January 6th, 2007 — Wordman
A commercial just reminded me of a question my sister raised the last time we were in John’s Pizzeria in Manhattan. At the time, there were a number of remakes of various hit movies. She wondered: why are only good movies are remade? Doesn’t this seem backwards? You’d think that movie makers would want to correct mistakes, not success. After all, of all the things that can go wrong to make a promising movie fail, there have to be any number of films that just missed greatness. If only that one big mistake could be corrected, you’d have a hit. Plus, hit movies usually spawn sequels, so why remake them?
There is, of course, a reasonable explanation: movie studios are among the most risk averse companies in the world, for no apparent reason. They only take chances if they are about to be eaten by lions, or if someone else has taken the risk first.
The commercial that provided a small sliver of hope that this might be changing pitched a new remake: a thriller called The Hitcher. The original, featuring C. Thomas Howell, Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh, was not a great movie, but not the worst in the world either. It gets a middling 65% fresh rating and grossed under $6 million. Obviously, someone convinced the studio that “you know, that was an OK movie, but it had some problems. Here’s how we’d turn it into a major hit.” I’m not sure why the studios believed them, since this same team has already screwed up the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original = 87%, remake = 37%).
I can’t remember other examples of this phenomenon, though there might have been a few. I had thought that Never Say Never Again might qualify as an attempt to improve the original Thunderball, but evidently others don’t share my opinion of the lameness of the original. Also, it looks like the remake might have been more the result of legal battles than anything else.
For any studios looking for films with ideas that held great potential, but flawed execution, to remake into something great, a few suggestions:
- The Arrival
- The Prophecy
- The Island. In fact, nearly any film involving Michael Bay (which doesn’t bode well for the Hitcher remake).
- Any film where Elizabeth Shue plays a scientist.
- All of the Star Wars prequels (although this has, sort of, been done).
- Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. Eliminate Bunny and the movie is pure gold.
- The Siege
- King Arthur
- The Andromeda Strain
I’m sure there are many others. What would you remake? While you’re thinking, you might also want to look a various death scenes as well.