No Remake Zone

It has come to my attention, via Kimby, that MTV is attempting a remake of the venerable Rocky Horror Picture Show. The petition will probably accomplish nothing – still, the issue of gratuitious remakes is worth talking about.

Rocky Horror is no cinematic masterpiece – but it is a cult institution. You just don’t mess with that!

It’s astounding — time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely — not for very much longer
I’ve got to keep control.

Let’s do the Time Warp again
Let’s do the Time Warp again

Maybe if you have some serious credibility in that genre you might be able to mess with it. Maybe. And 66% of your potential audience will still hate you. It might be fun to see what the Dr. Horrible crew could do with Rocky Horror.

MTV, the production house that brought you Jackass, would defenestrate it.

What are some movies – or books, comics or tv shows – that you think merit the status of institution, and should be left well enough alone by the Hollywood remake engine?

12 Responses to “No Remake Zone”

  1. Eric Says:

    They’re remaking The Day The Earth Stood Still, apparently with Keanu Reeves, and I wish they would rot in Hell for it.

  2. Jeri Says:

    I think putting Keanu Reeves in anything of note is probably a recipe for self-destruction.

    I would like the powers that be to keep their dirty mitts off of:

    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    Gone With the Wind
    Casablanca
    The Maltese Falcon
    Blade Runner
    Apocalypse Now

    I’d put Star Wars IV-VI on the list – but Lucas is slowly remaking those from the inside out, one CGI scene after the other. :(

  3. Bryan Says:

    I have no particular beef with remakes, actually, unless they are poorly done, which I suppose puts them pretty much on par with other movies. There’s even a possibility that with better effects technology an old sci-fi movie can be done to look better, or with better actors, better acted. So, while I don’t see the need to remake things, if the remade movie looks to be well done, I’d give it a look.

    That said, I can’t see a remake of Jaws, or the Godfather ever working well. Or more off beat, The Princess Bride was done perfectly the first time.

    Honest to God, though, I never got the Rocky Horror thing. Except I liked dancing the Time Warp. Again.

    I’m going to be fascinated to see if the new J. J. Abrams Star Trek works (I suppose more a TV remake, but there have been 10 ST movies). Somehow I have my doubts, while hoping I’m wrong.

  4. Eric Says:

    Given that Lucas has all-but-destroyed his own movies, and that Star Wars (aka A New Hope) and The Phantom Menace were themselves sorta-remakes of Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, I’ve sort of come around to the idea that it would be kind of awesome if a really talented team did their own version of the story with absolutely no input whatsoever from Lucas. In fact, setting the series back in a fantasy version of feudal Japan seems like an especially interesting idea to me. Thanks to the present state of copyright law, that will never happen.

    The major problem with remakes is that Hollywood is doing fairly direct remakes with no ingenuity or creativity. A Fistful Of Dollars is a pretty awesome remake of Yojimbo and Star Wars is a pretty awesome remake of Hidden Fortress–but in both cases the remakes work because the creative types involved set out to do something original and artistic in their adaptations, as opposed to the current prevailing mentality of “Hey, this idea was a proven success the first time it came out–think of how much money we could make if we did it with younger, prettier people and computers!” And then they go out and piss on a perfectly good movie.

    If I thought the Day The Earth Stood Still remake was going to be anything other than a glitzed-up, simplified, bring-nothing-new-to-the-table do-over low-balled to skew to a younger crowd with a cast chosen for box-office and demographic appeal, assembled by a director less-talented than Robert Wise, I might not have a problem with it. But I have a very good idea what kind of movie they’re going to come out with, and will be genuinely surprised if I’m wrong. I could be wrong–I was wrong about Ronald Moore’s “reimagined” Battlestar Galactica (I thought it would suck, but it totally obliterates the original)–but I doubt it.

  5. Vince Says:

    I think the “reimagined” Battlestar Galactica is a rarity, and as Eric noted, it works because of “the creative types involved set out to do something original and artistic…” The same was true of The Magnificent Seven, the remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film, Seven Samurai, and Forbidden Planet, which was inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. But I didn’t like Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong – not because he ruined it – he was very faithful to the original, which he loves. It’s that it didn’t bring anything new to the original beyond better special effects.

    I absolutely love Rocky Horror Picture Show, although I am surrounded by people like Bryan who don’t get it, which is OK. And I think the MTV remake will suck big time. But sucky remakes usually die a quick death and are forgotten.

    But if somebody tried to remake Casablanca, well, violence might be involved.

  6. Chris Says:

    NO!!!!

    They can’t be serious! If someone remakes Rocky Horror, it will be the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I will officially be done with movies for all time.

    Institutions: Hogan’s Heroes. Someone made of movie of McHale’s Navy, so I imagine someone else will turn to Hogan’s Heroes (or a remake of Stalag 17) eventually. I hope not.

  7. John the Scientist Says:

    I have never seen Rocky Horror.

  8. Random Michelle K Says:

    (boggle)

  9. Jeri Says:

    I think part of the reason that the Rocky Horror thing doesn’t work is that the movie, itself, doesn’t really stand alone on plot, music, writing. It was luck, timing and word of mouth that made it into a cult hit. You sure can’t replicate that in a remake – and you can’t compensate for the missing elements in the movie overall.

  10. Beast Mom Says:

    Why remake anything at all? I’m all for seeing brand new stuff all the time, no remakes EVER. But that’s just me. :)

    I went to a screenwriting club for a while that got some very good industry speakers. A producer from a major studio (which is now merged into the Giant Movie Production Conglomerate Monster of Lemmingness), said remakes (and sequels) are usually born out of FEAR. I couldn’t agree more. Fear of NOT turning a profit on something new and therefore “risky”.

    Bah. Let’s see new material.

    -bm

  11. Eric Says:

    Beast Mom, I think you’re right about the second paragraph–the current crop of remakes are born out of fear.

    And this sort of answers the question you ask in your first paragraph, in an indirect kind of way. Why make remakes at all? When you’re making a movie per a formula, because you’re scared of failing at the box office, you’re usually going to have a bad movie–and this is where most remakes fall apart.

    The remakes that have worked are usually the ones that weren’t born out of fear: the ones where someone decided to remake a movie because he wanted to put his own spin on a story he loved or thought he could improve on the original in some respect. So, for instance, Sergio Leone loved Yojimbo and loved American Westerns, so he decided it would be interesting to re-tell the story of Yojimbo as a Western (filtered through his own sensibilities)–the result, A Fistful Of Dollars, is kinda brilliant and largely considered a classic. John Sturges has similar feelings for another Kurosawa film, The Seven Samurai, and decided to retell the story of seven obsolete warriors in feudal Japan saving a peasant village as a story about seven fading cowboys saving a Mexican town–and The Magnificent Seven is another classic. In neither case does it seem the filmmakers were motivated by fear–they were motivated by a love of the story and the idea that the story would still be interesting if they added other elements that they loved.

    In the case of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Alfred Hitchcock simply wasn’t happy with his original version (1934) and decided he had the money and experience in 1956 to do it “right.” Most people tend to agree he did improve the movie. (It’s worth mentioning that what Hitchcock did also stands out and above what Lucas did when he “improved” the things he wasn’t happy with in the original Star Wars trilogy: Hitchcock left the world with two movies and a choice of what we prefer after watching them side-by-side, as opposed to altering the original and then saying it doesn’t even exist.)

    That’s not to say that every director who thinks he can improve on a movie is right, or that every retelling is good. Nor is it even to say that remaking a movie out of fear will always result in something awful (sometimes people rise above a bad start). But it is to say that remaking a movie is at least valid as an artistic choice, and is never valid as a commercial choice. I doubt that MTV is remaking Rocky Horror because they think the experience will be improved with better acting, production values and songs–which is ironic, because there’s no doubt their version will have better acting and production values (and yes, maybe even better songs, as much as I think “Science Fiction (Double Feature)” is a great tune and lyric). But like Jeri pointed out, Rocky Horror was about an organic experience, a kind of folk tradition that rose up around a fairly mediocre movie, and not something you’re likely to bottle and create in committee.

  12. Beast Mom Says:

    “The remakes that have worked are usually the ones that weren’t born out of fear: the ones where someone decided to remake a movie because he wanted to put his own spin on a story he loved or thought he could improve on the original in some respect.”

    I can agree with this.
    You make some good points.

    -bm