The advent of the Hollywood remake era is upon the entertainment industry, and the responses are mixed beyond explanation.
This past Friday, a remake of the classic comedy “Arthur” was released, generating little revenue and lukewarm reviews. The film garnered a mere 37 percent approval rating at Metacritic.com, a site that accumulates the reviews of all the major entertainment publications.
It makes you wonder: Are remakes of classic films and TV series worth their hype? Are they even worth being made? Or are filmmakers just creating bad films?
One point raised by several film commentators, such as Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, have suggested that some of the gimmicks of classics films are too outdated to be remade following their original format.
“Arthur” originally starred Dudley Moore as a hilarious drunk caught between true love and endless wealth. The recent remake stars Russell Brand.
Gleiberman, among others, raised the point that the current generation of filmgoers finds little comedy in alcohol and substance abuse, and that this remake failed to consider that.
Trying to make addiction outright funny has become especially unwise considering the public addiction struggles of many stars, including Charlie Sheen and Brand himself, and that the makers of the new “Arthur” misread the current generation’s perception of people who have battled addiction.
Some remakes have faired better. “Jane Eyre,” starring Mia Wasikowska, opened earlier this year to strong reviews, though countless versions of the same story have been released in the last 70 years.
However, since the film version of “Jane Eyre” is technically an adaptation and not an outright remake, it still does not serve as a strong example of how remakes can succeed creatively.
One remake that did succeed on a critical level, with its approval ratings ranging in the 85-94 percentiles on Metacritic, is the sci-fi TV series “Battlestar Galactica.” Even with the praise from critics and viewers, it never gained more than about 3.1 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen standards.
The success of “Battlestar Galactica” hinged partly because of its political appeal.
Its storylines paralleled the Bush administration and the intensified anti-terrorist feelings of the American public, yet it also remained unbiased because of its fictional narrative.
The show was a commentary on present American life, not just a cheesy replay of a story that had been told before.
“Star Trek,” which was remade in 2009, is the best example of a remake succeeding on all levels.
It was not immediately brushed off by critics or fans. It was, in fact, one of the biggest money making films of that year. The reasons for its success are different from Battlestar Galactica, though.
“Star Trek” did not aspire to be political or sociological, in its original TV form or in the remake. It did not make fun of conditions like alcoholism, and it only skimmed the surface of serious issues like racism and prejudice.
For the most part, it was just full-blown, good-natured fun. The audience was not turned off or polarized by regressions into an earlier time, like in “Arthur’s” case. Therein lies its success.
Whether or not Hollywood can create predominantly good remakes remains to be seen, but “Arthur” has hopefully taught filmmakers and studios a valuable lesson about how to approach certain subject matters in the future.