The concept of remaking films isn’t new, in fact it’s been around as long as the cinema industry itself. In the beginning, it led to repeated adaptations of literature, such as with Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel A Tale of two Cities which received its first cinematic outing in 1911 only to be remade in 1917. This practice isn’t uncommon, especially with Charles Dickens’ works. A Christmas Carol has received the most remakes of all with 7 feature length films, not to mention the countless television and radio adaptations. Of course, original projects got their fair share of remakes too with 1923s The 10 Commandments having one in 1956.
A remake, if done well, can be a wonderful film in its own right and there are several reasons for their existance. Some are English-speaking remakes of foreign pictures. The Ring is considered by many to be one of the finest horror films of all time, and it is based on Japan’s 1988 film リング (Ringu). One of very few Western LGBT films The Birdcage is a remake of the French 1978 La Cage Aux Folles. It’s up to personal opinion whether these films hold up to their original couterparts, or if they should even be remade at all. I believe that if the message of the film remains intact and it raises awareness of the original with a new audience, then this brand of remake can be a great thing. One of the earliest examples is 1928’s The World is Mine which is based on the 1921 German film Hannerl Und Ihre Liebhaber.
Remaking a film is also a good way of updating it for that time period, allowing for newer methods of film-making. Frank Sinatras classic 1960 movie Ocean’s 11 is often considered as one of the all time greats, but the time period didn’t allow for much more than standing in a room and talking. When it was remade with George Clooney in 2001 it alloweed for more effects and espionage. This is also true of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz which was a remake of the silent 1925 original. It would earn Judy Garland her only academy award and has been proclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made.
Of course, the most obvious reason is that, more often than not, they take in a decent ammount of money at the box office. So far this year Disney has released 3 remakes of their previous films and made around $2.5billion. It’s a move that makes sense given that all 3 films (Dumbo, Aladdin and The Lion King) were hits when they were originally released (1941, 1992 and 1994 respectively). Now there are several reasons why people go to see these remakes, whether it’s nostalgia or curiosity, but the fact is that people go. It may be some of the easiest money that the Walt Disney Company has ever made.
A statement I’ve seen alot, and the one that inspired this piece, is that there are too many remakes being released. Popular opinion seems to be that these remakes are on the rise and that they are ruining the originality of the film industry. This simply is not true. I’ve carried out the research myself and the fact is that we are receiving an average amount of remakes. Since 1980 there have been roughly 10 remakes per year with a small influx in the early 200s. Whats more, over the past 100 years there have only been 5 years without a single remake, the last of which was 1927.
I’m not here to make assumptions or to jump to conclusions, but I’ve come to one anyway. Remakes are, and have always been, a core part of the cinema industry. To look down on them purely for existing or to assume that a remake will be bad “because it’s a remake” is absurd. To dismiss them without even giving them a glance is naive.