Remakitis

>> Tuesday, October 18, 2011





I hate it when this happens. You have this idea for something you want to do a post about, you start opening up tabs and dropping in links to various references, tap-tap-tapping away at the keyboard, and several paragraphs later--paragraphs filled with grotty HTML code for your various points of reference and support--you discover you're even more full of shit then you thought you were and you have nothin'. Nothing. Nada, zilch, bupkis. A big fat goose egg of a post.

And you look at it in the preview window--paragraphs, I'm tellin' you, paragraphs I'd written, here--and you don't hit "delete" immediately. Oh, no. Denial, you see, is the second stage here. Denial, and somewhere in there is negotiation. "I could salvage it." "I could come back to it." "Maybe if I hit it from a new angle." You go back to the previous screen and sit there looking at it a bit, then you go and you hit "delete".

Because the post was crap, see?






I know, I know, there's good odds you're thinking I was hard on myself. I could have let the piece rest overnight, come back to it later. But, see, the problem wasn't that it was badly written. I'd like to think that I'm a not-too-terrible writer and that the piece was fairly well-written for what it was, a blog post written here and there during the day and posted hot without a lot of editing or proofing. (Because that's how I do this blog, right? I know some people put in a lot more editing and proofing, but for me this is the hot fix, not a short story or, usually, a serious essay.)

The problem was that the position I was writing about was... is, frankly, a little incoherent. Or it's based to some extent on gut reactions and instinct and it's easy to find counterexamples, exceptions that don't just test the wannabe rule but in fact give it a good box around the ears before grabbing it by the back of its trousers and tossing it out the door to land on its ass in the snow. In fact, part of the problem was that the thing itself (no pun intended) is really an exception to the rule, which presents complications as you're writing.

And now you're possibly thinking, "Pun not... what pun?"







What I wanted to write about, and what I might come back to, was the seeming glut of remakes, reboots, reimaginings, prequels, sequels, etc. of movies that you seem to see these days. The impetus or inspiration for this was a review of the new prequel/reboot/remake of The Thing over at io9, or (more precisely) a comments thread there that had some interesting argument over whether there really is a dearth of new stuff coming to silver screens or whether this is just business-as-usual in an industry that has been recycling old material practically as long as its medium has existed (among the first films to have any kind of semblance of a plot: a 1900 Sherlock Holmes film (sort of), a 1901 partial adaptation of A Christmas Carol, a 1902 adaptation of Gulliver's Travels and 1903 saw the release of adaptations of Alice In Wonderland and Uncle Tom's Cabin. What I wanted to say in my abandoned blog post was that while it's true, yes, that the re-(imagination/telling/boot/make) has a long and ancient history (yes, Shakespeare stole plots and characters shamelessly; or go back further, why not, and point out that Virgil rebooted Homer as a Roman nationalist myth with an unauthorized and unasked for sequel to The Iliad, right?), there was something qualitatively different about the recent spate of derivative works.

Except, y'know, I'm not sure that's actually true when I think about it. It feels true. It feels like re-whatevers used to be more clever or more vital, or at the very least less-inessential than re-whatevers these days, but there's probably some unconscious cherry-picking going on in my head, there.







It doesn't really help my case, logically speaking, that John Carpenter's The Thing is, itself, a remake that was widely panned when it first came out. These days, it's considered something of a classic; I would even say it eclipses Howard Hawks' original, though that's a bit speculative on my part and/or drawn from anecdotal evidence, I haven't gone and researched it and this sense may reflect my own prejudices. (I think Carpenter's movie is vastly-superior on numerous levels.) For all I know, in twenty years the only Thing anybody will be talking about will be the 2011 one.

And yet I just can't help not liking the new one's mere existence. Somewhere on a gut level, it offends me. And I can tell you why, but that's where we get into the whole thing where I can rattle off exceptions and counterexamples to my own arguments while I'm making them, which makes the whole thing seem futile right there before I even post it. Why bother?







I won't be seeing the new The Thing in the theatre. I know, I know: io9 mostly liked it, my friend Jim said he liked it (though Jim and I tend to like different kinds of movies, I think), it could be the most awesome movie released this year. That's not really the point, though. There's just something about the idea of the new one being made at all that I somehow find offensive, which (when I think about it) is purely irrational. Fact is, I can remember lots of reviewers saying the same thing about Carpenter's Thing in the 1980s. I won't rule out seeing it as a rental, then. Heck, I will grumpily concede that I'm not going to rule out liking the stupid thing against my better judgement.

Anyway, since my first post imploded and I deleted it, I figured I'd just put up a video post and call that the end of it. So. Here.








3 comments:

vince Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 7:54:00 PM EDT  

Actually, the new one is a prequel to the events in Carpenter's "The Thing" taking place immediately prior to the events of that film. So it's not a reboot or remaking. The filmmakers apparently worked hard to make sure the everything looked as close as possible to the look of Carpenter's film.

The problem, of course, is the same problem with any prequel (which I think you pointed out a while back) and that is that you know how things ultimately turn out, so there's usually no real tension to the movie.

Eric Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 8:13:00 PM EDT  

Vince, I think one of my issues with the new Thing is that they're sort of marketing it as all of the above.

The other problem with the concept of a Thing prequel in my eyes is that it's one of those stories that answers questions I didn't have: I've seen the interviews where the filmmakers went on about how proud they were offering an explanation of how the one guy slits his wrists and cuts his throat and how they tried to make sure it matched Carpenter's film and thought, "But I never even wondered about that--it wasn't something that mattered." There's more horror in the inexplicable, usually.

But, again, this could be pure bias on my part. Lots of people didn't think The Thing From Another World needed to be remade as an ultraviolent gorefest.

John Healy Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 1:17:00 PM EDT  

On remakes: '101 Dalmatians' was great when I was a kid. The remake kicks butt. Best villain line-up, ever.
'True Grit'. Two great movies. I like the remake better. The novel is still the best.
'The Maltese Falcon' I got 5 minutes into the original. Vomitus. Apropos of nothing, watch 'Satan met a Lady'(?) '36, Bette Davis.
I read something like; if you haven't seen the movie you want to watch or the book you want to read, write it yourself.
I buy into Eric's question. Is originality really dead?

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