In recent years there have been many film franchises which have been given the remake/revival treatment. While some of these adventures have been screaming out for an updated adaptation, there are plenty which should have been left well alone. I’m going to cover revivals in this first installment, and remakes in the next post. It’s probably obvious, but this post contains *SPOILERS* about all films mentioned (but they’ve been around long enough that they can’t really be spoilers!)
Film series like Star Wars an Indiana Jones have gone down the revival route and have either continued the story of previous films, or given background to what has already been told. There has been mixed success with the various revivals which I will cover in detail below, but I put this question out there… Should films that many people hold dear and are fond childhood memories be brought back and updated for the current generation?
As a self-confessed Star Wars addict, I am more than happy for Disney/Lucasfilm to make as many films and TV shows as they wish, as long as they retain the Star Wars spirit and don’t simply turn it into a money spinner. The prequel trilogy was in danger of destroying the legacy, hyped up so much that it never really stood a chance. I’m sure it didn’t help matters when George Lucas supposedly stated in an interview prior to the release of Revenge of the Sith that he only made Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones because he wanted to tell the story of the fall of Anakin Skywalker. Episode 1 and 2 were a necessary evil.
Star Wars has had more that two decades for its’ fan base to grow and the excitement of possible future films grew to frenzied levels- in truth, fans were going to see the film even if they knew it was going to be bad. The prequels were going to make millions regardless of the quality of the films themselves. The question remains though, should they have been made? Did we need to know how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader? And did it need three films to explain this journey? My answer… No.
It would have been best to leave the origin story of one of cinemas greatest characters to the expanded universe. The Star Wars EU has shown again and again and that it can include amazing storylines spanning decades and even millenia. There are countless characters that were created as part of the EU and have gone on to be some of the most integral characters in Star Wars lore, for example Mara Jade Skywalker. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Mrs Skywalker has had some incredible storylines and her character has evolved impressively over the years, from Hand of the Emperor, to Jedi Master, and the wife of Grand Master Luke Skywalker.
Now that we know that Disney/Lucasfilm are planning three new sequels and standalone films, it would have been the perfect opportunity to give Vader is own standalone, rather than have his story spread over 3 sub par films.
The fall of Anakin was good, but the associated stories were not and for the love of God which pick two of the worse actors ever to play him?! Jake Lloyd has too many emotions in him to commit to a single one when the scene requires it, and Hayden Christensen is completely lacking in any emotion- more robotic than C3PO. With incredible actors like Ewan McGreggor, Liam Neeson and Natalie Portman in the cast, how did they get Anakin so wrong?
The prequel stories should have been left alone, but I am looking forward to seeing the continuation of character we have grown to know and love. Star Wars revival… mixed success.
The revival of this franchise is one that will never be forgotten, but for all the wrong reasons. The first three Indiana Jones films are funny, action packed and full of classic adventure stories. Raiders of the Lost Ark is consistently voted one of the best films of all time, and who could argue when it includes things like the boulder scene and lots of Nazi punching. Now I am electing to ignore a certain episode of The Big Bang Theory which points out that Indiana Jones has no real impact on the story, which would kind of ruin the film a bit!
In contrast to Raiders, the fourth entry of the series, Kingdom of The Crystal Skull, could not have done more wrong. I could forgive the film if it was just the poor acting from most of the principle cast, Harrison Ford included. Unfortunately though poor acting combined with a weak story and effects that don’t look remotely realistic creates one of the worst films of modern times.
Indiana Jones has always been about fantastical stories and swashbuckling action, but Kingdom pushes it too hard. Harrison Ford is too old to be doing the kind of acting demanded by this role, in fact sometimes it looked like he needed a stunt double just to walk around the set. Too many nods to the previous films were crammed in and don’t get me started on the trans-dimensional aliens!! Probably Cate Blanchett’s worst performance, as well as a hollow portrayal of Mutt by Shia Lebeouf.
Indiana Jones revival… massive flop.
Batman v Superman
The Batman and Superman series have films that are both remakes and revivals. Batman has achieved more success with its newer films than Superman has, but they have each tried to retell their stories more than once.
If we include the 1960s Adam West TV show/film and the upcoming Ben Affleck performance, then we now have four different interpretations on the big screen. Adam West’s campy Batman is the polar opposite of Michael Keaton’s dark and broody Batman, and shy and reclusive Bruce Wayne. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight restarted the franchise with a full origin story of the character, grounding it in reality and introducing believable versions of well known villains.
Many people prefer Christian Bale as Batman, and I would say that while the Dark Knight trilogy is very good and came at just the right time in the world of superhero movies, I still prefer Michael Keaton. Batman and Batman Returns, for me, capture the diseased and dirty world of Gotham City perfectly and Keaton uses the fear created by Batman as his greatest weapon. Bale’s Batman relies far too much on gadgets, and what is with that ridiculous voice? He sounds like an asthmatic with a retainer!
Only Nolan’s films flesh out the origin of the character (although each interpretation has dealt with important plot points such as his parents death) and they are the perfect type of film for modern day Batman, having removed almost all of the campness that early Batman is known for. If nothing else the action is really good and while the third film has a sketchy story it relies on its realism to help it survive.
You may notice that I have not mentioned Val Kilmer of George Clooney in this section, and there is good reason. Kilmer’s Batman was ok but his Bruce Wayne was awful- there was no arrogance, no playboy flair, he was boring. Clooney’s Batman should be removed from history, in fact the entire film should be deleted and any remaining memory Bat-nipples should be erased!
Batman revival… more hit than miss.
For me the late Christopher Reeve will always be Superman. The 1978 film that introduces us to the last son of Krypton perfectly portrays the struggle of an alien trying to fit in on Earth, while at the same time fulfilling the responsibility he has for being someone with such incredible power. In the comics Superman has always been seen as the ultimate Boy Scout and always fights for what is right, Reeve is able to have the confidence and strength of a being who knows what he is doing is right, combined with nervous and awkward alter ego Clark Kent. He is not as muscle bound as you would perhaps expect Superman to be, but then I think that adds weight to the fact this is just a man, a man with unique talents, but a man nonetheless.
The Superman franchise is by no means free of mistakes. The first live action interpretation of the Man of Steel, “Superman” (1948), may have had the right look but the story left a lot to be desired. Not many films could get away with the main plot being a fight against the Queen of the Underworld who call herself The Spider Lady, but then I think I’m probably guilty of comparing it to today’s standards, it may have been fairly popular at the time.
Jumping forward a few decades, personally Superman II (1980) is my favourite. It tells one of the oldest Superman stories of the fight against General Zod and while we might now look at it and see simple flash effects and sparkly outfits, at the time it was a visual masterpiece. While Superman III (1983) felt rushed and rough around the edges, the scenes with ‘evil’ Superman are refreshing as it displays the turmoil Kal-El is constantly in. However much of the rest of the film appears to be a mishmash of ideas and doesn’t really play out well. The synthetic kryptonite and battle with a living computer are almost as poor as the acting from Robert Vaughan, and as always Gene Hackman’s weak Lex Luthor.
Even if you are a fan of Christopher Reeve’s last outing as Superman, I’m sure you still agree that Brandon Routh’s “Superman Returns” (2006) was a good attempt but struggled to hold anyone’s attention. I think they tried to humanise the character too much, focusing on the relationship between him and Lois, rather than his being away for some time and coming back to be the saviour of the people again. Don’t get me wrong, the scene where he calmly walks towards a man firing a machine gun at point blank range is pretty much the image of Superman to me, I just think the film misses the mark. It doesn’t help that Kevin Space, one of my favourite actors, seems to have tried to emulate Gene Hackman’s performance as Lex Luthor. This simply doesn’t work, at no point is Luthor frightening or posing a real threat to Superman, other than luring him to an island made entirely of Kryptonite! Considering the estimate $209 million that went into making Superman Returns, the end product is ultimately disappointing.
Man of Steel (2013) brought Superman up to date and showed us a more action orientated Superman film. I enjoyed watching the origin story being re-told, and moment such as Superman surrendering himself to the military to save Earth, then proceeding to show how outmatched they are but still being willing to play by their rules, are really good. It’s good to see a superhero showing his dominance but not in an arrogant way and genuinely wanting to help the people around him.
What this film falls down on is the way the action sequences have been shot. As we are dealing with beings of incredible strength and speed, it is hard to keep up with what is going on sometimes, and the fights go on for just that little bit too long. The collateral damage is extensive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a point of contention that results in Batman and Superman coming to blows in the upcoming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. There is also the small matter that Henry Cavill is not a convincing Clark Kent. I enjoyed the film but there were small changes that spoiled it for me- where are the red pants?! Superman revival… more miss than hit.
I think that’s probably enough about revivals, so I’ll leave it there for now- thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts on the films I’ve covered here, or any suggestions you have for future film posts. I’ll post the second installment covering remakes soon.