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Friday, July 25, 2008

Are Sequels and Remakes a Sign of No Imagination?

MGM finally announced what half the fanboy world already knew, Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) has signed on to do a sequel to Robocop. Harold and Kumar are getting a third outing (doesn't that violate the puff, puff, pass rule?). John Waters has agreed to outline a sequel to the musical Hairspray which was itself an adaptation of the stage musical, which was an adaptation of the original film.

When I first really started getting into film, I used to get upset at the announcements of remakes. Sequels were wholly dependent on who was involved and could the story logically continue. Which means I usually hated the idea because half, or all, of the original cast were out and the new story wasn't/or couldn't flow straight from the original.

Eventually, my disdain for remakes and sequels before I had seen them disappeared. What brought me around was the history of Hollywood itself. Since the early days, the biz has cannibalized its own catalog repeatedly. Sequels were a natural part of the cycle. And franchises, long before they were called such, were a huge part of the studio system.

There's the The Thin Man films (featuring the great Nick and Nora Charles), of which 6 were made, two of which are considered true classics. Before Disney's 1951 Alice in Wonderland there were more than half a dozen versions of the story. Sherlock Holmes holds the record for appearances on film at 200 plus, with Dracula coming up a close second. Considered one of the greatest romances in film history, An Affair to Remember (1957) is a remake of Love Affair (1939), and was directed by the same director, Leo McCarey. Of course, there's Hitchcock, who remade his own The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) with Jimmy Stewart in 1956.

When you realize that the 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much* and the 1957 An Affair to Remember are much more entertaining films than their counterparts, it's much more enjoyable to wait and see what comes of a remake or a sequel.

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan revived an entire Trek franchise and is still considered the best of the lot. Godfather II is an academy award winning masterpiece in its own right. And the recent The Dark Knight has proven that a superhero sequel can approach Best Picture status.

So are sequels and remakes a sign of no imagination? Do they lack heart and soul. No. Badly made sequels and remakes are signs of no heart, soul or imagination. But, doesn't that apply to all films?

*And yes, I do think that the 1934 version is much more entertaining and fun that the remake.

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