Having an established audience is a way to calm the nerves of movie producers. Making something that is completely new is a gamble. When a book or a play or lately a board game could be made into a feature film there is a promise that fans of the original shall end up buying a ticket. The latest trend is not to adapt, but to remake. In particular, Hollywood has turned to the films and franchises from the ‘80s.
On paper it makes a lot of sense. The teens from the ‘80s are now in their 40s. Revisiting Freddy Krueger and Conan the Barbarian creates a powerful sense of nostalgia. There is also a new generation of moviegoers who have never seen these films in theatres and could be introduced to these franchises.
This trend really began with the onslaught of horror remakes. The original versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes were technically ‘70s products but they opened to millions of dollars their opening weekend. This led to studios making their own version of ‘80s movies like My Bloody Valentine, Prom Night, House on Sorority Row, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and the upcoming Fright Night.
Horror films are always a safe investment because they are cheap to produce and always seem to make a profit. People flock to whatever horror movie is in theatres, much like family films. As for critical reception, that is a different story. My Bloody Valentine 3D has the highest score on Rotten Tomatoes with 55%, but the others range from 8% to 25%. Ultimately the critics don’t matter to the studios because there are already plans to make more films with Jason and Freddy. (Not together, though.)
Since this system for horror has worked, it comes as no surprise that the studios are doing the same for other popular items from the ‘80s. It seems like the rationale for adapting or continuing these films is to showcase the improved special effects. That was very evident with the new version of Clash of the Titans. The film has taken the campy scenes and upgraded them with state of the art CGI. Worldwide Clash has made $300 million dollars but fans of the original still site the Harryhousen creations as the more memorable filmic experience.
More and more films are on their way. Next month will ring in a new version of The Karate Kid, this time with Will Smith’s son in the title role and Jackie Chan as the wise teacher. The A-Team is one of the summer’s biggest films as a modern telling of the beloved TV show. The Expendables is not a direct remake, but is undeniable an ode to the action films of its time. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Ivan Drago himself: Dolph Lundgren. This November the update of Red Dawn comes out. Dawn was the quintessential movie depicting the “red scare.” At the end of the year, we’ll know if it’ll hold up with out the ever-looming threat of communism. There is no official release date yet, but a new version of Conan the Barbarian is on its way to come up next year.
A few studios are taking a fresher route. Instead of just remaking the story, they are choosing to continue it. A third installment of Ghostbusters has been heavily rumored but it’s still unclear if it will ever be made. Actors have said conflicting information on when they are going to shoot and what the film will entail. Bill Murray seems to be very cynical about the project, while Dan Ackroyd is enthusiastic.
A fourth tale of Mad Max will start shooting this summer, but it will be without Mel Gibson. It will be called Fury Road and will be directed by the man behind the first three, George Miller. Little is known about the project aside from rumors about money problems possibly affecting a delay.
With all of this skepticism, there is one sequel that is really exciting fans of the original. At last year’s ComicCon, the footage of Tron Legacy invigorated the crowds. Tron is a cult Disney movie about Jeff Bridges being sucked inside his computer and having to deal with the world inside. It’s most remembered for its light races. Legacy picks up the story many years later with Bridges’s son joining him in the electronic world. The movie is written by two of the writers from the show LOST and will premiere this December.
There is a problem with the updates and remakes though. The reason these films initially worked was because they were something new. If they are still warmly remembered 30 years later, then they had a significant impact. If the studios want to create films fans that will love a films for years and years, it would be more beneficial to have the philosophies of yesteryear. Don’t just literally mimic the films, but mimic the style. Take risks and create something that could generate its own unique fanbase. That gets people really excited.