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Are remakes being made too early? Are they harming the originals they remake?

GirlDragonTattoo.jpgThe director of the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo film and it's two sequels has hit out against the Hollywood remake machine and brings forward a very interesting point about the idea of remaking a film while its shelf life is still very much alive, in fact while it's still in full earning and marketing mode.

Before the third in the original series had been released we heard that David Fincher was set to remake the first, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and deliver a brand new, Hollywood version of the franchise, albeit keeping true to a lot of the source material. Yet the sales and marketing weren't even finished with the first film which had dates set for cinematic release in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and a few countries in South America and Asia.

So before the first film in the trilogy was even finished being shown in the cinemas around the world – the release schedule still had fourteen countries to hit before the final release date of the 14th of October, some seven months away – the Hollywood remake was announced with David Fincher directing.

Now for any film audience that is influenced by the big names in Hollywood that's suddenly quite the shadow to cast on the film, and there's something to be said about the possibility that audiences might not go and see the original, foreign film with subtitles, in favour of waiting for the English language, Hollywood version, although to be fair that's mainly the western audience and in particular the American audience. Still, there's a decline there I'm sure.

Of course that's the cinematic release schedule, what of the DVD and then the Blu-ray releases? Those releases are all overshadowed by the fact that the series is going to be remade by the big Hollywood director David Fincher.

Plus, that's just the first film. There were two others to be made and released in the cinemas and again on DVD and Blu-ray, and all the time everyone is aware that Fincher's Hollywood version is coming.

The director, Niels Arden Oplev, makes a great statement through The Hollywood Reporter when he talks about the situation:

”The only thing that’s annoying to me is that the Sony PR machine is trying to make their Lisbeth Salander the lead Lisbeth Salander. That’s highly unfair because Noomi has captured this part and it should always be all her. That’s her legacy in a way I can’t see anyone competing with. I hope she gets nominated for an Oscar. I know a lot of Academy members have seen the film and liked it because every time I go to LA I meet so many people who have seen my version of it. Even in Hollywood there seems to be a kind of anger about the remake, like, ‘Why would they remake something when they can just go see the original?’ Everybody who loves film will go see the original one. It’s like, what do you want to see, the French version of “La Femme Nikita” or the American one? You can hope that Fincher does a better job.”

That's the impassioned speech of someone who loves cinema, and I agree, why go and see remakes before you've seen the original. You have to see the original, and I'd argue that you should before you see the remake, otherwise your memories and understanding of the story and film are skewed by the remakes interpretation of the story, then you're comparing the original against the benchmark of the remake.

While in a lab coat world that would be ideal and the true quality would win out, by then the impact of the story has faded, you've already seen it, and the original lacks the first punch that you would have experienced. Imagine for a moment that M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense had been remade before you had seen it, and for some reason you watched the British, French or Asian remake first and then came to sit down and watch Shyamalan's. Think about the effect that this would have had on your enjoyment of his version of the film.

Okay, but in this case we're not seeing the Hollywood remake released before the original, but the time frames are getting closer and closer, and there's more opportunity for audiences to see the remake before the original, and the more that happens, the less of an impact the original has on audiences and cinematic history.

Have you seen Spoorloos? The original of The Vanishing starring Kiefer Sutherland, Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges where a man's girlfriend is abducted and he never gives up searching for her, only for one day when his life is totally ruined to meet the man who abducted her? Spoorloos is by far the better film but it doesn't get the attention it deserves, and a lot of that is down to the remake.

There are many, many more examples that I could churn out, but that's just the first that came to mind. Of course there's also the consideration that those who would never have seen Spoorloos gain knowledge and access to it through the release of The Vanishing, but how many people have? Applied to the case of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo it doesn't hold up as the original series has seen a worldwide release.

There are other things to consider as to how well a film is viewed, the awards, and the releases. There's the money it earns.

That's not just for the studio you know, or the director, the writer, and the leading actors and actresses. Think about the remaining cast, the extras, the crew, the office workers, the people supported by the third party companies engaged in the making of the film, everyone that makes that film happen is gaining the benefits whether they be monetary, increased sales or marketing, or even tourism.

There's a period of time where a film can make money. There's the cinematic release in a country, then there's the DVD release, and now the Blu-ray and digital releases. They all earn money, they are all staggered, and they all help the film, the companies behind the film, and other films in that country get made.

For everyone that's drawn to the remake rather than the original during this period it's revenue lost, and while you can argue the point about overpaid actors and directors, you can't when you start walking down from writers to supporting cast, to crew, to the janitor who works in the printing company that was hired for three weeks work on the New Zealand poster campaign.

With word of the remake happening during a trilogy of films as well, and while the first building block of that trilogy is being released, surely that's going to harm the exposure and potential earnings of the rest of the franchise?

The good news is that the remake wasn't released before the final of the original films was, and the UK release of the third film will hit on the 26th of November this year, the last in a much shorter release schedule than the first film. Perhaps that's another affect of the remake coming with a release date set for late December 2011.

Perhaps you can argue that the remake isn't going to have a huge impact on the original films, but you can't argue that announcing a remake of a trilogy before the first film has finished its cinematic release is a good thing, or perhaps the right thing.

Shouldn't remakes hold off until the originals have completed their runs and had a decent chance at their own success? Are they stealing the thunder, glory and the revenue from the original films? Or do remakes actually help people see original, foreign films they usually don't get access to?



There are only two instances when I find remakes acceptable, all medias included.

First is when the source material is so old that it is hardly presentable in an enjoyable form or it was the first in a breakthrough series and lacked proper budget. You know how some movies age very bad, be it the score or special effects. I'm not a big fan of the George Lucas way of "restoring" classics and while there are ways to enhance image and sound in an effort to make an old film justice, some are beyond what the magic of digital remastering can do.

Second is when the source material is foreign and its overall feel or plot is so reliant on its country's culture, political climate or religion that it creates alienation towards the person(s) experiencing it. Then again, there are masterpieces that transcend these limits.

In any case, I don't know many useful or legitimate remakes. In fact, besides "Evil Dead 2" and "The Road Warrior" (And that's bending the definition of remakes) I can't think of any one remake that really improved upon their source material, at least not from the top of my head.

Anyway, I like to see the originals before I see the remakes. In fact, I make it my duty to see the originals.

In the case of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels (or Millennium 1, 2 & 3 in my country) I watched them all dubbed in french and enjoyed them very much. I find it ludicrous that they would remake them just to present them to the American audiences because they really don't need to be adapted, in my opinion.

I find it very offending to the director of the originals.

At the rate things are going, each country will get their own localized versions of a film released simultaneously with the original.

Remakes are definitely being made too early and too often. In this particular case, they're going to have a hard time living up to the original. While much of it could potentially be equaled, I can't see any other actress in the role of Lisbeth Salander. With 2 of the films on Netflix Watch Instant and with the popularity of the books, my guess is that the audience for the remake is shrinking daily.

Vash I don't think you even have to go as far as "masterpieces" to see a film transcend the limits of a foreign audiences understanding particular aspects of a film such as the political climate. Good films can do this too, they don't have to be great or masterpieces to work. I think we're just often too lazy to give them a go, and is more the case the films aren't given the chance with foreign audiences.

I think there's a third case too, similar to the first but I think different enough for a mention. Where time has passed that a film looks incredibly dated but still holds great relevance, perhaps more relevance today. I think Logan's Run is a prime example of this point.

Hap I hope you're right, I really would like to see the popularity of all remakes drift away so that there's not an instant desire to remake something for more profit, and that remakes only happen when there's a strong story to be told better than it was.

Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!


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