So this is the second part of my Remakes vs Revivals posts, this time focusing on remade films. There is no shortage of films that have been remade, and there are still more being made every year. Mad Max, Blade Runner and Tron all have remakes on their way over the next few years. If nothing else this tells us people really liked films from the 1980s. 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!)
I don’t know a single person who hasn’t at least heard of Robocop (including my 6 month old daughter). It is one of those films that even if you haven’t seen it, you know what it’s about and can probably take an educated guess at the story of the first installment. For those in doubt, Peter Weller plays Officer Alex J Murphy who is critically wounded while on duty in a crime-ridden Detroit. The officer is saved through transformation into a cyborg policeman who then takes the fight to the criminals of the city. At first things go well, but as Robocop starts to struggle with memories resurfacing from his old life, he starts to question his programming and his humanity.
The story is very good and the original film was perfect for the time- you could almost believe that Robocop could be possible. The acting isn’t so great and some of the violence is over the top, but overall it’s an 80s classic.
The 2014 film however has several problems. The skeleton story is the same, but skeleton is basically my first problem with the film that I simply don’t understand. In this version, when outside of the Robocop armor, Murphy is a head, a spinal cord and… a hand. He has one original hand, but is not connected to anything else human. How is it alive? How did it survive his disfigurement and not some other part of that arm? It just looks a bit odd.
Next we have the suit, which simply doesn’t look right, it’s not robotic enough, looks far too fragile, and when you do see it in action it damages very easily, unlike the original Robocop which could take a beating. Then there is the struggle within the main character. Weller’s Robocop fights against his programming throughout the entire film and in the end even has to be given permission to kill the bad guy. The newer Robocop seems to ignore its’ programming from the get go and does what he wants, there is no struggle, a result of which is you don’t really connect with the character
The film loves action, so much so that it become the only thing that keeps you watching it. Some of the action sequences are quite good but a lot of them are just Murphy shooting people/robots while failing to dodge incoming fire. The acting is poor, apart from Gary Oldman, who I am yet to see give anything but an outstanding performance. I’m not saying the action in the original film was good, but at least they tried. The dialogue in the remake is sketchy at best and if it wasn’t for the occasional appearance by Samuel L Jackson, and a good supporting performance from Michael Keaton, this film would have been quickly forgotten.
Verdict… a fair action film, but a poor re imagining.
The late 80s and early 90s was the time of Arnold Schwazenegger. There were so many films released at that time starring Arnie, all playing on his amazing acting ability (I might be bending the truth here), and this film is one of the better ones. I like films that involve some kind of alternate reality, and throughout the whole of Total Recall you are never quite sure what reality is. Is he actually a secret agent that is on a mission to root out the terrorists on Mars? Or is he just living out the fantasy left over from the memory implant that he asks for? It keeps you guessing all the way. If you can get the incredibly bad prosthetics for various mutants, and the ‘suffocating on Mars planet surface’ scene, then this film is a joy to watch.
Total Recall was remade in 2012 starring Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid, and has essentially the same story- possible secret agent, but with one glaring difference… NO MARS! This really surprised me when I saw it in the cinema, I was waiting for it to pop up at some point, but it never did. It had been replaced by “The Colony” which is basically the poor areas of the Earth situated on the other side of the plant from the affluent “United Federation of Britain”. The workers from The Colony get to their factories using “The Fall”, which is basically a giant elevator through the planet itself, on which the final scenes take place.
This version of the film emphasised the action element, as many films of the current decade do, but a lot of the time it is rubbish- the anti-gravity fight in “The Fall” is horrendous, although the parkour style chase just after Quaid escapes from Rekall (they even changed the spelling!) is pretty good. Unfortunately a science fiction film needs a bit more than a good chase sequence. Even having Bryan Cranston as the main bad guy couldn’t save it. Despite saying a lot of negative things about the remake, I actually quite liked it as a film in its own right, I just don’t think it was a great remake.
Verdict… Good film but too many changes for a remake.
Infernal Affairs/The Departed
The 2002 film Infernal Affairs is a brilliant but complicated film. I’m going to attempt to explain the plot very briefly- I apologise if it doesn’t make sense, but I had to watch it three times to understand everything. A young police officer is sent undercover into the local mafia gang, and at the same time a young mafia member infiltrates the police force at cadet level. They both work their way up through their respective ranks and then years later get tasked with trying to expose the mole within their own groups at the same time. Both characters struggle with their ingrained loyalties versus their new lives and responsibilities, as the opposing groups combat each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film each time I watched it, but then came the remake in 2006, The Departed. I liked this one even more than the original. The Departed has exactly the same story, just filmed by an American studio with an American cast. I can’t always tell whether my preference is purely based on not having to read subtitles, or if it is simply a better film, but they are similar enough that it doesn’t really matter which one I prefer. A couple of mentions for the new version; Jack Nicholson is the perfect casting for the insane mob boss, and both Leonardo Dicaprio and Matt Damon play their respective roles perfectly, even if Damon’s accent is mildly annoying.
Violence isn’t frequent in The Departed, but when shown it is very in your face, although it’s mainly gun violence so not too bad. In particular the end scene of the film, which even though I’ve seen the original, still surprised me with how badly things go for both main characters. It’s a good film, but it’s not one you could watch again and again, mainly because all the plans and counter-plans mess with your head.
Verdict… Remake wins!!
Willy Wonka/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971 is one of my favourite childhood films. It has just the right mix of sweets, adventure, crazy characters, and, of course, some really catchy songs. Gene Wilder is excellent as Willy Wonka, he plays crazy and lovable at the same time, has the imagination of a child and practical skills of an adult. Who wouldn’t want to own a chocolate factory? Charlie Bucket played by Peter Ostrum is actually really good, you genuinely feel sorry for him when he doesn’t get the golden ticket straight away, and you want to be as humble as him, but know you never will be. The film also has creepy parts, especially the character trying to get the children to reveal Wonka’s secrets. If you don’t like this film then there is something wrong with you.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) is fundamentally flawed. It just doesn’t sit right with me. Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka is creepy and weird, and not at all lovable. I would not eat any chocolate the he had made! The factory is even less believable than the 1971 version, with no thought as to how a chocolate factory would work. The Oompa Loompas are rubbish- they don’t look outlandish enough, and the production team were lazy in replicating the actions of one actor over and over, instead of having different actors playing several Oompa Loompas. Not even the songs are catchy. Charlie Bucket is annoying and not relatable, and they have tried too hard to make his family appear poor.
I have one more thing to say about this film… It is set in England, the Bucket family are English, so why in the world do they refer to sweets as CANDY?!?!?! They are sweets, not candy. I understand that this was probably to be more relatable to an American audience, but it was like fingers on a chalk board to me!
Verdict… Original is by far the best!
I have waffled on for some time now and have only scratched the surface of remakes (or reboots) and revivals. There are hundreds of films which fall into the category and I could literally talk (or write) about them for days, but I think I’ve bombarded you with enough of my opinionated ramblings for the moment. Let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said here, or if you have any suggestions about film topics you want me to discuss, either in the comments or contact us section.
Thanks for reading, and well done if you made it to the end!