Moviegoers have rarely been more subjected to remakes, reboots and other retellings than they have in the past dozen years. It seems every other week some existing IP is getting transported from a novel, comic book or video game to the silver screen or television or both. Praiseworthy to some and scandalous to others the main goal of such an endeavor is mostly reaching a broader audience. In theory this is great for everyone. More people get acquainted with the source material which of course entails more revenue for the author of the original work and the studio backing the adaptation. Indeed, a well-loved IP transported to a different medium will attract newcomers as well as people already familiar with it. On the other hand, creators of original content have a harder time getting their stuff out there which is regrettable (both for them and the audience), but this is a whole separate rant to be kept for another time.
Sparked by the above train of thought, I felt compelled to address a specific type of adaptation which never made much sense to me. See, I can fathom why one would want to try out another medium to tell a known story. What a comic book artist creates is quite different from what a movie director will make of it. There’s a titillating opportunity to present established content in a completely new and unique way all the while saving on time and energy not having to actually come up with the core material. I even understand making the transition from the silver screen to television or the other way around since here too, the storytelling methods differ greatly allowing a certain freedom to visit unexplored facets of a same universe. No, what I’m baffled by is when someone decides to remake a movie… into a movie… in the same language… within the same decade.
Granted, a film that’s s half a century old can be remade in fresh and exciting ways thanks to the evolution of VFX-technology, for instance, or the altered geopolitical context or simply because time has faded it away from collective memory altogether. Similarly, a movie hindered by cultural barriers can be made more accessible by projecting the story into a familiar place with characters speaking a known language and interacting in recognizable fashion. While I’m generally not a strong supporter of such vulgarisations, I’m also not one to get offended by things like cultural appropriation or white-washing and I can certainly acknowledge that these types of adaptations quite often stem from commercially grounded ideas. Admittedly, 9 times out of 10, they end up being far weaker versions, but with proper marketing and the right climate, these types of movies will nevertheless be safe bets for the producers.
Cue Death at a funeral (2007). An adorable little dark comedy from the good old UK packed with colorful characters in an absurd setting, excellent performances and smart writing throughout. It is delightfully charming, and I highly recommend watching it. Now, fast forward to three years later to the utterly unnecessary US remake. This movie is virtually identical in every way. Scene for scene. Almost shot for shot even. The structure of the story, the characters, even the dialogue is basically recycled from start to finish. There isn’t a shred of authenticity even remotely justifying the production of this rehash. Remarkably, while in essence being a carbon copy of an excellent film, it manages to completely miss the mark mainly for lack of the indispensable style and subtlety oozing of the original.
Internet movie critic, Adam, from yourmoviesucks.org had convincingly recommended Death at Funeral (the UK version). As such, I had added it to my gift list. Last Christmas my adorable girlfriend bought it for me, but inadvertently got the US version unbeknownst this even existed. Obviously, I scorned her for weeks for this inexcusable faux pas, purchased the original and promptly updated my gift list to mention the year and country of production next to the titles lest we ever again generate revenue for such travesties in the future. Lesson learned.