Film Remakes

To Glasgow’s UGC hellaplex last night to see ginger Ron Howard’s reification of The Da Vinci Code. It has become a horrible cliche to moan about how lacking in substance this film/novel may or may not be. It’s a crime bestseller, no? A trifle. A yellowback. It should make an OK movie in terms of moving wallpaper. So on entertaining my first exposure to the Dan Brown franchise last night, I was determined to enjoy Da Vinci so that I might not join the ranks of morons slagging off the same harmless thing.

Unfortunately the movie was fairly bad. I must side with the miserable grumpholes who dislike it. The way in which Ian McKellen’s character interprets Da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting is moronic to a Face On Mars extreme and the guy who plays the monk-assassin should be shot at dawn.

But enough of this tot. It is the trailers preceding last night’s movie that I would prefer to discuss.

Now, while everyone knows that Hollywood is now an industry specialising in remaking old films, I must admit to finding it an unlikely possibility that every single mainstream film put out this summer is going to be a remake. Out of the seven or eight trailers I saw last night there was only one film which didn’t seem to be a remake – the new Adam Sandler vehicle: Click. And even that seems to be derivative of Pleasentville and Bruce Almighty and (according to the fora at IMDB) episodes of The Jetsons and Goosebumps.

(On the topic of Click, doesn’t the title suggest a film about a computer mouse rather than a TV remote? Shouldn’t it really be called “The Switcher” or “Knobs” or something? How about “Press the Red Button Now”? I also hate how Christopher Walken has allowed himself to be transformed into a grotesque parody of Christopher Lloyd.)

Casino Royale. Poseidon. Superman Returns. X Men 3. Mission Impossible 3. Omen 666. et cetera.

The fact that so many movies now are remakes, sequels or rip-offs of something else is interesting. It’s as though the film industry has become (or rather has always been) an “advancing parallel”. Where it once made stories inspired by real world events (even science fiction has some real world basis), movies now ARE the real world (or rather a sizable chunk of it in the ‘real’ world of those working in the industry) and so the natural thing for movies to do now is to turn to self reference in one way or another.

Movies refer to the world and in a world of movies all it can refer to are movies. In the case of an integral, interesting film in this reality, a film-about-films would be produced: some kind of metacommentary upon other films. But most of the time Hollywood will just opt for the remake, sequel or ripoff.

I also dislike how a film based upon a novel, comic book or TV Series is considered more original than a remake and in fact exists at all. Shouldn’t a movie be a movie for a reason? Shouldn’t a movie result from a movie script rather than a novel? It implies that (a) the movie is the highest form of art and that novels or comics are just raw material that the movie industry might take to mining and (b) an idea can exist an any form and not be specifically tailored for a given menium.

For example, Pleasentville is necesarily a movie and not a book. As is The Matrix. Jeff Noon’s Falling Out of Cars is a necessarily a novel and not an ice cream sundae. Boo to movie adaptations. Paul Auster, for example, is an author: not a franchise waiting to graduate to movie status.

The best two movie adaptations I can think of are Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation and Michael Winterbottom’s A Cock and Bull Story. The former is about the adaptation process and how it fails. The latter is a a filmed counterpart to a book rather than an adaptation, translating ideas to the screen and working with the book rather than mapping haphazardly selected episode of plot onto a screenplay format.

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