Thursday 22 April 2010

More "Eighties Remake" silliness

This time, it's The Times Online. This isn't the first instance The Times has been an idiot, and I doubt it'll be the last. This week's idiot is Keven Maher.

What did he do this time?

For stumbling through the summer multiplex, one will soon be surrounded by cinematic flashbacks from Eighties past. The choice is to see big-budget Hollywood remakes and reboots of Eighties staples such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Karate Kid, Tron, Wall Street, Footloose and Clash of the Titans — with Conan the Barbarian, Police Academy and Private Benjamin on the way — or to see original movies such as The Expendables, which is steeped in Eighties action nostalgia and features a cast list, including Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone, that recalls the Rockys and the Rambos of bygone times.

*Insert Conan is not a remake diatribe here*

What is it about Conan the Barbarian that causes people to somehow think it was the origin of Conan? I swear, I don't think I know a single other pop culture phenomenon where not only the original author, but the pastiches & comics seem to completely elude these idiots. Do people think Dracula was invented in the 1930s? Do people think James Bond first appeared on the cinema screen? Do people have some illusion that The Shadow started off in an awful Alec Baldwin movie?

Why? Why Conan? Why is this? Not a single of the other films mentioned here - aside from the arguable example of Rambo - is based on preexisting source material, if one doesn't count things like Greek Mythology for "Clash" and the like. It's baffling beyond belief given Conan's popularity. I don't think I'll ever fully understand it.

But even if this is true, and if our entire Western culture is one giant Eighties receptacle, waiting eagerly for the latest remake to be dropped down the spout, it doesn’t quite explain the choice of movies that are being remade. Why not Back to the Future, for instance? Or Raging Bull? Why not Witness or Apocalypse Now? The answer is apparently straightforward, namely, that the unifying factor among all the remakes is that the originals were all a bit rubbish. “I think Apocalypse Now worked really nicely the first time round,” says a deadpan Samuel Bayer, the director of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, “whereas there’s a dated and slightly camp quality to the original Nightmare that doesn’t hold up too well.”

The implication, then, is that Conan the Barbarian was "a bit rubbish," hence how it needs "updating" for a "modern audience. Is Conan the Barbarian really dated? I don't think so: there's a sort of timelessness to it. It could've been made in the '50s, '60s, '70s or '80s, and I'd wager beyond too, were it not for the lack of CGI. It often looks and feels like a Biblical or Roman epic. Nightmare, in comparison, is a true creation of the '80s. But then, I don't really see the point of making a new film that looks like it's going to be just as much a child of the Ought-Tens.

As for camp value: well, I'm sure plenty would say such, but then, camp is one of those fiddly descriptions that varies from person to person. With the right state of mind, anything can be camp.
Similarly, Harald Zwart, the director of the new Karate Kid, suggests that time too has been unkind to his high-kicking original. “I think datedness does come into play here,” he says, after politely noting how much he respects the “heart” of the first film. “There is a different film language these days, and I think the kids who go to this version are going to have a much stronger emotional and much more exciting experience.” He explains too that “The Karate Kid is me telling the story of a young man who is bullied and who has to stand up for himself, rather than me simply retelling the original movie. It’s not a remake. It’s just capitalising on the franchise.”
What astonishing weaseling from Mr Zwart. "No, this film isn't a remake at all! Even though it has the same story of a western boy in a modern period who feels outcast and bullied by his peers, befriends an older Asian gentleman who knows martial arts and teaches the boy how to fight, though also imparts life lessens that go beyond it to make him a better person, while the boy trains to defeat a cocky smartass rival in a big tournament - it's NOT a remake!"
Of course, it IS capitalizing on the franchise too: name value to bring in the bucks. Of course. Indeed, even though there is no karate in the film (Jackie Chan being a gungfu traditioner), using the title The Karate Kid in a film which features no karate is about as brazen and shameless a cash-in as any I can remember.
"The movies that Hollywood was making in the Seventies tended to be personal, idiosyncratic projects that don’t lend themselves to remakes. You’re not going to remake Five Easy Pieces or Rosemary’s Baby."
Funny you should mention that... Luckily, Hollywood had a rare attack of common sense and dropped Michael Bay's Rosemary's Baby. (In addition to noting that said film wouldn't be a remake, but a new adaptation of the novel, and grargh I'm getting sick of pointing this out)

This penchant for sourcing simple-minded trash is no bad thing, say the proponents of the Eighties remake boom. Besides setting a helpfully low creative bar for the film-makers (Go back and watch the original Clash of the Titans, I dare you. It’s just as awful, if not worse, than the remake), it is also, in its pure essence, very Eighties.

No, Mr Maher, Clash of the Titans is most assuredly nowhere near as awful, and certainly not worse, than Mishmash of the Cretins. CotT wasn't a masterpiece of cinema, but it wasn't insultingly, devastatingly stupid like the remake was. It is an utter failure and disaster of cinema beyond compare, save for the special effects and set design. (as an aside, there are two people on the internet whose opinions diverge greatly from mine: they both loved the remake, further cementing my belief in its wretchedness).

Yeah... I'm not digging The Times these days.

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