We live in a culture of the remix and the remake, which is, frankly, a little annoying. I mean, does anyone think that the 3D Clash of the Titans is better than the original Harryhausen classic? Was there really any need to remake Psycho? Does anyone really want to see a new Ghostbusters without Bill Murray, or hear an X-Factor contestant murder a classic song about the agony of love?
However, there’s a part of me that’s attracted to the idea of remakes. I think it’s because they’re normally bad – are they bad because they’re fundamentally a bad idea, or are they bad because someone screwed up? Or is it simply a case of no-one having the single, brilliant idea that would make the remake stand on its own two feet and actually add something to the original? Getting Justin Bieber to cover ‘Hurt’ is a terrible idea. Getting Johnny Cash to cover it? Genius.
So I got thinking about this. Announce that you’re remaking, say, Star Wars, and the internet would break in two. But is there a way to make it work?
Well, the best I could come up with would be to make Leia the main character. She’s stuck on Tattooine, when she gets a message from Luke via R2-D2; he’s been caught up in the rebellion and now he’s being tortured and, by the way, you’re my long lost twin sister. The story plays out pretty much as before, only now Leia’s the one who becomes a Jedi and faces down Vader. Maybe give it all a steampunk aesthetic too. The bonus is that you bring the spark between Han and Leia into play almost immediately.
(Doing that effectively guts the most entertaining bits of The Empire Strikes Back, but there’s got to be a way around that…)
I don’t know. There’s so much that could go wrong. And some concepts sound more interesting on paper than they would in actuality. A remake of Back to the Future, where the ‘past’ of the remake is the ‘present’ of the original, therefore making it an eighties nostalgia-fest? Would this even work?
Then there are concepts that seem inextricably tied to a certain time and place. A British version of The West Wing would flounder because Britain lacks some of America’s optimism and would therefore result in a remake being far too cynical. Likewise, is it possible to imagine an American Doctor Who? That’s not to say it can’t be done, but the Doctor is, in many ways, a trickster figure, at odds with the prevailing corporate/military approach to much American TV science fiction. But it seems short-sighted to say that it couldn’t fundamentally be done… And we’ve had successful remakes of Sherlock Holmes (by moving it into the present day) and Battlestar Galactica (by acknowledging that we live in a post 9-11 world).
So, what remakes could you make a success?