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Why’s It Forgotten? Most Recent Remakes

Kevthewriter takes you to a world of pure lack of imagination as he examines remakes you probably don’t think about any more.

If you don’t remember, a few months ago I made a Why’d it Hit? article on Tim Burton’s adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Despite the fact that his movie made more money at the box office than the 1971 classic, let’s be honest, what song are you more likely to see people quoting or referencing? This?

Or this?

Chances are it’s former. Speaking of that movie, when you think of Willy Wonka and The Oompa Loompas, do you think of a pasty white faced weirdo with a bunch of Indian dwarfs wearing spandex or do you think of Gene Wilder in a purple suit and a bunch of dwarfs in orange makeup with green hair and red shirts with white overalls?

Again, most people are probably going to think of the latter.

But this is a pretty regular phenomena. Just look at, well, all the Disney remakes that have been coming out or have come out in the past. Most of them have made either a killing at the box office or made way more than their predecessors did (at least when you adjust them for inflation) but, at the end of the day, it’s the original animated version that everyone remembers.

I mean, think about it: name one thing that’s all that memorable about the 2015 version of Cinderella or the 2016 version of The Jungle Book or the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast that wasn’t in the original animated film or the book. Name one thing from those versions alone that is commonly referenced by people.

You probably can’t think of much, can you?

And I’m sure there are more remakes I can think of off the top of my head that, despite making way more money than the original, just didn’t leave much of an impact with audiences.

Why do you think this happens? What is stopping these movies from having more pop culture relevance?  Well the thing is these movies didn’t make money because they were good necessarily but because everyone loved the originals.

No matter how much money the movies initially made, they became beloved as people kept watching them over and over during the decades. As a result, they stuck with people which made these movies household names and, as a result, these movies became very well-known.

Just look at Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It actually bombed when it first came out but, over the years, people have grown up with it while watching it on video and, as a result, it’s stuck with people.

Therefore, because these movies stick with people, more and more people see these movies on home video so they go out and see the remakes out of nostalgia for the original, sometimes even if they don’t have kids, which leads these movies to make more money at the box office.

But, at the end of the day, the remakes just aren’t as good or memorable as the original which, in turn, causes them to be forgotten after a few years.

In fact, the most beloved remakes or adaptations are adaptations pieces of other mediums (TV, books, plays, etc.) that weren’t that well-remembered. If I mention the name The Wizard of Oz, you’re probably going to think of Judy Garland, The Yellow Brick Road, Over the Rainbow, yadda yadda yadda. Guess what? That wasn’t the first attempt at making a movie about The Wizard of Oz, there was a version of it in 1925, it’s just the one that’s stuck with people the most. Granted there’s been various attempts to make other movies based off of the land of Oz, even if none of them were adaptations or remakes of The Wizard of Oz but, while there have been a few musicals like Wicked and, to a lesser extent, The Wiz that managed to have staying power, none of the other attempts at bringing the Land of Oz to the big screen have managed to stay in most people’s memories for long. It probably took decades for the movie we all know and love to make as much as Oz: The Great and Powerful did but, at the end of the day, most people are probably going to think of Judy Garland than James Franco or Mila Kunis when they think of Oz.

That’s not the only example though. When people think of Scarface, The Thing, or The Fly, the 1980’s versions might ring a bell more than their predecessors because those are the ones that have just stuck more with people while the movies that came before were not all that memorable.

Or, if we go to the 90’s, let’s look at The Fugitive. The movie itself is pretty well-remembered but I’m guessing that, 9 times out of 10, most people are more likely to think of the movie than they are the show its based off of. You probably didn’t even know it WAS based off of a show. Hell, the success of the Jump Street movies have probably made the Jump Street name more synonymous with stoner comedies starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill than a cop drama starring Johnny Depp.

On the other hand, if a movie comes out that’s a remake of something that’s already had a lot of pop culture relevance, then, no matter how much money it makes, it’s just unlikely it’ll stick in people’s minds as much as its predecessor did because people are already very familiar with the original and, to them, that’s the definitive version of the story.

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Posted on February 3, 2018, in Why's It Forgotten. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I will say that because I was already familiar with the Vincent Price version of The Fly before the Jeff Goldblum version came out, I still think of the one from 1958 first.

    Some of these will depend on when you were born and which versions you saw. While I definitely think of the animated version of 101 Dalmatians first, I’m guessing there are people of a certain generation who were introduced first to the live action one starring Glenn Close and still have that one pop to mind.

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    • I read this article last week when I added it to the schedule. This happens to me a lot with Kev’s articles. I will have comments in mind when I edit them but by the time they actually post I forget what it was I was going to say. Sorry, Kev! Your comment is in the same general ballpark of where my head was at. I agree with the treatise that most of these recent remakes are being made for name-recognition rather than creative reasons. Most of them don’t have a reason to exist beyond cashing in on a familiar brand. As such, they are pretty disposable. But some of the specific examples depend largely on your age. You and I are a bit older than Kev (by roughly a generation) so we are more likely to remember some of the movies that never showed up on his pop culture radar. I imagine audiences older than us may consider the Vincent Price Fly to be the one, true version and the remake to be a gross bastardization much the way I am dismissive of Burton’s Wonka remake.

      A long time ago, Siskel and Ebert were talking about remakes on their show. And one of them (Siskel I think) said Hollywood should stop remaking great movies because you’re never going to top the original. Instead, he argued, remake movies that didn’t live up to their promise the first time. Creatively, that makes more sense but it misses the point that the studios are looking to cash in on a pre-sold concept.

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      • To be fair to Burton, his Wonka film was more just an adaptation of the book then a remake of the Wilder film but it’s just become such a definitive version of the story there’s just no way to escape it’s shadow.

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  2. I think Kev pretty much nailed it. When you’re remaking something that’s either universally loved or recent enough that it’s not in black and white or in a foreign language, it’s going to be hard to stand out. A lot of those remakes end up getting classified as either terrible or not terrible but totally pointless. A lot of the glut of 80s remakes form a few years ago fell into that category.

    As for the Wizard Of Oz, one that comes to mind is the 1985 semi-sequel Return To Oz. That one bombed at the box office, yet has developed a cult following of sorts over the last few decades.

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  3. I always think of The Fugitive TV show before the movie, even though I was 18 when the movie came out. A&E used to show the show, plus it’s among my mother’s favorite shows of all-time. But also, it was the most-watched show of all-time for a time. It changed the way that TV shows wrapped up their runs.

    Regarding The Thing, The Fly, and Scarface – I prefer the original versions of The Thing and The Fly, and while I’ve never seen the Paul Muni version of Scarface, I’m certain I would like it more, because the Pacino version is terrible, and its status baffles me.

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  4. I might be the only one in the world, who actually prefers “The Wiz” from 1978 over “The Wizard of Oz” from 1939.

    “The Wiz” has its problems, sure. But it makes up for a lot of it with a very cute scarecrow (I’m sorry, but I’m a die hard fan of Michael Jackson; then again, even some people who didn’t like this movie otherwise have praised his performance in it), a new fresh take on the Dorothy character (adults can be nervous and insecure too) and some catchy disco songs.
    “The wizard of Oz” though has only managed to bore me to tears. And the good witch is for some stupid reason turned into a manipulative bitch, who used a poor girl for her own advantages. Yeah, it is a prettier to look at than “The Wiz”. But other than that, I actually see “The Wiz” as an improvement in every possible way.

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