Remakes Done Wrong

A little while back, yours truly posted a ToM dealing with remakes that I felt, at the very least, equaled their inspiration for one reason or another. It shouldn’t surprise that reader response was pretty divided, with some people decrying the institution of remaking films as a whole while others brought up great examples I had boneheadedly missed. I thought we’d give this another go-round but change things up a little in that this ToM will focus on remakes that, in my mind’s eye anyway, sullied the good name of their source material. Here are five that get my fanboy blood boiling…

Planet of the Apes - this one is especially bitter given the creative talent involved - this is the best Tim Burton, William Broyles Jr, and great acting talents like Paul Giamatti, Helena Bonham Carter, and Tim Roth could come up with? Oy vey. Ludicrously plotted and littered with bad performances (including a rather potent stinker from the typically reliable Mark Wahlberg), the film careens from one bad decision to the next, culminating with a stupefying “surprise” ending that only reinforces the bad decision-making that drove this project through production. Considering the original Planet - an incredibly thoughtful, stark, occasionally brutal and consistently well-made and entertaining film – had seen its legacy tarnished by years of inferior sequels and spin-offs, one could suppose this wasn’t all that surprising of an outcome. Great make-up, tho.

The Wicker Man - for those who haven’t seen this train-wreck, watch this. There you go. All you need to see. No one can say Nicolas Cage is especially choosey when it comes to work, but even he seems a little lost in this one, a complete slap in the face to Robin Hardy’s supremely unsettling 1973 shocker of the same name. Bizarre, over-the-top performances from an almost DTV-level cast (save for Cage and maybe Ellen Burstyn, taking over for the irreplaceable Christopher Lee in the sinister Summerisle roll) and dull, uninteresting direction from Neil LaBute (who has done much, much better work elsewhere), all in service of a brazenly stupid script, combine to make a toxic cocktail of suck the likes of which… well, can only birth hilariously insulting internet memes. Those brave enough to take this one on are encouraged to watch the unrated DVD (surprisingly brutal in parts) and listen to LaBute’s strangely satisfied commentary.

Psycho - you knew it was coming. Made during Gus Van Sant’s “lost” studio years, there’s really no excuse here other than the desire to strip-mine the back catalog at Universal. An homage to a master is never a bad thing – but the creative choices made along the way and the awful performances from a usually top-notch cast completely derailed the project, turning it into something of an insult to Hitch when all was (re)said and (re)done. Thankfully Van Sant righted himself and has gone on to reclaim his mantel as one of American independent cinema’s brightest lights, but man… this is just a turd. Remember the cast this thing sported? Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy, Robert Forster, James Remar, James LeGros… what possessed such talented individuals to lend their time and effort to such a lame-brained notion is beyond me. There is absolutely no reason to choose this over Hitch’s original – not even morbid curiosity. Maybe some sort of… I don’t know… soul-raping curiosity? Maybe? Eh.

Lost Horizon - as Hilton’s novel was one of the first books to really interest me in writing and fiction, I was of course drawn to seek out its cinematic interpretations. Frank Capra’s 1937 adaptation isn’t entirely successful but it is beautifully crafted and features a superb lead performance from the all-but-forgotten Ronald Colman. Charles Jarrott’s musical – yes, musical – reworked components of both Hilton’s novel and Capra’s film to an unbelievably painful end result. Cast with talent not known (for good reason) for their singing and dancing skills (Peter Finch, Sally Kellermann, John Gielgud, Liv Ullman), if the movie winds up something of a good time it’s only because of its overall ineptitude. Up there with The Apple in terms of gonzo musical productions. If this turned up on DVD I might buy it, mainly to pair it with The Apple and force lingering guests from my home at the end of parties.

Get Carter - this is routinely cited by others as a terrible remake and they aren’t wrong – I just don’t think the vast majority of them have seen Mike Hodges’ 1971 original as all they do is complain about the violence in the film. Hodges’ picture is unrepentantly violent and was hated for that fact upon its initial release – only with time have audiences and critics really come around to what Pauline Kael deemed its “calculated soulness.” Perhaps that’s the break – the Stallone-starring remake of 2000 – despite a decent turn from Sly and a cast filled with interesting faces (including “Where’s-My-Check-Club” charter member and returning player Michael Caine , as well as Mickey Rourke) the film is as hollow as they come, and unlike Hodges’ Carter denies its nasty (and frequent) outbursts of violence any real subtext. Gobs of needless “stylization” don’t help matters.

So, those are a few that really rub me the wrong way. Believe me, I left a lot of deserving candidates on the sidelines. What about you lot - Swept Away (which I love, btw) - Godzilla - The Vanishing…?

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