Friday, August 19, 2011

REMAKES, REBOOTS AND REGURGITATES – THOUGHTS ON POP CULTURE RECYCLING

This weekend marks the opening of remakes of two seminal 80s genre films: Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night; just the latest in a batch of re-makes and/or re-visitations of material that has flooded the multiplexes in recent years . There are more on the way, such as the recently announced Blade Runner (which as of this writing is still unclear whether it is a reboot, prequel or sequel), Evil Dead, The Crow, The Wild Bunch,[1] and the currently filming Superman: The Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man. Currently dead in the water considerations for remakes are Highlander and The Lone Ranger (though their status may be subject to change), 

The current spirit of the reboot is not confined to the big screen either: Wonder Woman  (pilot made, scrapped) , The Incredible Hulk (TV to TV moives to two big screen adaptation and now a TV series in planning stages), Dark Shadows (which not only got a small screen reboot in the early 90s but is up for a big screen remake), The A-Team (big screen treatment), Hawaii Five-O, Battlestar Galactica, Dallas (though more arguably continuation than remake) and Charlie’s Angels  (from small screen to big and back again)  are the small screen equivalents (though only two of those are actually in production as of this writing). And if that wasn’t enough, in the same manner as the highly successful Star Trek reboot of 2009 , at the end of this month DC Comics will reboot its entire comics line with new first issues and reinterpretations/altered histories of its characters (minor spoiler – a villain has radically altered the DC Universe timeline in the mini-series “Flashpoint”. At its conclusion the timeline is re-set again, with substantial alterations).

The reactions to reboots, both announced and executed, are diverse. For many, its proof positive of Hollywood’s dearth of originality; for purists, it’s tantamount to someone spitting on the Holy Bible. To a degree I must admit to having a bit of a bias there as well. The thought of a Superman film without the resounding John Williams score as accompaniment is anathema to me, as it is as intricately linked to the character to me as James Bond’s theme is to him, or the Star Wars fanfare that is emblematic to that series, but I will address that further below.

So why reboot, if it so controversial? Well, perhaps that is precisely the point. In his own review for the Fright Night remake, “Capone”, a critic for aintitcoolnews.com, had this to say: “…most [reboots] are made because a familiar title tends to bring in more box office dollars than an unfamiliar one”. Name brand recognition practically guarantees, to varying degrees, some sort of business. Despite the diminishing quality, Highlander’s subsequent sequels (save for the last) actually did some box office business. However, there’s only so long a franchise can ride on the coattails on the name or memory and good will towards the originating production (or else Star Trek: Enterprise would have lasted more than four seasons without dwindling ratings each season). So in that sense it’s almost easy money because chances are even those who are most offended at the idea of a remake will take a gander out of sheer curiosity.

One argument I’ve heard for reboots is that films would get remade for a new generation which may be too biased against watching or not having access to films made before they were born. True, but with the proliferation of cable, satellite and internet broadcasting, a portion of that argument is rendered moot. However, as in the case with the aforementioned Star Trek, or DC Comics, a reboot may be necessary for brand survival. According to DC Comics’ “The Source” blog, the reboot “[n]ot only will this initiative be compelling for existing readers, it’ll give new readers a precise entry point into our titles.” This move is not unsurprising as, due to various factors, including direct market distribution and proliferation of other, more interactive entertainment media, comic book sales have been dwindling. Something had to be done to shake up the status quo. Whether this is a momentary stunt or a committed for the long haul state of affairs remains to be seen. The point is that people are taking notice. Reboots in comics are nothing new. It seems to happen every ten to fifteen years. Noted comic book writer/artist John Byrne has asserted on his message board byrnerobotics.com that there was a time when the turnaround for the departure of old readers and the influx of the new was five years. In recent decades, the readership has stayed far longer than the norm and that core base is aging (I should know. I’m one of them). The catch 22 here is that you have readers who are decrying the same old stories but by the same token cry foul when Superman’s spit curl is slicked back (and let’s not get started on the backlash regarding the comics and upcoming film’s doing away with the “super undies”).

“Change” is difficult in both life and in our beloved stories. However, “change” is the very nature of life. As I said before, I’m not sure I can sit in a movie theater to watch a Superman film without the anticipation of hearing Williams’ fanfare. But its easy to forget that before I sat in a darkened movie theater in December, 1978 an entire generation before me had its own defining Superman theme in the form of the George Reeves’ The Adventures of Superman. And before that there was the theme that was attached to the Max Fleischer cartoons of the 40s. Are any of those themes “not Superman”? The Star Trek series of films had not only the television fanfare but different main themes from Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and Cliff Edelman. Are any of those less Star Trek than Alexander Courage’s main theme? Does one obviate all the rest?

Reboots tend to incorporate the sensibilities of the generation it’s being made in, therefore giving the story a fresh spin, another perspective, a reexamination. After all, a diamond is not made up of one facet.  Like any other production in any artistic medium, it will have varying degrees of quality. However, there is nothing inherently wrong in re-visitation, especially if doing so imparts something new to say. The frame by frame minutia homage of Psycho is arguably an exercise in futility simply because, by telling the story in exactly the same way, it validated the source film’s “perfection”. Why remake something if the remake due to its very nature essentially reaffirms the sanctity of the original?

Finally, reboots are nothing new. I had an e-mail conversation with a good friend of mine, Dean Stevens (whose blog “Dean’s Lair” at http://deanstev.weebly.com I highly recommend), who has taught classical literature. In regards to fealty versus diversity in storytelling he made these observations:

“There are examples of oral tradition being unchanged for centuries.  It is not so much a problem of memorization, but in ancient Greece the mountains served to isolate Greeks and create more variance in stories…One good example…Dionysos was born out of Zeus’ thigh.   Dionysos was an older god, older than Zeus.  Both stories were known.  This would NOT be a problem for the ancient mind.  They were BOTH true…There were many religious festivals including the 4 Olympic games and other lesser games which allowed people to mingle and spin yarns.  The Olympics included a poetry/storytelling category….playwrights and poets made a living creating their own version of mythological tales, sometimes inventing new stories in the process… It is pretty much unacceptable to make major changes to canonized stories in our society.  Most people would hate to see another remake of The Wizard of Oz for just that reason…
We have the belief that the original was perfect so why would you make another version, for me I start thinking that about Conan…same with Star Trek…how long did fans resist a Shatner-less Kirk character….”[2]
His cogent analysis not only implies that a reboot is arguably a historical certainty, he also bring in a logical reason why reboots are anathema to most. To write something down is to codify it, set it in figurative stone and perhaps make it “fact”. Does the process of re-writing somehow invalidate the source material? Further, does it marginalize the version of the generation before, i.e. makes the previous version, and maybe by extension the generation that bore it, obsolete? That “our” beloved version no longer matters? If so, what does that say about the right of subsequent generations to embrace new interpretations of a particular story or franchise in its own way?

In any event, it is up to the individual viewer to decide whether to watch, much less accept, a re-interpretation of any artistic product. If such a re-make is to be judged, let it be judged on its own merits, like the predecessor that spawned it had been. No matter what your feelings are on the matter, the reboot has been here before the film industry was even a mote in Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince’s (the “director” of the first recorded celluloid film) eye and will be here so long as there are stories to be told and re-told. But there is an opportunity (if the artists don’t muck it up, that is) to see these stories with fresh eyes and perhaps learn or assimilate something new in that retelling.


[1] An analysis of the original film can also be found on this blog.
[2] Please note that Dean’s comments are statements of opinion made during an “off the cuff” conversation and are not meant to be construed as being meticulously scholarly. However, I felt that these statements were particularly pertinent to the subject matter at hand.

25 comments:

  1. Oral tradition societies have more flexible outlooks to stories. The word Muthos (myth) is Greek for story. It does not imply a true or false story.

    When Christian religious leaders at The First Council of Nicaea tried to canonize the gospel stories in 325 CE we see the starting point of the modern view that a story should not deviate from one viewpoint.

    Censorship and intolerance of different tales really stemmed from that moment in time. With the fall of the Roman empire, the bible increasingly became the only source of storytelling beyond simple folk tales.

    Tales from pagan traditions had to be carefully weaved into codices by thoughtful intellectual monks who tried to preserve the original tales, even though they knew only a few other like-minded monks would likely ever see them.
    But even these monks, were choosing which stories to save and which stories to allow to die.

    The irony, became that all sources of knowledge in Europe during the so called Dark Ages revolved around a handful of priests who could read Latin to the illiterate masses (who spoke a native language only), essentially making the bible story even more canonized and ritualistic.

    The printing press saved us from only one official story of everything, but oral tradition was excised. The Old Testement (Torah), makes little sense without the oral traditions of the Talmud, yet those oral traditions didn't make it into European bibles. While this may seem like a tangent, the point is the Western mindset has been long conditioned to learning there is only one "right" story and from that, we have diminished as a culture.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wonder how you got so good. This is really a fascinating blog, lots of stuff that I can get into. One thing I just want to say is that your Blog is so perfect!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will locate that extremely useful about Hostgator Coupon Codes. queda de cabelo feminino

    ReplyDelete
  4. When Christian religious leaders at The First Council of Nicaea tried to canonize the gospel stories in 325 CE we see the starting point of the modern view that a story should not deviate from one viewpoint.crystal clear salt cell

    ReplyDelete
  5. Do you want to learn meditation online? Light Watkins has been providing meditation course from many year in new york.Get the best meditation audio course online and best personal trainer now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rental industry is a very big factor for everybody, now most of the company like to use the rented equipments and its very beneficial for them. Its not so easy to handle or maintain the equipment so for the maintain, you have to know about all things about the equipment and how to maintain in a proper way for the long lasting is important. see the migration

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's really a great work to save the life of many children around the world. I would like to be a part of this campaign. καναπες

    ReplyDelete
  8. You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site. Cashback

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for the response, Jayne! I'll send in my email confirmation since that's all the receipt I get from those auto chlor salt cell

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for sharing this useable article - I really increase your acquisition.it is really very informatic post for young people, and hope they will enjoy well after reading this post.
    verhuizen hoorn

    ReplyDelete
  12. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is really a great read for me. Thank you for publishing articles having a great insight stimulates me to check more often for new write about Tao of Web Hosting. τραπεζακια σαλονιου

    ReplyDelete
  14. You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site.dolor de cabeza

    ReplyDelete
  15. it will be helpful for all blogger. I'll write a post on my blog on it. thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is additionally a decent post which I truly appreciated perusing. It is not consistently that I have the likelihood to see something like this. heated gloves battery

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great website and good content. thanks for sharing the information, please keep updating, looking forward for more recipes
    website conversion strategies

    ReplyDelete

  18. head soccer is young children dream of scoring goals, creating their own celebrations, making headlines, baffling opponents, being superstars and virtually ruling the game with a lot of games head soccer unblockedhead soccer 2 or soccer heads and Big Head Soccer . Big Head Football or big head basketball and unblocked games are also famous games.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This blog is so nice to me. I will continue to come here again and again. Visit my link as well. Good luck
    http://www.jualobataborsiherbal.com/ obat aborsi
    http://www.jualobataborsiherbal.com/cara-menggugurkan-kandungan/ cara menggugurkan kandungan
    http://obataborsi59.com/ obat aborsi
    http://obataborsi59.com/cara-menggugurkan-kandungan-dengan-cepat-dan-aman/ cara menggugurkan kandungan
    http://obattelatdatangbulan.info/ obat telat datang bulan
    http://klinikobataborsi.com/ jual obat aborsi
    http://jualobatpenggugurkandungan.net/ obat penggugur kandungan
    http://tandatandakehamilan.net/ tanda tanda kehamilan

    ReplyDelete

  20. Escort Service in Gurgaon
    Do you need a call girls in Gurgaon to give you the real pleasure of your life, well, if you revert in affirmative, in that case, you are at the right place. We are a stupendous track record of providing the best girls that would completely take the evening of yours by storm, so to avail them all you need to do is just call and we will provide the best at the right price.

    ReplyDelete

  21. Call Girls in Gurgaon
    Are you looking for escort service in Gurgaon, we provide the best that would completely transform your experience. Our escorts are trained meticulously to deliver best service that you are looking for.

    ReplyDelete

  22. Female Escort in Gurgaon
    If after a busy business tour, you are looking to ignite the evening then our call girls in Sohna Road are there to help you in the best way. We provide the service that would completely take away your work stress and revive you from within. So, why wait when you can get the best feeling of love at cost-effective prices. The escort service that we deliver in Sohna Road is among the best that you can get at the rates that we offer. We provide the best girls that would completely satiate you from each and every angle. So, visit us today and take your experience to a new level.

    ReplyDelete

  23. Escorts Service in Mahipalpur
    If you have come from the West and you are captivated by the Asian beauty, in that case, we make sure that you get the best call girls in Mahipalpur to help you taste the Asian flavor in the best way. At Mahipalpur, we make sure that you are getting one heck of an experience with our girls. So, no matter whether it is official meeting or bachelor party, we are there for all your needs.

    ReplyDelete