Another day, another reboot/remake/sequel story. Nerdist published one just yesterday about a proposed Goonies II that’s been in the works for a million years and now may actually happen with Steven Spielberg allegedly writing the story for the flick. That’s all well and good, but it does bring up an interesting topic of conversation: What are fans to do when it comes to reboots, remakes and requels?
This weekend at WonderCon a panel was assembled that discussed just that. Moderated by David E. Williams, editor of GEEK magazine, the panel featured Ashley E. Miller (Thor, X-Men: First Class), Steve Melching (The Clone Wars), Daren Dochterman (Batman vs. Superman, Monster House), Robert Meyer Burnett (Reunification: 25 Years After Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Mark Aldman (House of the Dead, Free Enterprise).
The panel began with each panelist naming his favorite remake. Robert Burnett started things off: “John Carpenter’s The Thing. I think what makes a great remake is when you take the initial concept and rework it some how and make it contemporary. [Philip] Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Brian De Palma’s Scarface. Those are things that took the original concept and reworked them for modern audiences.” Dochterman named Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood and Altman listed The Maltese Falcon and The Magnificent Seven. Melchi picked Cronenberg’s The Fly as well, and went on to give NBC’s Hannibal praise, saying, “I think a great remake is something that dives back into what makes – it’s the kernel of the great idea of the original thing and expresses it in a new and interesting way.”
To their credit, the panelists all gave unfiltered and truth-filled commentary on the state of the movie business today. Daren Dochterman, who has worked on some of the biggest movies of the past twenty years (and most of them were a reinvention of some kind) summed it up best: “You try and take the things that you enjoy about what you’re doing and trying to incorporate as much of it as possible and get as much of it as possible past the people who are making the decisions, who may or may not be against you at every step of the way.” He continued, “The basic thing is that… sequel-itis and remakes and repackaging of these, what has become IP, Intellectual Property, is the only way that they’re making productions now, because of the tremendous risk financially and publicly for all these expensive movies that are being put out and the businesses that are running all this have to guarantee, at least on paper, their return, so that they can say, ‘Look, it isn’t my fault, we had all these records of all these people that like this stuff before and it’s not our fault that they didn’t come again.'”
Ashley Miller echoed the sentiment of the almost necessary evil of rehashing former properties today in Hollywood. Said Miller, “We get hired to do these jobs and I think the most important question that a creative person can ask themselves when they are asked to work on a reboot, a remake, a sequel, whatever, is: Do I love it? Do I have something to say about it?… I don’t want to just do karaoke of the thing that I love, I want to do a cover. I want to play that song the way that means something to me and hope that it means something to somebody else.”
So far, I’d say this is all “same page” nerd conversation. When we got into the specifics and questions from the audience, however, that’s when things got a little tricky…
Someone asked about RoboCop (you can read Nerdist’s review of the film here) and the panel voiced their disapproval immediately, but here’s the thing: I don’t think the new RoboCop movie was terrible. No, really. It wasn’t. Was it amazing and awesome and totally cool in every way? Well, no. It wasn’t. Did we need a new RoboCop movie? No, probably not. However, just because it was not Paul Verhoeven’s movie doesn’t automatically make it a disaster, either, and this is where the panel got a little wonky. Later on, the topic of Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead was raised, and the panel echoed the same disapproving sentiment, with Rob Burnett saying, “[T]he original Evil Dead was terrifyingly scary, but also was kind of funny, too and that’s a really difficult balance to make, and that’s why Sam Raimi is who he is. Whereas the Evil Dead remake, it just sort of bludgeons you over the head, it’s not clever. The gore was good because it was nice to see practical effects again.”
Well, what about the idea of doing a “cover version” of the thing that you love? What would be the point of rehashing beat for beat and doing “karaoke” of Sam Raimi? That would be impossible and ridiculous. Whether you like the outcome or not, when a new director and writer are putting their spin on the inevitable new version of your favorite thing, of course it’s not always going to be the same. The other problem with the overwhelming conclusion of the panel on the Evil Dead argument is that Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is NOT particularly funny. No, they’re thinking of The Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, which are both very funny. As a fan girl, I package the whole trilogy together, too, unfairly, I’d say, because Alvarez did exactly what the panel had said not 20 minutes earlier a good reboot should do: a solid cover that meant something to him. Just because they don’t like that it’s being remade doesn’t mean that they can change the rules.
In the end, the remake/reboot/requel situation is annoying for both fans and creators, and I think it’s basically impossible to speak objectively about the topic at hand. Whether it’s your job or the thing that you love or, in the case of the panel, sometimes both, it’s a difficult thing to negotiate. The best we can do is hope that the powers that be care about doing justice to the material and have the fans’ best interest at heart.