On Hollywood Remakes

In the last few days I’ve heard two bits of news that I had two drastically different reactions too. The first was that David Fincher (dir. Fight Club, Seven, Gone Girl) has plans to start production on “The Girl who Played With Fire”, the sequel to his 2011 film “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, a remake of a 2009 Swedish film of the same name. This made me very, very happy. The second bit of news was that Patrick Hughes (dir. The Expendables 3) is heading up the American remake of 2011’s “The Raid: Redemption”. This angered me to no end. As I wondered to myself why I also noticed that the topic of American remakes has been on a lot of peoples minds lately, so I thought I’d throw my two cents in.
First off: I don’t really have an issue with remakes in general. I have an issue when we are remaking (or “rebooting”) movies that aren’t even 20 years old yet, but the idea in and of itself doesn’t bother me too much. More than that, I think cross cultural remakes is one of the better reasons to remake a movie. Sometimes. See, every culture is different, and sometimes those cultural differences can be a barrier. So when making one of these kinds of remakes, I think it’s important to know going in what exactly it is that needs to be changed to make another audiences click with the material.
For example, I saw the original Swedish version of “ Let The Right One In” before I ever knew there was an American remake. I loved it, but when I went to watch it with a friend who couldn’t get past the Swedish, we switched to the English dub and it was awful. If you cannot watch that movie in Swedish then you really shouldn’t watch it. But on that same note, it is great movie and that barrier could prevent a large number of people for enjoying it. Enter “Let Me In”, the American remake who’s most major change to the source material is the language.
I think that would explain a lot of why Fincher’s “The Girl Who…” remake doesn’t bother me so much. He’s making a good movie more accessible. Now lets look to “The Raid: Redemption”. First off, what was “The Raid”? It was a kung-fu movie about a group of police who are trapped in an apartment complex, but instead of using kung-fu, the movie styles it’s fights using Pencak Silat a form of martial arts native to Indonesia. So what would need to be changed? Well, we could do the same idea with a fighting style more common in America. And what would that be? Guns. Okay so the remake would be about some cops fighting their way up an apartment complex using guns. Wait, we already have that. It was called “Dredd”. And it was awesome. The fact is, the “American” version if “The Raid: Redemption” already exists, so there is really no need to bother remaking this movie. To doi so is pretty legitimately saying “the only reason i’m not going to watch this is because it’s foreign”. And if you cannot see the massive racist undertones there then there is something wrong with you.
Now, another reason why I don’t have an issue with Fincher’s “The Girl Who…” remake is the way he handles the character of Lisbeth Salander. Both movies are basses off books written by Stieg Larsson, and due to this both movies have vastly different takes on his main character. In the original Lisbeth is more of a Punk Rocker, who’s a bad ass you don’t want to mess with. In Fincher’s she is portrayed more like a high functioning autistic (for any autistic readers, I know that is not the preferred term, but I’m not sure what is or even how else to express the way the character is written, so please forgive my ignorance). These are two very different takes on the character, and neither is really definitively better than the other. So if Fincher hadn’t made his version of the movie we would have lost a really great character along the way.
For a more exaggerated example, lets look at one of my favorite games series: Persona. In persona 3 and 4 you play as a Japanese student and have to manage both school life and monster hunting. Part of the reason I like these two games so much is that they are developed by a Japanese company and made to appeal to Japanese sensibilities. While also just being really fun games, they are also a look at a culture I don’t know much about. Now, if there was going to be a Hollywood movie made out of this franchise, I would love to see it done the same way: an all Japanese cast, set in Japan an so on. However, i’ve known people that couldn’t get into the games because they did’t understand a lot of the Japaneses cultural-specific stuff. So if Hollywood made a movie, it would make since to set the movie in America, where the cultural reference points are more known to it’s audiences. However, the Japanese centric nature of Persona’s 3 and 4 aren’t the main focus of the games, and the first two games had their settings changed when originally released. The games themselves are more about the bonds of friendship, inner demons and the personification of the cast own inner turmoil and self-acceptance more than the fact that they are Japanese.
Now, Lets look at one remake that has a lot of people up in arms: A potential live action remake of Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime classic Akira. Here I have to agree, Hollywood should not do a live action remake. Why? Well in part it’s due to the fact that this is a fundamentally Japanese film. Not only is it set in Japan, but it deals with a very real fear of the Japanese people (at least it was at the time, now i’m not so sure) the threat of another Nuclear attack on Japan. Ever since the cold war you could say this isn’t a strictly Japanese fear, but Akira was made to address this from the point of view of the Japanese people. Even if you wanted to argue that the language barrier was cause for a remake, i’d still have to argue against as the film has one of the best dubs i’ve ever heard (in fact, this is one of only a few anime i’d rather watch in english). Nor could you claim that modern technology would do anything to make the film more accessible, as the film still looks great and even looks better that most modern animation (eastern or western) in my opinion.
And as it was with “The Raid”, we already have a lot of books movies and video games that look at the same ideas as Akira but focused on the U.S.A. Off the top of my head, if you really need the name recognition to sell a film about post-nuclear attacked America, why not the Fallout games? Again, with how good and easily accessible Akira is the only reason to remake it now is because of those who simply won’t watch a movie not made in the US.
So, that’s where I stand on the issue. What about you? Leave a comment below and Let me Know.

One response to “On Hollywood Remakes

  1. Pingback: Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie Trailer and Impressions | Poor Mans Geek

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