Hollywood Vs World Cinema: Remakes

Oldboy
Oldboy

Remaking successful foreign films has become the norm in Hollywood, with classics such as Oldboy seeing the remake treatment in the not too distant future. So many successful world films go unnoticed until they are remade, and some audience members watch the remake without even knowing it had a foreign counterpart. It goes without saying that the originals are usually the best, and it’s such a shame that so many of them go unnoticed.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is originally a Swedish film-adaption of a novel; it got the remake treatment in 2011, just two years after the release of the original film. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about the remake is that despite being American, it’s still set in Sweden and some of the characters

I thought this was funny, Josh Brolin will be the star of the Oldboy remake
I thought this was funny, Josh Brolin will be the star of the Oldboy remake

speak with a Swedish accent. Essentially you are left with the same effect as watching the original film dubbed over in English. Due to budget issues, the American producers are in talks about dropping Daniel Craig’s character Mikael Blomkvist entirely. Any one familiar with the franchise will know that losing this character defeats the whole object of the franchise, and he is as much the protagonist as Lisbeth Salander herself. It begs the question, why do they need to remake the films? When the overall effect is the same as watching the original film dubbed over in English the lengthy process of producing the remake seems pointless.

Oldboy is a classic Korean thriller starring Choi Min-sik, critically acclaimed it features in the iMDB top 250 films of all time and is an iconic example of Asian cinema. The American remake is due for release in October 2013, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Brolin. It will, unlike

The Original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, be an Americanised version, which I suppose is a slightly redeeming factor but with the likes of Samuel L Jackson in the line up it’s likely to be another one of those brash American thrillers that holds little of the integrity of the Korean original.

With so many struggling upcoming filmmakers and scriptwriters, it’s a wonder that Hollywood aren’t trying to nurture the future talent and keep the film industry fresh and alive. It’s long since been about the culture and art of filmmaking, and has become a money laundering business out to earn quick cash with minimal effort. It takes a lot more effort to produce an entirely new idea than it does to, essentially steal one that’s been done before. And if you steal and remake a classic, there’s already a dedicated money-giving audience without having to go to great lengths to market the film. Instead of invest more money into new and upcoming talent; Hollywood and the big shot production companies would rather invest

The Remake
The Remake

in unoriginal films that have a dedicated audience already. If they’re not remaking old classics they’re continuing franchises that have long since lost their spark, and all for the sake of money.

Is film a dying industry? Of course not. As long as there are films to remake or franchises to continue then Hollywood will always have money lining its pockets. The big production companies will continue to produce films that are assured to make them billions because even when we struggle to afford the cinema or buy DVDs, people will still make the effort to go and see, say, The Fast and Furious 15. For film lovers it’s a shame to watch the industry slowly turn in to a money-laundering scheme. In many ways the film industry has lost its originality and spark, there’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, no new talent to get excited about.

Instead of nurturing new and upcoming directors, we’ve got the old ‘masters’ at the helm with nothing new to offer. When they’ve had their time, what will be left? It’s for this reason that I watch a lot of foreign cinema. Thai and Korean film industries are in their prime, and they’re ever growing and developing, there’s always something new and fresh to bring to the plate. You can guarantee that Hollywood will get their claws into any successful, noteworthy Asian film, but that says a lot more about Asian cinema and how diverse and exciting it is than it does about Hollywood’s lack of originality!

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28 thoughts on “Hollywood Vs World Cinema: Remakes

  1. Yes, it is a brain-dead venture by Hollywood of late. Most not worth the time vested instead of screening the original. That said, I have to say I really did enjoy the American versions of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘Let the Right One in’ (Let Me In). It’s rare, but some handle it the way it should be done.

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    1. I liked the girl with the dragon tattoo as well, but still think it was pointless.
      Hated Let Me In though.
      It irritates me that they remake them so soon after the originals were released…they barely gave the girl with the dragon tattoo two years before they dug their claws in!

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      1. I understand. It’s not that there isn’t original content out there. Just the suits looking at the box office bottom-line and looking for a shortcut. I cringe imagining some studio exec telling a filmmaker what to do, and we get it shoved down our throats.

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      2. It’s a shame but that’s what it’s come to. I can understand to an extent them wanting to make money and all…but they’d still make money if they took a chance on something different for a change.

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    1. Sometimes they come out with some good films…
      I’m sick of the brashness of US films, and their constant remaking of brilliant world cinema

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      1. people are often too lazy to read subtitles, and don’t like watching a dubbed film…which is a shame, they’re missing out

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  2. It seems that way nowadays that no one has any original inspiration. I’ve been seeing how a lot of movies I watch are adapted either from novels or remakes of foreign films. Although as much as I don’t have a problem with cheap entertainment like Fast and the Furious series, I do appreciate watching unique stories 🙂
    Great post Natasha! 🙂

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  3. Depressing stuff! Still, I would make a distinction between a director bringing his or her unique vision and interpretation to an old story, and a purely cynical cash-grab exploiting the fact that a lot of American and British people rarely, if ever, watch world cinema. Here’s hoping Spike Lee’s Oldboy falls in the former camp – it should do if his movie Bamboozled! (his semi-remake of The Producers, which explored African American stereotypes in popular culture) is anything to go by.

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    1. people in the west are often too lazy to read subtitles, or don’t want to watch a dubbed film, it’s a shame, a lot of people miss out on some damn good films! i watch a lot of asian cinema, and a lot of it is so much better than films that come out of the west. more about the art and less about the money, or at least they come across that way

      I won’t be rushing to see the Oldboy remake, it may be good but personally I love the original…and now I’ve seen it the twist in the remake won’t be a surprise…it’ll just be the same story with different actors, and of course set/filmed in a different country and I’d rather watch something I’ve not seen before, if you get what I mean.

      Thanks for commenting 😀

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  4. So it has always been and so it will always be; in Hollywood the whole thing is about the “easy” buck. If it’s not a sure thing, they don’t want to know. Take a foreign film that “normal” people won’t watch because it’s foreign and has subtitles (or crappy dubbing) but does will at the box office and remake it for a quick buck.

    It’s the same with the Independent’s. You make an Indie that does well, Hollywood kisses your ass unashamedly to get you “on board” and then they F*** you over and make you turn your unique visions into homogenised and pasteurised crap.

    For easy money.

    That’s my long winded way of saying that I agree with you, btw!

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    1. The issue I have is that it doesn’t need to be like that, and they could make just as much money with films that aren’t done to death.
      The other thing of course is film will die if they continue to ostracise upcoming talent in favour of the old dogs, obviously it takes time and effort to help someone who’s new to it than it does someone who’s done it for years but once all the big directors die or retire, there’ll be this huge gap.
      Which is another reason I love Asian film, and one of the reasons I’m now a massive Herman Yau fan; in Hong Kong they have an organisation that helps young and upcoming filmmakers produce short films, they get a mentor (Herman Yau is one of many mentors) that helps them complete it and then they get to screen it at festivals around the world and ultimately launch their careers. One of the things he said was that as a veteran director, it’s his job to pass on his knowledge and skill to help the future of Hong Kong film.
      The BFI and other organisations over here don’t want to know. They have such strict regulations, and it pretty much excludes anyone that won’t make them money…sometimes the rules state that the filmmaker HAS to have professional film credits to their name already.
      Drives me insane… the industry is just eating itself.
      I watch a lot more independent British films and foreign films than I do anything else lately, not only do they have more integrity but I’d much rather invest my money into that than into the pockets of the Hollywood big shots!
      Ugh

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  5. I agree with you that, despite upcoming writers and Directors, remaking existing films, seem pointless. I’ve always thought that it was just another way for Hollywood to cash in on another movie’s success from another Industry. But even that’s not true, as some remakes aren’t even marketed as a remake, nor the original creators credited.

    I do disagree with you however, that the originals are always better. This topic actually ties into a new feature I’ll be doing on my site soon. But you’d be surprised at the amount of Hollywood movies that have been remade by Bollywood, not better, but definitely as a good movie in and of itself. However, the better ones, are truly re-imagined stories and films, using the original as inspiration to tell a similar story set in India, with some original modifications. Incidentally, OLDBOY was remade by Bollywood as ZINDA (Alive), before Hollywood got to it. A lot of legendary Hollywood movies have been the inspiration for some iconic Bollywood cinema as well. Stay tuned for my feature to start to hear more about them.

    Side bar: I would be just as excited for FAST AND FURIOUS 15, as any other new movie. Same goes for the DIE HARD franchise.

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    1. I don’t watch, and never have watched Bollywood films. This refers specifically to East Asian cinema and also Spanish etc, like the films mentioned. Bollywood doesn’t appeal to me, the closest I’ve been to watching a Bollywood film was ‘Bride and Prejudice’ if that’s even a Bollywood! So I can’t comment on them.
      In my own experience, I haven’t seen a remake better than the original, I’ve seen some as good as…and I did say that in my article; however my point was that even if the remakes are as good they are still unnecessary and unneeded.

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      1. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to tear down your points, I just added that as a side not, that Bollywood’s been copying Hollywood films for decades without proper credit. And they’re almost always bad.

        BRIDE AND PREJUDICE was more of a UK film, similar to BEND IT LIKE BEKHAM.

        I don’t agree. Remake or otherwise, Some films stand on their own despite their inspiration from the source material. Some see it as a bastardization, but look at the Zombie genre. Movies like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), THE OMEGA MAN (1971), and 28 DAYS LATER (2002) were all based on the same original source material. But can all these films be compared as being remakes, one better than the other?

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      2. Oh yeah, films based on other things are fine I just don’t like straight out remakes…especially like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo where the remake came out only two years after the original. Films that are based on something aren’t quite in the same category are a remake, they’re adaptations; like Snow White and the Huntsman is an adaptation or modernisation of Snow White.

        Remakes are not only, for the most part (in my view) unoriginal and unnecessary but it’s one of the huge reasons Western audiences are too lazy to watch foreign film, because the UK/US remakes are so readily available.
        It’d be nice if Hollywood focused more on new and original films rathr than just remaking and rebooting old ones.

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  6. Another FYI: Some movie industries started off AS a money laundering channel. The Indian Industry for example had (possibly still does today) so much mob influence that it was just a way to legitimize their illegal income.

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    1. Of course, and a lot of them still are.
      But again I don’t count the Indian film industry into consideration when I write my articles because I’ve not watched any of the films. I don’t talk about industries that I don’t know about…because that’d be daft.
      Bollywood films aren’t particularly accessible over here and don’t, I assume, have quite the same worldwide audience as say, Korean film for instance

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      1. Again, I didn’t mean my comment to sound like I was correcting your post, I was just adding that as an additional to your already valid points.

        Of course one can’t talk about subjects they don’t know about. I know a lot about Bollywood, so I related your topic to that. Apologies again if it seemed otherwise.

        I’m not sure of the Korean Film Industry, but as per my knowledge, Bollywood films have a massive appeal in the UK, as well as North America. Not sure about accessibility though, considering I don’t live in the UK. But there is an audience there.

        You should definitely watch. There are many Bollywood movies that have gotten critical acclaim from the International Film community, debuting at Cannes, TIFF, and winning awards too. Good luck!

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      2. No it didn’t seem like that at all 😀
        Yeah I see what you mean,
        I haven’t seen any Bollywood and I’ve not noticed it get much attention here in the UK, the only people I know that watch it are from India originally. I’ve not seen it advertised, and can’t say as I’ve seen DVDs or anything available in shops or rentals
        Might have to give one of them a watch at least, I really don’t know anything about them!! Just that they’re brightly coloured and there’s singing and dancing…at least, I think that’s what I’ve heard!! haha

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    2. Although having said that, Bollywood/Indian film might be next on my list of film to research…always like to broaden what I’ve watched!

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  7. Ah I see. Then I agree with you. ‘Direct remakes’ are a little unnecessary. Again, unless it’s an ‘inspired by’ situation, and instead just another movie copied scene by scene in a different language by different actors in a different setting… pretty unnecessary.

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  8. Oh man. You must check some out. They are no longer bright, colorful, happy, melodramatic, and a lot of them feature no in-movie song and dance numbers. Some are pretty brutal and gritty.

    Check out directors like Anurag Kashyap whose most recent film, GANGS OF WASSEYPUR was originally a 5+ feature length that was an anthology of gang warfare set against the backdrop of India’s national development over the last 60+ years. They broke it into two parts during the theatrical release in India. It debuted at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight.

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    1. Sounds interesting! Way more my thing than bright musicals, which is what I thought Bollywood was all about! Will have to have a look sometime 🙂

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