbaccaJune 3, 2009 5:59 AM

Planet of the Apes may have been "littered" with poor performances, but there are a couple of good ones in there. Giamatti is pretty good and Roth is utterly fantastic in this.

JahsoldierJune 3, 2009 8:52 AM

I totally agree with Rhythm-X. The Taxi remake was appalling when compared to the original.

Others not mentioned:

Bangkok Dangerous
Day of the Dead
I Am Legend
The Italian Job
The Assassin

And many many more. I am not looking forward to Keano's Cowboy Bebop, the American Battle Royale, The Karate Kid, The Host, 13 Tzameti (50 Cent & Jason Statham), Let the Right One In, or Martyrs. There are a couple interesting ones coming out but on the whole, it is a very bleak future.

I feel sorry for thousands of script writers out there who can never even get their scripts read because Hollywood is too busy "reimagining" perfectly good (and not to mention recent) foreign films. /sigh

MikeOutWestJune 3, 2009 12:43 PM

Any hollywood remake of Martyrs is likely to lose the enigmatic ending, for a start. Then it will turn out that Anna, being the more "normal" girl, will have a boyfriend and it will be he rather than her mother that she calls just before discovering the cellar and she'll be saved and live happily ever after. Until the sequel.

Ard VijnJune 3, 2009 1:12 PM

I have it!
The Martyrs remake will be called "Saw: Revelation" :cheese:

Interestingly I don't see anyone remaking "Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance", even though that would seem logical given that JSA and OldBoy got picked up for -treatment-.
How come? Too utterly brilliant?

Kurt HalfyardJune 3, 2009 3:39 PM

Saw: Resurrection
Saw: Salvation

I love bland and interesting post-colon titles! Yie.

GeekOfEvilJune 3, 2009 4:18 PM

I'm submitting SAW: ENDGAME for the council's consideration.

sarkoffagusJune 3, 2009 4:31 PM

When are they going to remake movies like Errol Morris' THE THIN BLUE LINE or JACKASS: THE MOVIE? Hollywood is sleazy and stupid enough to try it.

Great ToM, Collin, as per usual.

Collin ArmstrongJune 3, 2009 4:39 PM

And to the "reboot-not-a-remake" column of double-speak, I'd like to add "re-imagining" - which I think really penetrated the lexicon with Burton's PLANET OF THE APES. Call a spade a spade, people. Yeesh.

James DennisJune 3, 2009 6:21 PM

Good call on The Departed remake - no idea why people rate that movie so highly...

shamrock33June 3, 2009 7:15 PM

what about Nolan's INSOMNIA remake? that blew

Rhythm-XJune 3, 2009 8:20 PM

Departed is quite a bit different than its source material, and is the only Asian remake that comes to mind at the moment which surpasses its predecessor. Ha! you Departed haters.

It surpasses it in being overrated and overlong.

sitenoiseJune 3, 2009 10:24 PM


ChevalierAguilaJune 3, 2009 11:23 PM

The Departed sucks as it is, even if Mou Gan Dou didn't existed at all. The acting is atrocious from everyone involved, the script is choke full of awful dialogues, dumb character developement. If you have told me that Scorcese directed that i wouldn't believe it. Then again, he also directed Gangs of new york and the aviator, so yeah, i can believe it these days.

The VisitorJune 4, 2009 4:59 AM

Chevalier, you are my current best friend! The Departed is all-round BAD. Infernal Affairs wasn't a masterpiece, but it was fun cat-and-mouse, and The Departed got all serious and took all the fun out of the story. it's almost like a five-year-old kid saying "i can be grown-up, i can do grown-up stuff, let me show you." it's stupid.

The Wicker Man on the other hand, was a totally unintentionally enjoyable time at the cinema. the movie got funnier as it went along, and by the time Nicolas decks the woman square in the kisser, the audience i was with exploded into laughter. it was ... erm ... great. haha.

ChevalierAguilaJune 4, 2009 6:53 AM

Yup, i really have to see Nic cage in the wicker man, it looks like a laugh riot, MST3K material.


CoffeeSiteJune 22, 2009 9:08 PM

I can't believe people are still talking about the oldies but goodies.