The Significance of Remade Movies. By Frankie Wallace.
It seems that every year, a new movie comes out that has remade an older film. The story remains the same, for the most part, but each remake takes its own artistic liberties. Sometimes remakes are done because the original movie could have been better. Sometimes they’re done to pay homage to the original.
Sometimes, movies are remade because the original ones were so popular, and film executives want to keep making money. It’s sad but true.
Sometimes, though, remakes can be just as important as the original films, or even the books the films were inspired by. The world is continuously changing. Films made in decades past might not resonate the same way today as they did back then. So, are remakes really necessary? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
Let’s look at some of the positives and negatives of Hollywood’s drive to remake or reboot classic films for this generation, and beyond.
A New Generation Means a New Audience
As stated above, movies make money. If a movie has some nostalgia attached to it, it’s probably going to make even more money. Disney has done a great job capitalizing on this in recent years by remaking many of its classic animated films as live-action movies.
From Cinderella to The Lion King, Disney has really done a good job of opening the door to two generations of audiences with their remakes. Fans who loved the original films will likely go see the remakes, and when it comes to Disney, they’ll probably end up taking their kids!
Another classic example of remaking a nostalgic classic is every adaptation of A Star is Born. This film has been made four times, spanning seven decades. The first film, made in 1937, can now be seen as a sort of a template for the three variations that followed. The 1954 version starring Judy Garland took a turn from the original by focusing much more on the characters and their emotions, and how fame can destroy lives. Eventually, that led to the 2018 version starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
In the most recent version, the story remains the same: A famous male character on the decline has a drinking problem — not unlike many other Americans. In fact, one in six American adults binge drink at least four times per month, so this character (Jack), is easy to relate to. He discovers a talented female character and helps her on her rise to fame. They fall in love, get married, but his alcoholism continues to cause issues, and he ends up taking his life. But, for those who have seen the previous versions, knowing the outcome doesn’t ruin the movie. It carries some nostalgia with it, and each version has subtle differences that keep up with the generation it was released in.
Adaptations That Change with the Times
If Judy Garland’s version of A Star is Born had been made today, she likely would have been able to play a more fiercely independent woman than she had in 1954. That’s another “pro” for remaking movies — filmmakers can make changes based on the ever-changing world.
Most recently, we can look to Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women. What’s interesting about this story is that it started out as a popular book by Louisa May Alcott, but it has been done and remade so many times, that subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes were bound to happen. Most people know of at least three versions; the 1933 movie starring Katherine Hepburn, the 1994 version starring Wynona Ryder, and the most recent adaptation starring Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep, and Emma Watson.
Why was it necessary to do yet another adaptation of this book/movie? Was it a good thing? In many ways, yes — it’s a huge positive to remake movies like Little Women for different generations. This film, in particular, almost feels like a rite of passage for young women and men to see.
It also gives a nod to how the world has changed. For example, the 1994 version of the film attempted to give the women more fierceness and independence by making the lead protagonist, Jo, more creative and ambitious than in previous adaptations. This was likely due to women’s movements like Take Back the Night, an international event that first started in 1976 to raise awareness and put an end to sexual and domestic violence against women. Women had more of a voice in 1994 than they did when Katherine Hepburn made the film in the 1930s, and those changes were shown.
In the most recent adaptation, we still see Jo as a fiery creative force, but she isn’t the only one who gets more independence. The youngest March sister, Amy, has typically been portrayed as nothing more than a romantic figure for Laurie in previous films. In this rendering, her struggle to be an artist in Paris is more of a focus. Freelancers of all industries around the world can likely relate to the inconsistency of work even while celebrating the freedom of it. These subtle changes in character storylines aren’t meant to take away from the heart of the story. They’re meant to speak to a new audience in a changing world.
Is Hollywood Out of Original Ideas? Does it Matter?
So, are all of these remakes and adaptations really necessary? There are arguments on both sides. Yes, most of them are money-makers, betting on people’s affections for the original films.
But, some of them are necessary stories that need to be told generation after generation, not only to keep up with the times but to share important pieces of film with new audiences.
The classics will never go out of style. After all, they’re classics for a reason! But, in many cases, if a story can be done better or at least in a more updated way, it’s not a bad thing for Hollywood to keep producing remade movies.
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