Random Ephemera

In Defense of the New Ghostbusters Movie — 4 Reasons Not All Remakes Are a Bad Thing

Remakes of movies always seem to draw a lot of criticism, particularly when a classic is about to get remade, and I understand the reaction, I really do. Like a lot of film lovers, I threw up my hands in a "Why are they doing this?!" fit of despair when I heard that Rob Zombie was planning on directing his versions of Halloween and its first sequel. I had a similar reaction when I heard that they were remaking Psycho years ago, and used to view such productions with suspicion and even anger.

Recently, the news that Ghostbusters was being rebooted with women in the roles once occupied by male actors caused the Internet to explode with fury. Whether or not that film ends up being considered a good one, crap or something in between remains to be seen, but a lot of people seem pretty upset that the beloved paranormal adventure film from the 1980s is being reimagined. The anger among some movie fans is probably rooted in sexism — which is sad. Just watch this profanity-laden reaction to see the kind of meltdown some folks are having about a reboot of a goofy '80s comedy:

Why do remakes evoke such a strong negative reaction in many people?  Here are a few things about remakes that aren't necessarily a bad thing, and might even be viewed positively.

4. They Don't Replace the Original.

First of all, this is obvious, but really important to keep in mind. No remake is going to erase the original from existence. Sure, if some director announced he or she was interested in a modern retelling of Rosemary's Baby, but as a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence and Ice Cube, a lot of people including myself would probably feel like punching a hole through a wall, before calming down. But after coming to my senses, I'd remind myself that a really shitty remake doesn't replace the original, and that I can still go watch the classic film because it won't disappear into the ether. Bad movies are made all the time, and most of them aren't remakes. Just because some cruel sadist keeps giving money to Adam Sandler so he can create more suffering in this world doesn't mean that a version of Blade Runner with Sandler playing Deckard would in some way diminish the original film. (If any movie producers are out there, please, don't really do this). If anything...

3. Some Remakes Are a Good Reminder That the Original Film Is Great.

There's nothing like being fed a piece of cardboard and being told it's a delicious meal to make a person long for the real thing. In the case of a remake, there's only really one reason it's being done at all — people loved the original, and someone thinks he can rope in a new audience because the source material is so good. Let's face it, no one is spending time and money trying to remake Mac and Me, because that film is considered garbage and awful. What would be the point? In the case of almost any older movie that was popular and still has a fanbase, certain producers will trip over themselves trying to capitalize on a reboot, hoping that younger people might want to see a new version filled out with actors they're familiar with. It's a lazy way to approach filmmaking, I guess, but it can introduce the original movie to a new audience that might've not so easily discovered it. Someone who loves a film, and then finds out it's a remake, will probably seek out the original, and people who love the older film but hate the new version can sit back and enjoy just how much better the film they love is compared to the crappy new one. I had that experience watching a recent new version of The Fog, and while I hated it, the newer film sure made the classic from 1980 look great.

2. Sometimes They Introduce Viewers to Another Filmmaker.

While not exactly a "remake," the original Star Wars borrowed liberally from Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, and the classic spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars is lifted almost perfectly from his samurai epic Yojimbo. Many fans have discovered Kurosawa after finding out his Japanese movies were largely responsible for the appeal of American productions they loved. This is a very good thing, and critics of remaking older movies should concede that it often exposes an audience to a filmmaker they might not otherwise gravitate to.

1. Sometimes a Remake Is Really Good.

Bad movies are bad movies; whether they're entirely original or retellings of older films is beside the point. It's easy to bitch about an upcoming remake, but better to remember that as long as performers like Adam Sandler exist, there will be no shortage of insultingly awful movies being made. Abominations like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo somehow got green-lit, and if that's not proof that we live in a cruel and godless world, it does make it clear that plenty of entirely original films are vomited into theaters every month.

It's also important to remember that every once in a while, someone remakes an older movie and it's really good. Sure, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule, but it does happen. The 1951 Howard Hawks film The Thing From Another World is one of the best sci-fi movies of its decade, but to a lot of horror fans, the 1982 John Carpenter retelling is as good or better. Some would disagree, including probably Carpenter himself, but damn, I'm glad he made his version. Sam Raimi basically remade his own film in 1987 when he blended the concept of a reboot and sequel to The Evil Dead (1981). It's mostly the same story, sheared of extra characters, and soaked in both gore and the blackest humor possible. That remake/sequel is also widely considered better than the original film by most fans, too.

While many of the remakes I've mentioned have been scary movies, that's far from the only genre that's produced good newer versions from older films. The Birdcage (1996) was a funny remake of the 1978 Franco-Italian film La Cage Aux Folles, and the 1986 version of Little Shop of Horrors was a very popular remake of the 1960 Roger Corman film. Sometimes a new version of a 20- or 30-year-old movie can still be highly entertaining, so while lots of people are already weighing in on why the reboot of Ghostbusters will surely suck, it's probably a good idea to at least give it a chance. No matter how bad it is, it's probably going to be better than anything Adam Sandler has made in at least ten years.
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.