Remakes: Destroying Classics or New Innovations?

Michael Bay attempted to spark the summer in 2014 when he decided to produce a reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tale into a popular summertime production. Fans of the original cartoons and comics anticipated passionately, hoping to see their characters and stories coming to live. However, the movie failed in attempting to achieve its goal. It disappointed almost every fan who enjoyed the original piece, with its reimagined classic comic and cartoon and its not-so-humorous-jokes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(2014) garnered poor reviews from audiences.
Image: Joey Paur, Co-founder/editor of GeekTyrant.com

That being the case, other recent reboots like “The Office,” “Shameless,” and “Parenthood” were actually perceived as better than the original for many viewers and critics.

Moreover, in recent years, the trend toward the art of the “remake” intensified. A remake or reboot is a re-creation of a previously circulated work into a “new piece” or new version. Remaking an original piece that is already spread around and well accepted by wide ranges of audience could be challenging—they face comparisons and harsher criticisms. There is no crime in attempting a remake, however; the key lies in how the producers “re-create.”

For a long period of time, the remakes always target at the renowned classics. After all, with changes in time, no matter how attracting the stories of old classics are, they will always face problems such as old-fashioned images, lag in technology, and more aspects that could not meet the aesthetic requirements of the audience in various time periods. Instead of merely seeking the goal of making profits, a successful remake of a classic is to use existing technology to turn the classics into modern compositions while rousing audiences’ memories on the classics.

Since SAS is also a large audience of film and TV productions, I have asked some of them about their opinions in regarding to original vs. remakes.

Do you prefer originals or remakes?

It really depends. Some originals are too old and it is more satisfying watching a new version, since visuals are one of the most important determinants in choosing to watch a movie or TV production. But it is also true that some remakes are repetitive and cliche as they tend to copy almost the exact contents and style of the originals and lacks its own creativity and uniqueness.

Do most of the remakes destroy the originality of a classic?

Some definitely do. There are countless remakes that are solely copying what the original production have, without further innovating it, only to make profits and gain popularity out of it.

There must be some determinant factors to the success of remakes. Take the example of The Office, which was by far the most popular show to stream on Netflix in 2018. Viewers spent almost 52.1 billion minutes streaming the completed NBC series, proving its popularity and high acceptance. So what exactly made this remake successful?

The Office–American TV Series (2005-2013), a hilarious documentary-style sitcom.
Picture by NBC Universal
  1. It has a novel format

The American version of The Office went popular rapidly because it was one of the first shows to adopt a documentary format. This way of shooting resembles the feeling of “reality TV shows” which made it feel more realistic and vivid to life comparing to other situational comedies. As more and more audience get tired to trite sitcom, an alternative to that might be innovative and refreshing.

2. The creators were flexible

In the original British Office, the character Tim was stuck at Wernham Hogg selling paper, something not what he wanted. When that Office ends, there are no suggestions that Tim might find some other, better job. At the first season for the remake of American series, the producers quickly realized this idea is not suitable for American audience, since Americans are less likely to suffer through a job they hate for years without taking any actions. Tim was then created to be more purposeful in regards to his prospects.

3. The Humor hit its mark

The humor of The Office remains relevant to the audience. It never ventured into political territory but it did include trends that allow the audiences to relate to with current popular culture. There are certainly more factors that made this comedy TV show remake popular and successful, but for me personally, the most important part is not to lose novelty in every reproduction.

A comparison of Pete’s Dragon 1977 and Pete’s Dragon 2016

Another massive hit of remake was Pete’s dragon (2016). On the surface, remaking a 1977 film of a child and a dragon that takes care of him isn’t the smartest idea. However, David Lowery, an indie director, took a different approach by immersing us into the wonder of a child and his bond with a dragon.While the high-tech graphic work in the recreation of the CGI dragon grabbed people’s attention foremost, the narrative of the film emphasized relationships, emotions, and the importance of companionship, combing with a analogue of nostalgia for past audiences. This, indeed, resulted huge success in box office and reviews.

In the recent decade, more and more remakes appear in the entertainment industry, in which some of them are partly driven by profits and convenience. The “remake boom” is a shortcut taken by many studio executives to play off the success of classics and originals. In a short period of time, remakes might seem to be effective and easy to profit, but the damage to the film and television industry is fatal. Consumption without production will inevitably lead to weakness and eventually to the loss of our original creativity and innovation.

Beauty and the Beast, Pete’s Dragon, The Hunger Games, Twilight, The Wizard of Oz (In order)

Instead, an excellent remake should not copy and paste without making any changes. Instead, on the basis of respecting the core of original works, the creator should initiate a new perspective, express a new understanding, and integrate the specific personal feelings, social background and characteristics of the era, so as to better fit the audience’s cognition of the era. If such a sincere attitude exists within every producer, it is not impossible to create remakes that go beyond the original play and re-create the classics of their own era.

Author: Christine(Qiao) Li

Christine (Qiao) Li is currently a senior and this is her first year working for The Eye. She is from China and spent most of her childhood there, but came to Singapore several years ago. In her freetime, she likes to get involved in music and arts, listen to music and drink bubble tea. She can be contacted at li48695@sas.edu.sg.

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