December 1, 2009

Why All the Remakes?

No question that film adaptations of books are big money, and often result in some outstanding movies. But I can never figure out why remakes occur so frequently. And lately, we have films coming out that are remakes of films only a few years old.

Take 2009's Brothers directed by Jim Sheridan. I haven't seen it yet, so it might be a corker--and given the cast the performances are bound to be decent. But why Sheridan would feel the need to remake such a recent film is beyond me. What is gained?

2005's Brothers, directed by Susanne Bier is one of my favorite films. Tremendous performances. Bier is one of those careful directors who knows how to pull complex emotion from her actors. She creates unimaginable tension in this story of close family bonds separated by infidelity and war. It doesn't need to be remade.

Sheridan's list of credits is about as impressive as they come. Director of My Left Foot, The Boxer, In America, he is one of those film makers who takes his time choosing a project and truly delivers once he finally does. Which is why his decision to remake an already great film surprises me. He, of all people, should recognize the need to let original work to stand on its own. And what of Bier--also a great director (Open Hearts, After The Wedding)? Would she not have to sign away the rights to her film in order for it to be made?

I pose this as a real question, as I don't know what is required for remakes to be authorized.

Sheridan is not alone. Think back to 2002's Insomnia with Al Pacino and Robin Williams--a daft, silly piece that did no justice to the original Danish Insomnia (starring Stellan Skarsgaard) made in 1997. Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom, a truly creepy television mini-series also fell victim to a horrible network remake by Stephen King, called Kingdom Hospital.

Maybe someone in the film industry can explain this better to me. Are there no more original ideas out there? Does all of filmdom consist of adaptations and remakes?

I don't want to see great films remade into different, probably lesser projects. Let a film stand on its own. If it's a matter of gaining a wider audience, North American distributors need to ball-up and work aggressively to get the originals into the theaters upon their release.

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