This is the first debate of our new monthly feature, entitled ‘THN Friday Face Off’. One Friday every month will see two THN titans of film knowledge duke it out over a pressing issue relating to our most beloved art form. Each film fanatic will argue from a different viewpoint on a particular subject, in a bid to persuade our exceptionally attractive readers, as well as his or her colleague, they should be deemed the winner.
Of course, there are no definitive right or wrong answers. However, we would love for you to get involved by sharing your opinion, and voting for whoever you think has argued their case in a more effective way. You can do this by commenting below, tweeting us via @thncom, or commenting on our Facebook page. Before doing so, we ask that you read the opposition’s stance on the matter here.
First up is a question that’s becoming more relevant with each passing day: ‘Do Reboots Do More Harm Than Good?’
I believe reboots, particularly as they’ve increased in quantity over the last decade or two, definitely do more harm than good. A successful reboot, admittedly, has its benefits. For one, it can introduce people to the original source material if they were not aware of its existence previously. It can also help to keep the story alive in those who do know and love it. However, most seem to tarnish their source material, which I will attempt to demonstrate by splitting my argument into four categories: ‘Authenticity and Aura’, ‘Subtext and Core Meaning’, ‘A Story’s Place in Time’, and ‘Hollywood’s Increasing Belief in Mass Appeal’.
Many fans of the STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES franchises, to name just a couple, will relate to the feeling of dread and betrayal after seeing some of the later additions to the sagas. You’ve dealt with the often vapid ushers, paid through the nose for your ticket via a machine that frequently bewilders you, before spending any remaining cash on face-rotting snacks. Then it’s off into the noisy and restrictive cattle pen – I mean screening room – you shuffle, before watching open-mouthed as your precious childhood hopes and dreams are plundered by money-hungry filmmakers. By the time the credits roll you feel physically ill, partly because of the expensive poison you’ve been shovelling into your gob to dull the anguish, but mainly because you realise you’ve paid someone to damage the aura surrounding one of your favourite childhood memories.
Some fans have come to expect and even enjoy the lack of authenticity on display when they attend their local multiplex these days. Of course it must be accepted that nothing can be completely original anymore, but shouldn’t we address the fact there are varying degrees of originality, and strive to ensure a creation leans more towards uniqueness than it does hackery? Otherwise, where will it end? Movies will continue to be churned out for profit rather than the love of creative innovation, until they gradually become so bland the entire industry implodes.
A successful reboot, which includes adaptations, remakes, sequels, and prequels should undoubtedly try and break new ground in certain respects. It can do this in many ways too, including diversifying directorial styles, different special effects, or adding or subtracting characters and plot points. That said, in order for a reboot to be judged a worthwhile project, it must strive to retain that which warranted its source material to be revived in the first place; the heart and soul of the story. If you remove the intended point of view of the original author, then why not just write an original story? The answer is obvious: money. How many people will risk going to see a new generic action film starring Monty Flarn-Hammerfist? Not nearly as many that would eagerly fork out their hard earned cash to see the new DIE HARD film say, which, as it turns out, is just a generic action film with a dash of cynicism and deceit! Personally, I’d rather watch Flarn-Hammerfist starring in DIFFICULT TO KILL. At least it wouldn’t repeatedly stab you in the back while it bored you.
Familiarity, star attraction, and hype breeds profit. As much as we would like to solely blame the industry for this, some fans fall for it time and time again, enabling studios to thrive on our ever increasing disappointment. Even a weary Bruce Willis indirectly warned against watching A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD when, live on British television, he wearily questioned almost everything about the film, down to the title itself.
Even a terrific rebooting of a famous franchise is hindered by the fact its source material belonged to another time and place. A prime genre to discuss in this area is horror. How many horror sequels, prequels or remakes can you genuinely judge to be better than their original counterparts? Decidedly few. This is mainly because the impact is lessened with each reproduction; there are exceptions to this rule, but the rule still remains.
Remember how terrifying the first shot of Michael Myers (Tony Moran) or Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) was? Or the first time you heard ‘One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…’ emanating from the eerily zombified voice of a small pigtailed girl? It’s something that prevented you from sleeping and will stay with you forever, yet when you first see Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) in the 2010 remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, you can’t help but sigh and think a picture of a playful puppy wearing a polka dot hat would be more fear-inducing… and more original… and more thought provoking!
This point was touched upon briefly earlier, but it begs to be elaborated on. Hollywood, although we love much of what it has given us over the years, is becoming increasingly rigid in its allowances. In a bid to appeal to as many demographics as possible it frequently foregoes true expression for easily digestible material. I refer again to A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, which was diluted and censored to such an extent it was no longer recognisable as a DIE HARD film.
Will Smith’s character in I AM LEGEND (2007) is another example. In the original book by Robert Matheson, Robert Neville is a nuanced character with heroic qualities and menacing character traits too (he is a severe alcoholic who lusts after female vampires). This helps to make him three dimensional and therefore unique and intriguing, whereas Will Smith’s portrayal is standard Hollywood fare. He’s a hero, plain and simple. He will save the day, and completely destroy the core meaning of the book in the process; right down to the interpretation of its title. I am lamenting.
It is understandable that to survive in an increasingly competitive world the medium of film must be treated as a business, but to what extent is definitely up for debate. It is the case more often than not these days that quality is being overlooked in favour of quantity, which is clearly not necessary. Hollywood studio executives, and everyone else involved with the industry for that matter, are hardly roaming the streets, cap in hand, badgering people for spare change. They may, if they took just a few more risks, realise they have been underestimating most people’s ability to appreciate originality and innovation over familiarity, star attraction and hype. I believe it is time they got their priorities straight, pick and choose their projects wisely, while addressing the essentials whenever they do reboot a story; namely authenticity, aura, subtext, core meaning, and a story’s relevance to its place in history. Then and only then will reboots do less harm than good.
Please do tell us what you think, but first, be sure to read the counter-argument, which can be found here.
Sources: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, I Am Legend