Mention that a Hollywood studio has signed up to do a big-budget movie remake, or that there’s one hitting cinemas soon, and the news is bound to be met with eye rolling and grimaces. It seems there have been enough dud reimaginings over the years to cement the notion that a good movie (or not so good, as the case may also be) is best left untouched.
But in truth, this is neither fair nor accurate – good news for this week’s 13, a remake of 2005 French-language film 13Tzameti. Just take a look at True Grit, currently doing the rounds in cinemas, which has garnered praise from critics and cinemagoers around the world, receiving multiple nominations during the recent awards season. It has been touted by some as even better than John Wayne’s original. So it’s hardly surprising to hear that Hollywood is looking to Europe for new remake material.
Upcoming release 13 stars grizzled action men from both sides of the Atlantic, including Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham and Ray Winstone, alongside American Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and up-and-coming Brit actor Sam Riley, who played Ian Curtis in 2007 Joy Division biopic Control. Unlike many other remakes, this one is written and directed by the same person responsible for the original, Géla Babluani, which means he’ll only have himself to blame if this turns out to be a weak, American-accented imitation. Of course, he’s playing a riskier game with posturing film critics than everyday cinemagoers just looking to be entertained.
But it wouldn’t be the first time a director has remade his own film. Take Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, which he first created in 1934 and re-made for a 1956 version. Though Hitchcock is said to have preferred the earlier version because it was less ‘polished’, the second is far better known. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably heard Doris Day’s Academy Award-winning and now enormously famous ‘Que Sera Sera’, a tune she dismissed as a ‘forgettable children’s song’ and nearly didn’t record as a release. As for the plot, there are some substantial differences between the two films, with Switzerland swapped for Morocco and a kidnapped daughter swapped for a kidnapped son.
Of course, changes of this nature are not uncommon. After all, there’s no point in remaking something exactly the same when it’s cheaper to re-release. In 1983, director Brian De Palma and writer Oliver Stone transformed Howard Hawks’s 1932 Scarface (produced by the infamous Howard Hughes), swapping Chicago for Miami, and the Italian mafia for a Cuban cartel. Both films are highly regarded – though both faced criticism for their violent content at the time of their respective releases – but it’s the later version starring Al Pacino that has since gone on to achieve cult status.
And as far as the studios making money goes, it’s appealing to the moviegoing public that counts, regardless of what the critics make of it, and there can be an enormous disparity between the two. In an un-remake-related example, 2010’s The Social Network caused a film critic love-in like no other last summer, but audiences in the UAE would have rather seen Angelina Jolie’s not-so-critically-celebrated Salt. In fact, more than 190,000 more of them went to see it (The Social Network only saw a dismal 54,000 admissions).
So while the critics are yet to return a verdict on 13, we’re being realistic and betting this one is going to end up on the cult viewing shelf rather than next year’s list of Oscar nominees. But then that never did Al Pacino any harm. 13 is in UAE cinemas now.
Remakes that should never have been
There are some greats out there, but you can’t win them all. Here are the ones you’d do well to avoid.
Alfie (2004) Anything Michael Caine can do, you most certainly cannot do better. We’re talking to you, Jude Law. Knowing what we do now about Law’s nanny-canoodling ways, this only serves to make him look even more excruciatingly smug.
The Italian Job (2003) Marky Mark has won his way back into our affections with stints such as his latest in The Fighter, but it was a long time before we forgave him for breaking the cardinal Michael Caine rule.
Clash of the Titans (2010) Sam Worthington and Gemma Arterton ponce around in ancient Greek get-up surrounded by an increasingly bizarre CGI-heavy realm, while Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes play second fiddle to the C-class leads.