Thursday, July 14, 2011


I think it was Oscar Wilde who said; "the amateur copies, the artist steals," but most remakes of great movies end up being more a parody than an ode. Most, but not all. Here are some examples:

 Sue Lyon in Lolita (1962), dir. by Stanley Cubric

 Dominique Swain in Lolita (1997), dir. Adrian Lyne

 Mr. Lyne definitely has some guts. Not only is Lolita a canonical work of literature, but Cubric's film is one of very few movie adaptations that lives up to the genius of the novel. Though the story concerns a shocking subject-matter (eh-hem...jail bait), Nabokov and Cubric's Lolitas have one thing in common: the affair is implied and left to the imagination - it is never explicitly shown or stated. This is in part due to the nature of literature and the regulations of 60s film censorship - neither of which Lyne was concerned with. The result, in Lyne's case, is a somewhat like hitting a nail on the head - taking most of the tension, reluctant sensuality, and hyper-sensitivity out of the experience of watching the film.
 Leonard Nemoy in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), dir. Robert Wise

 Leonard Nemoy, William Shatner, and DeForest Kelley

 (From left to right) Anton Yelchin, Chris Pine, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana in Star Trek (2009), dir. J.J. Abrams

 Zachary Quinto & Chris Pine

Who better to tackle the Star Trek franchise with more confidence than J.J. Abrams? Though I was not a "trekie" and was therefore somewhat confused during the re-make, I'll admit it was a well produced, well directed, action thriller that kept me at the edge of my seat for the entirety of the film. Quinto's gentility coupled with Pine's brash masculinity made the two an on-screen powerhouse - not necessarily because they were the most powerful, but because we/the audience actually cared about them. Star Trek for the next generation was a brilliant idea, although the re-make doesn't have the makings of a cult-film and will probably not develop the same kind of fanatic following as its predecessor.

 (From left to right) Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden in Sabrina (1954), Dir. Billy Wilder

Audrey Hepburn & William Holden

 Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford in Sabrina (1995), Dir. Sydney Pollack

Greg Kinnear, Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford

Sometimes movies are made famous not for their stories, or direction, or anything other than the chemistry of the actors. Audrey Hepburn had a tendency to do this. Sabrina is not one of Billy Wilder's most successful films, but the casting made it a classic. William Holden's boyish charm compliments Bogart's broodishness and both are utterly charmed by Hepburn's beauty and sweetness. Unfortunately for Pollack, his actors didn't quite produce the same kind of magic as the original, so the movie falls flat. Sometimes there's no replacement for the original, no matter how good the actors are.

Movie remakes do not necessarily hold the kiss-of-death, in fact; it is a terrific education to take a movie you admire and try to re-create it. Whether that is an exact re-creation or variation on a theme is up to you.

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