What do Alfie, Flipper, Get Carter and I Am Legend have in common? They’ve all been remade for money-making corporate studios. Executives religiously commission carbon copies of films that have already been hailed as a box-office success, in a move to reduce the risk involved with a high-budget film. The artistic results that they produce are varied, but audiences usually flock to see a film that they already know about.
My first experience of studying film was puzzling, as a French film called A Bout de Soufflé was thrust in front of me on the big screen. Along with the rest of my class, I struggled to understand the complexities of the narrative, whilst it exuded understated coolness. This leads me onto my first and most distressing case of a remake gone wrong: Breathless (1983). Let me assure you that there is nothing cool about Richard ‘shove-a-hamster-up-my-arse’ Gere prancing around LA’s streets with a French girl. It seems that the American studios were not happy with the success and critical acclaim of the ultra-cool French new wave, so they tried to emulate their success with an almost identical plot.
Before I get too wound up about Breathless, I will move to my next example, Alfie. Most of you will have been exposed to the 2004 film with the modern-day ‘typical’ British cinematic actor, Jude Law. Yeah, on first viewing, it’s an OK film. I dare anybody to watch the 1966 version starring Michael Caine, then watch Jude Law’s effort afterwards. The results will make you want to cry. The 1966 film is an exploration of social significance in Britain, with a narrative that creates a rollercoaster of emotion for the audience. Surprisingly, Jude Law gives a great performance in the 2004 version, because he is almost identical to his character in real life; a self-indulgent, cheating, womanising prick.
So, what is the future of remakes, I hear you cry? I’m afraid it’s not good news, film lovers. A version of The Birds is coming out in 2011, and a remake of Bonnie & Clyde starring Hilary Duff is scheduled for release early 2010, which is, coincidentally, the same time that I am scheduled to lose all faith in Hollywood.