The new Lord of the Flies remake has audiences up in arms before it even starts shooting, but these movies had the misfortune of upsetting viewers where it really matters - on the screen.
Remakes that needn't have bothered
Clash of the Titans (2010)
Louis Leterrier’s remake of 1981’s Clash of the Titans is a text book lesson in how not to remake a film. The original swords-and-sandals epic may have dated, with its clunky special effects and old-fashioned stop motion animation, but that actually adds to its charm in some ways. The remake, on the other hand, goes overboard to update, focusing everything on CGI and very little on story, quality acting or entertainment. Some of the physical sets look like they’ve come direct from the local amateur dramatics society and although the film boasts a cast including Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson, none of the leads look like they really want to be there. To make matters worse, Warner Bros made a last minute decision to convert the movie to 3D in post-production, a conversion that even the film’s own director described as “famously horrible.”
You’d have to be a brave man to remake a classic as enduring as 1981’s Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli-starring comedy Arthur. Jason Winer, it seems, is a brave man, but perhaps not justifiably so on the evidence of this movie. The remake casts Russell Brand as spoiled, drunken, millionaire playboy Arthur Bach, on the verge of an arranged marriage to a woman he doesn’t love in order to inherit his family’s fortune. Brand can be a divisive character at the best of times, but while Moore’s Arthur had subtlety and nuance, Brand’s is a one-trick pony of the comedian’s usual foppish mockney drawl and self-aggrandising gesturing. It might work in stand up, where Brand can be a very funny man, but in a movie it grows tiresome very quickly. Even Helen Mirren, cast in John Gielgud’s valet role in an early gender swap experiment, couldn’t rescue this one.
Why? Just why? That is the question that always comes to mind when considering Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot, line-by-line, second-by-second reshoot of the 1960 Hitchcock classic. The movie is not so much a film as some kind of freakish scientific experiment: can a classic movie be, quite literally, recreated from scratch? The answer, it turns out, is no. The film looks like Psycho, it sounds like Psycho, but it’s like some kind of undead version. The energy, the tension, the fear, that drove the original all absent from this walking, talking aberration that stares at you through the hollow eyes of a zombie. When Van Sant himself was asked ahead of the film’s release in 1998 why he had decided to undertake the project, he told Entertainment Weekly “Well, I guess I thought it would be fun.” Sorry, Gus. You guessed wrong.
Kevin Tancharoen’s remake of Alan Parker’s all-singing, all-dancing 1980 drama set in the New York College of the Performing Arts is barely a sterile shadow of the original. While Parker’s film had characters with depth and real issues to deal with, characters that audiences genuinely empathised with and cared about, Tancharoen serves up an extended karaoke session, substituting song and dance for script, performance and drama. The movie is clearly intended to appeal to the High School Musical generation, and it probably does so quite adequately. In doing so, however, it does a great disservice to Parker’s original. Where Parker gave us powerful drama and fully rounded characters with stories to tell, the remake merely offers a succession of pop videos, and not even good pop videos at that.
Red Dawn (2012)
In fairness, the 1984 original on which this 2012 remake is based was hardly a classic. A young Patrick Swayze leads an unlikely bunch of teen heroes as they fight off the might of the Soviet Army following a shock successful invasion of the USA. It’s rather silly Raegan-era commie paranoia of the highest order. The remake, however, gets an entry here for its sheer cynicism (and because it’s a truly terrible film, far worse than the distinctly average original). Dan Bradley’s nonsensical update casts Chris Hemsworth in the lead role. The film originally featured the Chinese Army in the role of the invading commies, in the absence of the Soviet Union by 2012. A sudden panic during post-production, however, led to MGM insisting that all the flags and military insignia were changed to North Korean in fear of damaging performance in the lucrative Chinese market. The punchline? The film never achieved a Chinese release anyway.