Why We See So Many Remakes and What We Can Learn From Them
Most people have movies that they love from their childhood. Whether it was a box office success or not, certain movies just stay with us. The film industry has certainly capitalized on that nostalgia.
But lately it seems that we are getting an over abundance of films re-made from our past.
First let me define what I think is a remake.
I would define this as a story or a story about a character that is based on a past visual concept. That means anything filmed or broadcast, that includes sequels and any prequels. Examples would include Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (1968 / 2014), Father of the Bride (1991 / 1950), and Old Boy (2003 / 2013).
The next question is, does Hollywood make a disproportionately high number of remakes per year? Let just take last year as an example. Below is a list of the top 20 grossing films of 2017. Next to each film on the list is a “yes” or “no” to mark whether or not the film on the list is defined as a remake based on the previous definition.
|Star Wars: The Last Jedi||Remake: Yes|
|Beauty and the Beast||Remake: Yes|
|Wonder Woman||Remake: Yes|
|Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2||Remake: Yes|
|Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle||Remake: Yes|
|Spider-Man: Homecoming||Remake: Yes|
|Thor: Ragnarok||Remake: Yes|
|Despicable Me 3||Remake: Yes|
|Justice League||Remake: Yes|
|The Fate of the Furious||Remake: Yes|
|Get Out||Remake: No|
|The LEGO Batman Movie||Remake: Yes|
|The Boss Baby||Remake: No|
|Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales||Remake: Yes|
|Kong: Skull Island||Remake: Yes|
|The Greatest Showman||Remake: No|
So, of the top 20 films from last year, 15 of them would be considered “remakes” based on the definition I gave from above, and all of the top 10.
So with Hollywood pumping out so many of these remakes, the next question is why?
Some answers to that are a little more obvious. Big studios are always looking for ways to make sure a bet success on as small a budget possible. Using re branded or used titles that had success before are very valuable to a big studio risking a big budget on what is always an unknown return at the box office.
That’s the obvious part.
The other reason why we go to see these films is for a chance we might re capture some nostalgia from our past.
For the viewer, this is a healthy gamble. If the remake meets our expectations, we are granted that sweet return to a moment, lost in the past, that we had seeing the original film.
If the new film fails, we still have the original and the inability for that new film to let us relive the past is all the reason we need to erase it from our collective memory, until Hollywood wants to try again.
Finally, what can the story artist learn from these remakes?
For me, the most evident thing that emerges from a compelling need to retell an old story is strong evidence of those themes and scenarios are enduring the test of time. They also offer an opportunity to find ways to make basic good story elements relevant to a new audience.
Closely examining existing stories is actually one of the best ways to learn how to tell a good story in the beginning of your storytelling career.
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You can learn to tell a good story by looking at previously successful good stories from the past and trying to add, subtract, and edit it to be relevant for a modern audience.
In this way, you are not starting from scratch but you are still practicing authorship. By looking at these previously successful good stories from the past, you also may learn to see patterns and recurring themes that give you insight on viewer reaction and potential behaviors while experiencing particular story elements.
You can look at multi generational attitudes towards themes and stories that remakes offer. You can compare Director and Cinematographer choices between the new and old films to check if somethings are being repeated or if they change for the same desired effects.
These are just some ideas and hopefully you can use them to help you with your new projects right away!
I would also like to hear from you guys. Tell me what you think of remakes. Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comment section!
Story never ends!