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Remakes are a super touchy topic. I go back and forth on my opinion. On one hand, the argument made by film snobs and fanboys who say a remake or a sequel can somehow lessen the magic of the movie they love so much is ridiculous. If a film is truly great, no amount of ripping it off is going to change how we feel about it. Conversely, there are certain films that should never, ever be remade, because no matter how many talented people you throw at them, for one reason or another, it’s just never going to be as good as the original.
1. “Die Hard”
Everyone who whines that the sequels and prequels to “The Matrix” and “Star Wars” somehow took away from the originals should look to “Die Hard” to remember how patently ridiculous that thought is. The second “Die Hard” was sub-par. “With A Vengeance” is pretty good. “Live Free Or Die Hard” is a decent action movie on its own, it just doesn’t fit the “Die Hard” theme. There was no fifth “Die Hard” film. However, the trials and tribulations of the franchise have done nothing to hurt the view of the original. If anything, it shows us how special it is. John McClane is a great character, but a great character does not make a great movie. Some of the best action writers and directors have been trying for more than 20 years to crack the code that John McTiernan and Steven de Souza did back in 1988, and all have come up short in one way or another.
2. “Blazing Saddles”
There are so many things about “Blazing Saddles” that make it so great that you just couldn’t do today. The first and most obvious thing is the use of racial slurs. I mean, Tarantino–who’s about the most impervious to PC criticism director out there–did it in “Django Unchained,” and even he got torched for it–and that’s in a violent revenge flick. A comedy? Forget about it. But that’s a simplistic view. The other thing is just that the type of comedy that makes “Blazing Saddles” great is a language that’s not really spoken anymore. It’s hard to say exactly what it is, too. It’s not wordplay or literacy like some people would lead you to believe, because that’s unfair to all of the smart comedy being made right now. Perhaps it’s the lack of cynicism. So much intelligent comedy now is rooted in some subtly dark themes, while most of Mel Brooks’s movies are loving and tongue in cheek, even when they deal with concepts like racism. “Blazing Saddles” was also released in a different cinema landscape. So much of the movie is about lampooning–not just westerns, but the concept of Old Hollywood in general. Audiences now just don’t have the same collective awareness to appreciate either of those concepts as a whole.
3. “Back To The Future”
This movie is nearly perfect as it is, and the special effects hold up really well, because they were used intelligently and sparingly. That’s the first easy point to make. The other is that because the movie is specifically about time periods, it’s firmly entrenched in the decade in which it was made. The movie isn’t just about a modern kid going back to the ‘50s, it’s about our culture’s view of the ‘50s as seen by people in the ‘80s. So what would a remake be? A view of the ‘50s through the lens of the ‘80s as vaguely remembered by someone in the 2000s? That would be difficult, given how many filmmakers who made it through the ‘80s don’t remember much outside of glass tables covered in white powder. The only remake idea that even remotely works as a concept is making Marty McFly a millennial kid and sending him back to the ‘80s. I would sort of be like if “Hot Tub Time Machine” had just been Clark Duke’s character, but if that’s your story, why call it a remake of “Back To The Future” at all? Why not just make a movie about a millennial sent to a time full of pop culture and media, but without cell phones and Internet porn, other than just the free marketing that comes with the title? If it happens, expect it to have Michael J. Fox as older Marty, and the movie’s protagonist to be his jackass son.
5. “Animal House”
I’ve seen what happened to the fraternity comedy, and it isn’t pretty. Often, a big driving force behind remaking a film is that it’s become old and deserves to be updated. This makes sense for a lot of movies, but there is literally nothing dated about “Animal House.” There are no dead pop culture references or schticky jokes. It’s just pure, broad, gross, awesome comedy. The storyline is perfect, the casting is perfect, and the tone is perfect. Besides, who would have the balls to play Bluto? Seriously, is there any legitimate comedy actor out there with the balls to say, “Yeah, I’ve got something to add to John Belushi’s most lauded comedic performance.” I fucking hope not.
6. “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
Here’s where I differ a little bit from the common thought process. I’m actually totally fine with the idea of rebooting the Indiana Jones franchise. Yes, it might be Harrison Ford’s greatest role ever (sorry, Han fans) but it’s not like we haven’t seen other people step into the Indy role. Sean Patrick Flanery killed it as young Indiana Jones, so that’s all I really think it would take. Set the reboot in the late ‘20s or early ‘30s with a 30-year-old Indiana Jones. There are still Nazis, which are always his best villains, and you can cast younger versions of everyone. Hell, we could even meet Abner Ravenwood. This plan means Bradley Cooper is probably out of the running, because he’s basically the same age Ford was when “Raiders” came out. I’m willing to sacrifice that. What should absolutely, positively not happen is a pure remake of “Raiders.” I would murder everyone. There’s plenty of reasons, but the biggest is just a question: why?! Indiana Jones existed in a time period of two world wars and crazy adventures were happening everywhere. There are dozens of interesting relics that can be used as the MacGuffin for the plot. The ark isn’t the only ancient thing with powers that people give a shit about, so why drink from your own bathwater when there’s a fresh spring flowing right next to you? Honestly, I’m not worried about it. People will show up in droves just because it’s Indiana Jones, and I think rehashing an old story instead of giving them a new adventure would actually hurt the box office potential. But that’s what remakes are all about anyway, right?