Hollywood today puzzles me, not because of the amount of crap that comes out every year--after all, Hollywood has always produced mountains of crap with only a couple of gems as long as it has existed--but because of this ridiculous desire to remake those gems. In my links for The Rumpus this morning, I pointed to two examples of movie remakes reported to be in the works: Robert Zemeckis wants to remake "Yellow Submarine and Brian Singer wants to redo "Excalibur." Now I'm not saying either of those films are untouchable masterpieces--especially not the latter which is notable mainly for Nicol Williamson and Helen Mirren squaring off in a scene-chewing contest and an Arthur with an Irish accent--but do they really need to be remade?
And what's more, are these really the people to be making them? Robert Zemeckis has given us, recently, "The Polar Express" and "Beowulf," the latter of which I couldn't watch more than 15 minutes of. I went back and read the Heaney translation just to scrub the movie from my brain. And he's going to re-envision "Yellow Submarine"? The Blue Meanies will probably be armed with AR-15s to invade Pepperland.
And Singer might be the most overrated action director of the last ten years. I haven't seen "Valkyrie," but I recently rewatched the first two X-Men movies, and they're really not very good, and "Superman Returns" was the most boring superhero movie I've seen. I predict that if he remakes "Excalibur," there will be long sequences of Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, Merlin, Morgan le Fay, Galahad, Gawaine, Percival, and probably even the kitchen boys staring into the sky, pondering the mysteries of the universe.
I will admit that part of my loathing for this practice comes from the fact that I just don't trust most prominent directors to do justice to the original piece. Look Jonathan Demme's abominable Manchurian Candidate 2: Electric Boogaloo, for example. It felt, to me, like the movie was changed just so the director could be said to have put his stamp on it. If that's all you're doing, then why remake the movie? The changes certainly weren't for the better.
Which is not to say I'm adamantly opposed to movie remakes or updates. In fact, there are films that I'd like to see updated, because I think that, in the right hands, they can be done well. "Logan's Run" is one that jumps immediately to mind. But some movies--most movies, perhaps--are better left as they are.