I hate the thought of remakes for no reason than to cash-in on a previous movie’s success. Recent examples would be Point Break, Robocop and although not released yet, you arguably Ghostbusters. These movies didn’t need to be remade or re-imagined or rebooted but have been nevertheless and to mixed responses and success. Robocop’s remake was pale in comparison to it’s original. Point Break annoyed a lot of the original’s fans (although I actually prefer it, more on that later) while the fury surrounding anything to do with Ghostbusters means it is on to a loser before it even hits the cinemas.
Is this our problem though? Do we watch a movie with a preconceived notion of what it will be like and then adjust our expectation accordingly? Since I started writing reviews for movies I have watched every film, no matter how awful I think it looks or is going to be, with the philosophy that every film starts as 5 stars and then loses that (or maintains) as it progresses. I know I will find that difficult with Ghostbusters because I loved the original but there are some who won’t.
There are people who will view the new, Paul Feig directed Ghostbusters as their first Ghostbusters movie. They will have no affinity with the original, won’t get the cameos, in-jokes, past references or anything pertaining to the Dan Aykroyd classics. Without any preconceived notions, they may love the new Ghostbusters. They may love the characters, enjoy the jokes and get a kick out of the special effects.
This could also go one step further. They may even prefer the remake/reboot. If the new Ghostbusters is your first Ghostbusters and you go back and watch the originals, you may find the effects (shush, whisper it) dated, the comedy archaic and the plot too similar to the new one, but because you’ve watched that first, you prefer it!
This has happened with me specifically. Before watching the recent remake, I had heard great thing about the original 1991 Point Break movie starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. I watched the remake first though and actually enjoyed it, loving the action and the stunts even if the plot was poor. Imagine my horror when I watched the original and found that the stunts were lackluster, the characters poorly written and the plot worse than the new version. I watched the remake with no preconceived notions and subsequently enjoyed it more.
If a film is remade for the right reasons and the update in technology or the chance to rectify poor mistakes from the first can be utilised, then it should be heralded as a better movie. Nobody could have predicted the success of the live-action Jungle Book remake and as much as I love the animated original, I wasn’t so caught-up with emotion for the first that I couldn’t see the benefits of the technology for the remake. I prefer Jon Favreau’s movie because it is more immersive, more serious and actually feels like a child among animals.
If we take a step further back and imagine that the first time you see Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book on-screen is the 2016 remake, you will struggle to go back to the Disney, animated original. Recent effects over-shadow the animated movie of before and could very well mean you prefer the new one, or even worse, dislike the original.
Of course, this doesn’t work for every remake. Robocop was remade with a more toned down plot, a worse looking main character and all the bite and satire removed from the movie. There may be people who like the new Robocop but after watching the original, it would be hard to see anyone preferring the remake. I could be wrong though.
Maybe the lesson to take away from this is that we need to watch movies with an open mind and appreciate what a remake is trying to do. If it is trying to bring an older movie to a fresh audience, that is a good thing. If it is updating the tired effects of an older film, that works too. Righting past wrongs in terms of plot or other movie elements is also a good idea. With Ghostbusters hitting cinemas at the end of next month and other classics like The Magnificent Seven getting remakes, maybe this will help our enjoyment and their success.
Overall, the order you watch a movie and it’s remake can affect your enjoyment and that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. A movie will always benefit from being viewed with an open mind and no preconceived notions. That means that when Ghostbusters hits cinemas at the end of next month, maybe audiences who love the original should try pretending like it is their first experience of the supernatural-battling foursome. You never know, maybe you’ll enjoy it.