Check the films showing at the nearest cinema to you. For every original movie, there are probably three that are remakes or reboots of a film that was successful years ago.
But why is that? Why are movies these days simply new versions of old ones? And why are we drawn to them, even when we hate the thought of our adolescent selves favourite films being rehashed?
Right now, the hypothesis at loaded is that there are three factors that contribute to this remake madness of the 2010s.
The movie business is as simple as this: they make money – good, they don’t – bad.
Too many times, a film company will lose millions because they invested in a film that flopped spectacularly. What is the perfect formula to make sure no one loses money and everyone’s happy? A remake (or a reboot, in most cases). But not just any remake: the original film will be one that performed successfully at the box office, so that, even if the new one is terrible (and it usually is) audiences will still go and see it, because the original film was good, so this one must be too, right? Think of the new versions of Godzilla, Planet of the Apes, Fantastic Four (not that the original was much better), Conan the Barbarian, Poltergeist or, well, Superman Returns.
And it won’t be just money, but critical success as well. One thing that Hollywood loves to do is finding a foreign movie that was a hit and won lots of award to then copy it frame by frame, which is something that never works -except in The Departed, that would be the exception. Abre los Ojos was a multi-awarded film by Alejandro Amenábar (The Others, The Sea Inside) which then Cameron Crowe decided to copy with Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky. Cruise somehow made the remake look like a cheap thriller. Similar situations have happened with the remakes of the French series Les Revenants, Taxi, Death at a Funeral, or Anthony Zimmer (the Hollywood remake was called the Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp vehicle, The Tourist).
This would be the main reason why cinemagoers would go to see a remake or reboot. Think of the fourth Indiana Jones movie, for example, now that there is an ongoing nostalgia wave for all things 1980s. The fourth Indy film is nowhere near as good as the original trilogy. We know this, Steven Spielberg knows it, and Harrison Ford surely knows it. But it didn’t stop audiences from going. For many of us, this was our chance to see our childhood hero in action again, a factor that producers know and exploit. The Netflix series Stranger Things, as another example, while not a remake, has made people miss 80s films like Stand by Me or The Goonies, which means we can expect plenty of films from that decade to be remade soon. The Blade Runner sequel is around the corner. There is even going to be a reboot of Gremlins. Why? Pure nostalgia. It’s worked for Star Wars, hasn’t it?
And speaking of Star Wars, there is something we can thank the new trilogy for: it has proved beyond doubt that women can be the lead of a blockbuster movie, the hero, and not just simply the damsel in distress or the main character’s love interest. Would as many people complain about Rey’s quickness at getting her way around a lightsaber, had she been a boy? Exactly.
Over the past few years, film moguls have realised that women do go to the cinema and want to see themselves represented as fully-fledged characters, which is why there has been a new trend lately to take advantage of this. What best way to ensure a female-led movie is successful than by remaking a beloved film and making the main characters women?
In all honesty, changing the gender is not going to change the main plot of the film. Regardless of the quality of the final product overall, was the female Ghostbusters really that different plot-wise? Weren’t they still just people on the hunt for ghosts? Because that is exactly what it was, yet internet trolls were quick to trash the movie before it had even started filming. More than half the world’s population is female, which is why producers are aiming these remakes/reboots at them, to cash in on the lesser-exploited female dollar. There is a new Ocean’s Eleven movie that will star Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna. With these stars, no one can deny they have the same box office appeal as their male predecessors. The Force Awakens, with a female in the lead, is the third highest-grossing film of all time. Now that really is saying something.
Let’s do the remakes and reboots that are worth paying for, but only those. The rest just show a complete lack of imagination, a shame when there are so many creative minds out there waiting for their shot.