A Star Is Reborn: Why ‘remake’ is not a dirty word

No matter how Hollywood tries to sell it, remake will always be a word deemed blasphemous to cinephiles the world over.  Sure, they can throw out terms such as reboot or reimagining or revisioning, but regardless of the spin, they all refer to the same type of picture.  And because it’s one we have experienced before, it appears as if we are unwilling to give them another go.  But why not?

The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed Oscar-winning feature from 2006, is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs.  Many have dubbed the Coen brothers’ 2010 western True Grit superior to the 1969 John Wayne original.  And last year’s It, whilst not technically updating another film, was a box office success and critical darling that earned a brighter reception than the 1990 miniseries that preceded.

Is it because these were re-tellings of stories that were first told as a foreign feature, or as a movie too old to be remembered by today’s supposed serious watchers, or as a television series that overran its welcome that they are more readily accepted than, say, Ghostbusters?

Now, i’m not here to start an argument about Paul Feig’s ill-fortuned female do-over, and i’m certainly not placing it in the upper echelons of cinema viewing alongside the aforementioned titles, but the “dude-bro” culture that essentially skewered the Melissa McCarthy-starrer before it even had a chance to prove itself is not the “childhood ruining” movie it was made out to be.  Perfect? Hardly.  Ruining your childhood? You’re giving it way too much credit; and, not to rub salt into the wounds, but the 2016 incarnation (hey, there’s another word for remake) was more critically well-received than the original film’s sequel, yet that never appears to be a critical factor in the argument.

Obviously not all remakes are exempt from the argument that they are worse than the originals, but in the same notion neither are all sequels, or films in general for that matter.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather watch a good remake than a shitty original.  Obviously we’re seeing originality die out in filmmaking, and that is absolutely a crying shame and, quite frankly, another argument all together, but if we as patrons of cinema are rewarding remakes with healthy monetary returns and ignoring more original material, aren’t we to blame for this dilemma?

In the next few weeks alone we will be treated to a duo of remakes in Australian theatres.  One of them, A Star Is Born (released yesterday), seems to be bypassing the remake stigma, the other, Suspiria (releasing November 8th after advances on the 2nd-4th), is copping only the most minute of flack due to the fact that the original on which its based is too obscure a title for the regular cinema-goer.  A Star Is Born is currently tipped as the strongest contender for the upcoming award season, its ranking a stellar 90% on the Rotten Tomatometer, and its collected over $130 million worldwide.  Suspiria, yet to officially debut, is already a healthy 75% with the critics, with many of them praising the film for surpassing the original as well as its originality in not copying the original’s story beats.

Is it because Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa are well-liked enough that we are overlooking the fact that the 2018 A Star Is Born is the fourth re-telling of the story? If the same detractors that cry foul of any remake of popular (predominantly) 1980’s movies had the same passion for Kris Kristofferson as they did for Bill Murray would we have masc-minded trolls sabotaging GaGa in the same manner as Leslie Jones?; the Ghostbusters actress was unfairly called out for her appearance, amongst other things, in the lead-up to the film’s release in 2016.

I understand wanting to hold films close to one’s chest and that certain titles own a specific place in the hearts and minds of the individual viewer, but one of those titles being remade doesn’t take away that feeling.  And if it does, then you didn’t hold on tight enough.  When it’s announced that [insert movie title here] is being remade, more often than not i’m confused or indifferent rather than angry and resentful.  Did Point Break for example need to be remade? Not really (especially since the original Fast & Furious essentially did) but when the 2015 version came out any anger I harboured stemmed from it being a poor and unnecessary film more than it taking away my thoughts of the 1991 original.

Remakes appear to be inevitable, and complaining about them won’t make them disappear in any fashion, so perhaps instead of incessantly attacking hard-working individuals in the lead-up to said remake release, accept the things you cannot change and judge the work on its own merits.  I mean, if you want to get technical, aren’t all comic book films remakes in some form or another due to them lifting material from an already finished product?  Perhaps just remember that nugget of information before you lid-flip on how “inferior” remakes are.

A Star is Born is in cinemas now. 

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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