Forgettable 21st Century remakes of 20th Century cinema

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Fame  footloose

A sub-section of 21st century cinema that fascinates me is the remake of a revered/classic film that is considered to be so insipid that a year or two after they’re made it’s as if they don’t exist and the original still thrives.
Below are six standout examples from this century. I haven’t seen any of these remakes so the comments below aren’t my views on it, just an assessment on what the general consensus was on them:

The Omen (2006) – The 1976 horror film was considered a classic of its time and remaking it 30 years on was an ambitious task. But it was backed by a smart marketing campaign which made explicit use of its opening date being 06/06/06. And it had a strong cast, with Mia Farrow in one of her rare post-Woody film roles being particularly noteworthy. But critics were disappointed (27% on RT) and despite it being a modest financial success it was completely unsuccessful in matching (let alone eclipsing) the memory of the original

Fame (2009) – In its capturing the spirit and liveliness of young aspiring New York artists, the original 1980 musical became a defining film of its era (and led to a successful TV series). A remake in 2009 seemed potentially rewarding and even had the curio value of TV’s Frasier & Lilith (Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth) both playing prominent roles in the film. Alas, a bad sign was that it was rated PG which stood in contrast to the original film which was quite rough and brutal at times. And the general consensus was it was a bland and plastic remake which would be soon forgotten, which it was.

Fright Night (2011) – The 1985 vampire original had been a surprise popular and critical success. It seemed an odd choice for a remake as the original’s semi-spoof, self-aware, humourous style still made it seem fresh today. Was there an audience for a modern remake of a horror film that still felt modern? As it turned out, No. Despite decent reviews, the Fright Night remake barely made any money anywhere, not even finishing in the Top 5 in its opening weekend in America despite an aggressive marketing campaign.

Footloose (2011) – The 1984 original became a iconic film of its era thanks in no small part to its famous Kenny Loggins title track. In truth it’s a pretty silly film and a remake seemed like a good chance to improve on it, especially when it was helmed by Craig Brewer who’d had notable success with ‘Hustle & Flow’. Alas, despite generally positive reviews the public didn’t warm to it (as a check of the IMDB user reviews shows) and it made little impression. Perhaps people were too affectionate towards the original to accept a remake.

Poltergeist (2015) – For decades the debate over whether the 1982 Tobe Hooper horror film was in fact actually directed by Executive Producer Steven Spielberg has been a fascination for many. Indeed just a few weeks ago a crew member on the film stated that Spielberg in fact directed it.

One thing this recent batch of stories don’t have to mention; that they’re talking about the 1982 version and not the 2015 remake because that’s been forgotten already. Despite being produced by Sam Raimi and having talents like Sam Rockwell & Jared Harris appear in it, the film was critically panned and audiences probably would’ve cared more if it had actually been a documentary about answering the Hooper/Spielberg mystery.

Ben Hur (2016) – Probably the most foolhardy of this list, it was impossible to see how this could ever be a success. For one thing, remaking one of the most iconic Hollywood films of the 20th century is just asking for trouble. Especially when helmed by director Timur Bekmambetov who it’s fair to say doesn’t quite have the reputation of a William Wyler. Also, biblical/Roman epics were hardly box-office gold in 2010s cinema.

The biggest giveaway to this film’s impending doom is the YouTube trailer clip which actually has more dislikes than likes for it. One user observed it as ‘Fast And Furious A.D.’

And to the surprise of no one, the film was not only a critical disaster but a financial one as well as it searched for an audience that wasn’t there and was one of the biggest flops of its year. Amongst the plethora of bad decisions MGM has made in recent decades, this would be one of the worst.

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15 responses »

  1. I’ve happily avoided all of the above save the Fright Night remake.

    Fright Night (2011) starts off promisingly (it’s downright Spielbergian at times, like a proto Stranger Things) but it falls apart before reaching the halfway mark. I should probably revisit it at some point, though.

  2. Dirty Dancing was a television remake. Red Dawn wasn’t terrible (not good either, of course), but it sat on the shelf for years and MGM essentially dumped it.

  3. Didn’t think of Red Dawn; if I did I probably wouldn’t have put it in because my presumption was that the original wasn’t a particularly big hit. But I was surprised to check that it was the 20th most popular film of 1984.

  4. Another one I thought of putting in was the Brooks/Douglas 2003 remake of The In-Laws; actually have seen that one and if memory serves, thought it was OK.

    One I almost put in was the 2011 Conan The Barbarian remake which opened the SAME weekend as the Fright Night remake!

    Borderline case was Jonathan Demme’s remake of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’. I saw that at the cinema and it was OK but forgettable, especially compared with the vividness of the original. It has a surprisingly high RT rating (81%) and did moderately at the box office. When Demme passed away, didn’t really see anyone say TMC was one of his underrated gems.

  5. The Omen was the most wretched. Just a soulless imitation. John Moore is a terrible director.

    Fright Night had some decent filmmaking and performances, but was just so unnecessary and wrongheaded at times.

    Poltergeist is passable as a middle-of-the-road family horror movie – it’s just that it’s a remake of an absolute classic.

    Robocop was slick, but shit.

    The new Conan was such a bomb they started planning a sequel to Arnold’s flicks, which then evaporated after he lead several bombs and the project’s primary supporter at Universal left for another job.

    Ghostbusters will be interesting. It was seen by too many to simply ignore, but was still a financial failure and not considered as good as the original.

  6. One thing that distinguished The Omen from the others (in a bad way) is that it came from the same screenwriter, at times he barely changed his own script – so many of the scenes you could compare straight up and see how much worse they were.

  7. Moore also directed a remake of ‘Flight Of The Phoenix’ no one remembers; could’ve had two entries on the list!

    Re: Ghostbusters, while it was generally disliked and not financially successful, as it became such a bizarre pop culture battle in 2016 that’s the opposite of forgotten.

  8. Not forgotten for now for sure. It’s gonna take time. But in ten years, how much will that be playing on TV vs. the original?

  9. Fair point.

    Special mention to Michael Caine who’s starred in two forgettable remakes of his much own better originals – Get Carter & Sleuth. I actually saw the Sleuth remake at the cinema and I was wishing it would work but it just didn’t; a sad final screenplay for Harold Pinter.

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