Remakes have been all the rage in Hollywood since, well, enough time passed after a hit was made that it was in the back of the general public’s mind. Hollywood has been using the remake trick for decades, and it’s not a bad thing.
There are varying degrees of remakes.
There are concepts that are essentially copied, such as the recent Stephen King novel remake, “Carrie.” There is an automatic audience draw because of the nostalgia factor. The audience goes into this kind of remake with certain expectations that could range from deviations from the original but not too much change or visual changes. It is impossible to make everyone happy, but remakes sell tickets because of these expectations.
There are also remakes that borrow plot lines from films but aren’t exactly the same. “The Lion King” is Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” which has been adapted into a movie quite a few times. Re-watch “The Lion King” with that in mind, and the illusion of the film’s creative story will be destroyed.
Within genres, the same plots are recycled all of time because they’re formulaic. Characters and objectives may change, but the barebones plot does not necessarily have to in order to create a new idea.
Romantic comedies: Boy meets girl – or girl meets boy, and hopefully soon there will be more boy meets boy and girl meets girl – boy gets girl, boy loses girl and boy gets girl back because the expectation that they are “meant to be” has been set up for the audience. But there are plenty of romantic comedies out there. They may feel similar to one another, but that doesn’t mean audiences don’t go flocking to them every Valentine’s Day.
The hero’s journey has been long used as the winning formula for Hollywood movies. Audiences want to see a hero face trials that seem to be impossible, only to pass through them with flying colors.
According to Box Office Mojo, since 2001 the top grossing films in America have been either a sequel or an adaptation from a comic or novel series, with the only exception being James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Remakes and reboots seem to be absent from this list.
One successful remake was Peter Jackson’s 2005 reimagining of “King Kong,” which grossed $218,080,025 in the U.S. and garnered three Academy Awards.
On the other end of the success scale is the reboot of the 1990 sci-fi hit “Total Recall.” In 1990, the blockbuster starring Arnold Schwarzenegger cost about $65 million to make, according to IMDb, and grossed about $119 million in the U.S. and was nominated for two Oscars. The 2012 remake only grossed around $59 million in the U.S.
The thought process is that viewers who were fans of a film 20 or 30 years ago will want to watch the revamped version. However, nothing is certain when it comes to box office results.
Television is no exception. There are plenty of remakes on television right now. A remake of “Hawaii Five-0” began airing on CBS in 2010 to strong ratings. The third season averaged around 10 million viewers, according to Zap 2 It. Childhood favorite “Boy Meets World” is being rebooted as “Girl Meets World” on Disney Channel with main characters Cory and Topanga’s daughter as the main character. And “Boy Meets World” was not on that long ago – it ended in 2000.
All Hollywood mainstream films do one thing: set up a problem that seems impossible to resolve, give the main character some hoops to jump through and see if or how they fix it at the end.
But where do we draw the line between remakes and inspiration? Is there a line? That’s up for the paying customers to decide.
Chelsea Colatriano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.