The recent announcement that a Memento remake is in the works a mere 15 years after the film’s original release has been rightly met with surprise and despair. The fact that the original was only 15 years ago isn’t even the main reason to feel aggrieved. Memento is a movie that does not need a remake. A remake can add nothing positive to a movie as good as the original Memento is.
In fact, there are very few reasons to decide to remake or reboot a movie. There are only three I can think of and they are as follows;
Using technology to do the movie justice
Some films were great in the past but the time period they were made in couldn’t do them the justice they deserve. A movie studio announcing that they want to remake a movie, usually sci-fi or fantasy, in an attempt to bring it to the screen in the creative vision it was intended is a good reason to do so. Replacing dodgy practical effects with CGI can work well, but only if the original is seen as having poor effects. Nobody should be looking to remake Gremlins!
Examples: King Kong, Clash of the Titans, The Day the Earth Stood Still
To reinvigorate a dying franchise
Some franchises have a movie that poisons the rest of the series. A flourishing franchise can be undone by a poor movie in the series which then forces a rethink. Sometimes that’s a simple sequel, wiping clean the slate but often it means completely starting from scratch. In some cases, this is a good idea, particularly in superhero movies. It can be a good idea to wait a little while before you try to tell the same story again though.
To bring a foreign language movie to a western audience
This is one I don’t necessarily agree with but can see the merits of. As much as the original movies can be great, perfect in some cases, they won’t be seen by anyone who is averse to subtitles. It means that some movies, to get the recognition they deserve, require a western, Hollywood remake to convert the language, culture and performances into the English language. Sometimes this works brilliantly and the film can surpass what it has remade, more often than not it manages to point people in the direction of the far superior original, a positive in itself.
Examples: Oldboy, The Departed, The Magnificent Seven.
Overall, there are only three reasons to remake a movie. If you are not trying to update the effects, refresh a dying franchise or bring a foreign product to a western audience, don’t remake it. There is no creative reason to redo someone else’s work, particularly if the movie is as good (and recent) as Memento.