Everything old is old again: A word on remakes and sequels

I just heard rumor yesterday that Disney is going to be involved in remaking Indiana Jones, with Chris Pratt as the ideal leading man, in place of Harrison Ford. If true, this is only the latest in an ongoing, decade-long problem. Film studios are trying to remake, reboot, and add new installments to, or spinoffs of, every successful or memorable film you can think of, and destroying the legacies of those films in the process. And there’s a reason for that.

Big film studios are becoming greedy. This is the driving motivator behind the whole thing. It’s safer to stick with tried and true film franchises that people recognize, and it’s been proven that tapping into someone’s nostalgia generally piques that person’s interest. So, for example, a new Star Wars film won’t even be questioned by the average moviegoer. It’s Star Wars! It’s a guaranteed money-maker. The Transformers movies? They’ll make 10 of them, at least. And then there’s that nostalgia. A lot of people remember the Ninja Turtles from their childhood, so they’ll flock to see a really bad live action rehash of it starring Megan Fox as Megan Fox.

The irony here is that the film studios are missing the whole point. Popular film series like Star Wars were successful because they offered something new, original, and well done. Scarface was loved because it was such a good film, with a stellar lead actor. A remake would only look like a poor imitation, bordering on parody, by comparison. 

There are so many things in this world that are better because they’re unique. There’s only one Golden Gate Bridge. Only one Vitruvian Man (though it has been parodied). There’s only one Stonehenge. Would anyone want to try and make a copy of any of these things? It wouldn’t be as good as the original. It would have no authenticity.

But one has to, unfortunately, look at this from the perspective of a big film studio. They’ve determined that it no longer matter if the films lack quality or distinction. The bottom line is what matters, as opposed to taking risks on something new, which, if it doesn’t pan out, means money taken out of their pockets. That sort of gamble used to be worth it – it’s how great film classics were born.

But studios don’t need to do that anymore. Today’s generation of kids won’t know that the original Indiana Jones or the 80’s version of The Goonies (yes, that’s being remade) is better. They’ll simply be stuck with a low-quality copycat. Film studios know that. They’re banking on it. Because they can show each new generation a lesser, regurgitated form of what their parents or grandparents watched.

The sad thing is, it wasn’t always that way. Basically, when I was a kid, things were different.

Consider this: in 2014, there were at least 40 major movies that were either remakes, reboots, sequels, threequels, prequels, or spinoffs. In 2004, there were just 19. In 1994, there were 11. And in 1984, there were – wait for it – five. Notice a pattern here?

And it’s only going to get worse going forward. Within the next few years, the following remakes, reboots, etc. could all possibly hit theaters:

Terminator, Indiana Jones, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Batman, Power Rangers, Goosebumps, Ben-Hur, Frankenstein, The Crow, The Mummy, Poltergeist, Tarzan, Scarface, Pet Sematary, Little Shop of Horrors, King Kong, The Toxic Avenger, Weird Science, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Ring, The Grudge, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Predator, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Jacob’s Ladder, The Omen, Flatliners, An American Werewolf in London, Jumanji, Highlander, Tomb Raider, The Goonies, Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, Green Lantern, Spawn, Van Helsing, Stargate, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and The Wild Bunch

Excited yet?

Some people will argue that we’re seeing so many remakes because there are just no new ideas left; that there’s nothing truly original that can still be done. That’s not true. In fact, there are plenty of original ideas out there. Books, alone, provide an excellent example. Check out the Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan, or The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. Really, really original offerings with exciting twists and compelling narratives.

Look online. There’s tons of creative content being developed and uploaded to YouTube every day. Online streaming is big, too. Shows are debuting on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. And I’m sure there are plenty of people trying (and failing) to get their creative movie ideas pitched to big film studios. Take it from someone who writes fantasy – there’s no shortage of creativity out there. It’s simply a matter of whether that creativity is being repressed. And it is. In the interest of profit. Another ripple effect of capitalism.

But something needs to change, and soon. From the days of ancient Greece and Rome to the modern era, what we now call “pop culture” has always existed, in various forms. Where would we be without the tales of Ulysses, or the writings of Sophocles? Or the works of William Shakespeare? A dearth of new forms of art, whatever format they may be in, is bad for us as a culture, and as an intellectual society.

We will continue to be “dumbed down” as creativity is shunted to the sidelines, and as we are handed shoddy versions of things that already exist. Without new ideas to provoke us, inspire us, and become part of our lives, we will continue to run along like hamsters trapped in a cycle of cultural repetition. And that’s a really big loss.

As Bertolt Brecht once said, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

This article was reposted from my blog at BlakeDeppe.com.

Photo: The iconic Indiana Jones series is merely one group of films possibly getting a remake.   |  IFC


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he reviews music, creates artwork, and is working on several books and digital comics.