Sequels are looking good by comparison

Planetapes_1It’s pretty rare when the remake of a great movie surpasses the original. More often, we’re used to seeing remakes flounder in the paths of their predecessors. (Think Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, for one.)

So why the heck does Hollywood have so many remakes on the stove?

It’s not enough that moviegoers are being inundated with ads for Flight of the Phoenix, a remake of Robert Aldrich’s 1965 classic that’s being released today. Next year, we’re gonna see a spate of unoriginal flicks “inspired” by their predecessors—which not only include earlier films, but also books that have already been made into motion pictures. According to the Internet Movie Database, the list of films slated for release in 2005 includes Assault on Precinct 13 (a remake of John Carpenter’s 1976 actioner), slated for January; The Amityville Horror, set for April; The Longest Yard, expected in May; and War of the Worlds, due in July.

Granted, remakes are nothing new, and it’s possible that they could dwarf earlier efforts. (Need we mention Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy vs. Ralph Bakshi’s LOTR or the Rankin/Bass version of Return of the King?) But those are exceptions to the rule—a bigger-budget remake of, say, Assault, would be hard-pressed to top the economy of the original’s suspense. And a director’s “vision” or personal stamp shouldn’t be the only thing that passes for originality these days. We need some good new stuff in the theaters, and we need it fast. Otherwise, we’d better get used to reeling in the old without the new. Is that something we want to cheer for?

—Posted by Simon Butler