All Hollywood seems to do these days is turn out remakes, I know they’ve always remade films that didn’t need improving for the sake of easy money, but now they’ve rebranded the remake phenomenon with words like re-imagining and reboot. The aim is to make this recreation fashionable and even to drive audiences to directly appeal for remakes. In the past, films would never advertise their unoriginality and would wait until their inspiration was more or less forgotten before judging the time right to harvest that particular crop again. But these days a film idea is reinvented twice a decade.
No longer is the industry taking inspiration from the classics of previous generations or processing foreign films for a mainstream English-speaking audience but instead it makes films that speak to die-hard fans as well as to those who have vague recollections of a film they’ve once seen. They are saying to the fans, you know that film you love, we’re making a brand new version, which you’re either going to hate or absolutely love, but either way there’s not a chance in hell you’re gonna miss it. And they say to the recollectors, you know that film, which you’ve been told is really good but never get round to watching again, we’re making a better more modern version that everyone is going to be really excited about.
It is evident from the film trailers that these remakes are at least being marketed at those most aware of the original incarnations if not directly made with those people in mind. For instance, the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson, is a film that under the old system would have been aimed at young children, merely one more reincarnation of the old fairytale first filmed by Jean Cocteau in 1946, but as the trailer shows, this is not just an adaptation of the 1991 animation but a homage using all the key iconography that pulls on the heartstrings of the Disney 1990s renaissance generation, most of whom are now parents. I myself grew up with Disney and although I see little appeal in an exact copy of a film I knew well as a child but one that no longer interests me, I can understand why there is a whole generation to watch this film with or without children.
Some of these reboots populating cinema at the moment are live-action remakes, some are twists on the original (a la lady Ghostbusters), some are sequels or spinoffs but separated enough from the original work to be described as rebooting the series, and some are just the newest adaptations of famous stories that emerge in the shadow of film giants. The story of Spiderman for instance has appeared in many forms and even prior to 2002 was well-known to everyone, but the upcoming series of films featuring Tom Holland in the lead role, will undoubtedly live in the dark shadows of both Andrew Garfield’s spiderman and Toby Maguire’s incarnation although the latter continuity has been dead for a decade.
It doesn’t matter whether Spiderman: Homecoming will be brilliant or absolutely awful, the comparisons will be made and the audience will remember the other films. If they tinker with the plot, even taking it back to the comic book source, one group of people will surely be outraged. But it’s quite hard to explain any need for a new Spiderman film in 2017, especially one that goes back to his origins again. There is a wealth of comic books, with untold story arcs and unused villains, but it looks like we’ll get another remake. Obviously this is to fit in with the Marvel cinematic universe and do what has been successful with the other Avengers but we’ve surely had enough of schoolboy Peter Parker.
I may be wrong but I can see Spiderman being the first big flop for Marvel Studios as the character is just a little bit too familiar. In other reboots the familiarity falls on just the right side. For example, Terminator Genysis, despite being a bad film overall, made solid use of Arnie and enough reference to the 1984 classic to generate nostalgia and unconditional love from many of its core audience. That film was not marketed as a sequel however but a reboot, since it wrote off much of the Terminator sequels, recast all the leads apart from Arnold and started a new continuity. Similarly, Jurassic World reimagines Jurassic Park. Although it is technically a straight sequel, the story arc is a reinvention of the original, the representation of the creatures has been updated for a modern audience, the film begins a new continuity to spawn sequels of its own and the decade in between films 3 and 4 was long enough to illicit genuine excitement about the reboot. For fans of the original, this was a lone film paying homage, taking them back 20 years in emotion but not 20 years in special effects. And I think it proves that sometimes, just sometimes, remakes are justified.