By Sophie Gold
My brother is a movie nut. On his recent birthday, we went to see the newest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I enjoyed it very much and recommend it to you. It has a great twist of an ending on par with The Usual Suspects which I won’t spoil for you. In prep for writing this review, I had a look at what other critics thought of the film. I was surprised that many panned the movie because I liked it. However, there emerged a theme among the most critical critics: the remake (as they called it) was unnecessary and didn’t measure up to previous films based on the same book. It is true that there have been other film adaptations of the book as is the case with lots of movies being made these days. There seem to be lots of redo’s and their near cousin the franchise extension these days. So why does Hollywood tend toward redos and franchise extensions? Is there a lack of creativity among today’s movie makers and story-tellers or is there something else at play? Are today’s film studios so risk averse that they are too afraid to step out of their comfort zones? Or are we as movie-goers the ones who are risk averse and crave the comfort of nostalgia and happy (or at least known) endings?
Save for low budget indies, it has become prohibitively expensive to make and market new movies; it’s risky business indeed. Remaking old movies provides film studios with a critical success factor or crutch depending on your perspective: bankability. If you think of a movie on a theatre screen like a consumer product on the shelf at Shoppers or Loblaws, there’s lots of competition. And there are too many movies for the available prime “shelf space” or movie screens. The independent and newbie studios and movies just don’t have a level playing field because the resources required to get on screen are huge and getting huger by the day. So only tried and proven movies made by tried and true makers get made again and again. If that is the case, going to the movies may soon become similar to tuning into another episode of that TV show you watch every week or binge watch on Netflix over the holidays. Film studios remake old movies and extend franchises because they are less risky to make and market. Remakes and extensions practically market and sell themselves, whereas upstarts have to fight for the scarce real estate that is the theatre screen. Remakes and extensions are also more readily translated and sold globally and often spin off a heap of merchandising opportunities to boot. But it’s not just the movie makers who are responsible for this trend.
We the viewers to like our comfort food. We like what we know and like knowing how we will feel at the end and that we got what we paid for. There’s a reason why McDonald’s keeps cranking out Big Macs: people love the special sauce that they are familiar with (truth be told, I’ve never eaten at a McDonald’s but have heard stories about McFood).
Then again, there’s a case to be made for remakes. First off, they’ve been made for generations. Romeo and Juliet became West Side Story and has been retold to new generations for decades. New technology and well-known actors introduce old stories to new audiences who might never otherwise see them. My brother never would have taken us to see Murder on the Orient Express but for the modern cast including some of his favourite actors. I would never have been introduced to the great story and awesome plot twist and not have written this article. We like our comfort foods and film studios will continue to oblige us for good reason: we call it comfort food for a reason and there’s no place like home and a bowl of mac and cheese on a cold night.
Then again, there’s a case to be made for remakes. They appeal to and involve an entirely new generation. If it weren’t for the recent remake of Murder on the Orient Express, I would have never been inclined to see this movie and would not have experienced the joy of watching the movie. My dislike of murder mysteries and all things gory would have gotten the better of me, and I would have been open to watching a movie like this. But I did watch this movie and am happy about it, and will hopefully see more similar to it in the future.
At a much lower cost, because they have no need to hire additional writers or come up with an original story. Remakes and extensions have a much better chance for publicity, and essentially advertise themselves because they have already been advertised in the past and may have large fan bases by now. In any case, the originals were not screened globally, so remakes bank in most of their money through foreign sales. That is not to say that the populations of people who have already seen the originals don’t contribute to the success of remakes. More often that not, people that have already seen the original will see the remake later on. Film studios understand that even if potential viewers don’t agree with the remaking of a move, they will probably go see it anyways to prove this to themselves or for the nostalgia. Remakes and extensions of franchises satisfy our cravings for nostalgia and benefit from personal significances and connections we may have to a movie or series. It is our human nature to like familiarity. We like our comfort food, which is why we are more than willing to go see remakes and extensions of franchises time and time again.
Today, new movies are like (insert). In other words, they are very rare. So many of the movies being made today, particularly blockbusters and those produced by big Hollywood studios, are remakes of movies made years ago.
Why is this the case you might be asking yourself, just as I did. Can we place the blame on film studios? For lacking creativity? For being averse to taking creative risks? Because it is so expensive to make and market movies, it is risky to try something new. Remaking old movies provides film studios with security and bankability, two factors that are critical to success. Remakes have a Movies that have been economic goldmines in the past are likely to bring in large amounts of money the second or third time around.
Image Source: https://www.google.ca/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjYxdqLo5bYAhUp9YMKHZmGBoUQjhwIBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youthareawesome.com%2Fmovies-2015-forwards%2F&psig=AOvVaw3msgjzWnS0kpo0V9PCkKrU&ust=1513779691875073