Monday, January 09, 2012

Remaking Things

It's not a night at the Oscars, but the penguins
sure are dressed for it.
While I was on vacation between Christmas and New Year's we watched all three of the films based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. The Swedish ones.

I know there's a remade version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and that's what I'm talking about today: remaking things.

If you haven't seen the Swedish version of the film, you might well spend the time and expend a little effort to track it down at your local video store or grab it on Netflix. Both Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace are excellent, especially Rapace. I haven't seen the version with Daniel Craig and I probably won't see it before it comes to video. I don't see any reason to spend the money to go to the theater to see a remake of a film that was done well the first time and only a couple of years ago.

It's understandable that studios are  remaking films for a new generation. That doesn't mean they're especially good, though. Dracula and Frankenstein in the 90s and The Wolfman just last year all suffered remakes that didn't need to be done. The Ring was a remake of a terrifying Japanese film, too, and bears being talked about in the same way that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does.

There was no need to do either Dragon Tattoo or The Ring. None. (Point of clarification - last year's True Grit falls into the realm of a remake for a new generation, even though the Coen brothers claimed it wasn't really a remake but a new adaptation. What I'm talking about here is a remake for a new audience that can't be bothered with a film that was made last year.)

Well, except that Americans like to see 'famous' people in their films. There's a disdain here for 'reading' films with subtitles. Which is just stupid. Why spend an estimated $100,000,000 to make a different version? Have you seen the Swedish films? They're lush, gorgeous, shot in Sweden and the acting is very good, the script tight with the original story. Adapted, to be sure, because there was too much information to be packed into a film that runs two and a half hours, even, but these films are very well done.

There hasn't been a new generation since they came out, either.

I don't begrudge director David Fincher or screenwriter Steven Zaillian or Daniel Craig or Christopher Plummer or anyone else involved for taking the work. The trailer is cool-looking and if I hadn't seen the Swedish films, I might be tempted to go. I love Fincher's work as a director and everyone in the film is certainly capable of doing great work, but I see no reason to remake this film now, nor to support it.

None. Except greed and lack of vision on the part of studios who are looking for guaranteed hits. They spent money on something they were sure would be a money maker. And that reveals something that makes me cringe even more: that Americans are not interested in investing in new, original stories. Of all the filmed 'events' of the past twenty years, which one was the most original? The (ugh) Twilight Saga? Harry Potter? Christopher Nolan's Batman films? Nope, all of them are adapted from printed source material. How about the Star Wars prequels? Those are original stories, like 'em or not. And a lot of fans of the originals didn't like the prequels. Are they based on concepts created for previous films? Yep. Did they make a metric tonne of money? They sure did.

He's watching you but he's not going to the movies.
The original trilogy captured the imagination of the viewing public around the world. That bears repeating: around the world. If I remember correctly, the last foreign film to do well in America (on par with other films of its year) was Life Is Beautiful back in the late 90s. (I'm not discounting Pan's Labyrinth, by the way. Beautiful was more widely released.) There hasn't been a remake of that film. It was done well and had such heart there was no need.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a similar case: no need. I wish Hollywood would create more original stories or seek source material that hasn't been filmed elsewhere. Bring me the films from other countries. Bring me NEW stories. Show me something I haven't seen before. Better yet, America, encourage Hollywood to produce original material by supporting it at your local theater. Adaptations are fine, they're good, but they can't be the only kind of film being made. Don't continue to support adaptations of adaptations. Re-adaptations. Yeesh.

Here's a final thought for you: Inception was a very good film. Would you have read it as a novel if the film didn't exist?