Thursday, July 26, 2018

Reboots and Remakes

You've probably heard about the projected "reboot" of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. I'd call it a "remake" instead, since the intent seems to be to start the series over with Buffy in high school, but in a 21st-century setting and played by a black actress. Judging from the few online comments I've read, I'm not the only fan whose first reaction to this proposal was, "Why?" A remake isn't likely to surpass the excellence of the original. While I'd be thrilled with a return to the Buffyverse, a far better approach (as has been suggested by others) would be a "next generation" series, spun off from the original story with new characters. If we want to see another black Slayer, introduce a new one instead of calling her Buffy. Because the series finale created hundreds of Slayers throughout the world in place of a single Chosen One, the potential exists for a rich variety of stories, taking the mythos in a different direction from the comic-book continuation that followed the end of the TV series.

I've come across speculations about remakes of CASABLANCA and GONE WITH THE WIND. In the former case, a resounding "Good grief, why?!" seems the most appropriate response. The original is as nearly perfect as humanly possible; tinkering with the plot and characters to produce a new version could only go downhill. As for GONE WITH THE WIND, the only thing "wrong" with the classic movie is that, even at its great length, many details from the book had to be omitted, including two of Scarlett's three children. A miniseries instead of a feature film could remedy those omissions, but could it ever be as good as the existing movie otherwise? Furthermore, present-day technology doesn't allow the resurrection of Clark Gable to play Rhett, and the role wouldn't be the same without him. (When the sequel, SCARLETT, appeared on TV, I had a very difficult time accepting Timothy Dalton as Rhett.)

One remake that I thought worked well was the prime-time DARK SHADOWS with Ben Cross as Barnabas. The production values, naturally, were superior to those of the vintage soap opera, and the story moved along more briskly. It also focused on the plot thread of greatest interest to fans, the arrival and possible redemption of Barnabas. It was disappointing that the series didn't last long.

The new STAR TREK films qualify as a true "reboot," an alternate-universe iteration of the original setting and characters. Although I'm lukewarm toward this movie sequence, at least it began with a believable SF rationale for the new version.

The futuristic anime series NEON GENESIS EVANGELION may hold some kind of record for remakes, reboots, and alternate-universe story lines produced by the original creators. The plot of the series was condensed into a movie version. Another movie expanded upon the confusing ending of the TV series. Several different manga (graphic novel) variants exist, featuring the characters in different settings and situations from the one established in the original.

The most pointless remake I've ever heard of was the filming of PSYCHO with not only the same script as Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation but shot almost frame-by-frame identically to the earlier version. Couldn't they have made a brand new adaptation, returning to Robert Bloch's novel for a fresh take on the story?

In general, remaking films based on books is a different matter. If it wasn't done "right" the first time, a fresh attempt could be worthwhile. GONE WITH THE WIND as it stands adheres as closely to the novel as can reasonably be expected of a feature film. Lots of other book-to-film transformations, though, haven't been done "right" and could benefit from another try. (My concept of a "good" film adaptation means one that follows the book as closely as the film medium allows. When I watch a movie based on a novel, I want to see the novel brought to life, not some director's personal "vision.") No perfect adaptation of DRACULA has ever been filmed. The BBC TV miniseries with Louis Jourdain comes closest. Coppola's so-called "definitive" DRACULA, however, does include more of the book's characters and plot points than any other, including the Louis Jourdain version. Unfortunately, Coppola adds a love story between the Count and Mina that has no basis in the book. If he wanted to do that, he should have adapted Fred Saberhagen's excellent reinterpretation of the story, THE DRACULA TAPE. In one of my favorite series, the Narnia books, PRINCE CASPIAN has suffered most in the adaptations filmed so far. The BBC version, aside from its dated special effects, renders the book with more fidelity and respect than the dazzling feature film; even the former, however, leaves out an important sequence toward the end that's also omitted from the big-screen movie.

What movies or TV series would you like to see remade? What do you think should never be remade?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. A further announcement about the projected new BUFFY series has been released. Apparently it's not going to be a remake after all, but a sequel set 20 years later. Much better idea!