Random Question: If you remake a movie because it was awesome (and profitable), why do you change the script so much?

Total Recall, blog post sponsored by the GoDaddy.com promo codes at http://www.scottsigler.com/godaddy-promo-codesArnold Schwartzenegger, blog post sponsored by 4InkJets.com coupon codes at http://www.scottsigler.com/4inkjets-coupon-codesWith the upcoming remake of Arnold Schwatzenegger’s super-fun scifi standard TOTAL RECALL, I have a question for you. There is no right or wrong answer, per se, but damn, I’m curious — if you’re re-making a movie because it is an enduring classic that made beaucoup bucks, why do producers/writers/directors feel the need to “re-invent” it?

I’m not saying the new Colin Farrell version of RECALL is going to be bad, but the previews to make it look like they’ve made significant changes to the plot. The question is: why? What’s wrong with the original plot? Why wouldn’t you just make a few tweaks to a proven product, cast a bunch of good-looking people with box office caché, update the FX and tell the same story?

Some awful remakes come to mind, like PLANET OF THE APES or THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. And speaking of Farrell, how about that FRIGHT NIGHT remake? It was a flick about a vampire next door — did they really need to walk away from the original, super-fun plot?

But sometimes, you can’t win. In 1998, Gus Van Zant tried a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic PSYCHO, and that failed to thrill. Can you blame that on the star power, or lack therof? Or, is this proof that a classic in one decade is a product of the times, and the same story told 30 years later won’t have the same impact?

How much of this is a quest for the best product, and how much of it is territorial pissing? I wonder. If you do a shot-for-shot remake, and it’s a hit, the director probably doesn’t get that much credit for it. But if you change it up and it’s a smash like SCARFACE, THE THING or THE FLY, you are showered with accolades, champagne, hookers and blow (a shower we’d all like to have, and, yes, the hookers can be male).

So what are your thoughts? If Lucas sees your YouTube video and says “Oh, golly! I need this kid directing the reboot of STAR WARS,” do you gut the plot and “modernize” it, or do cast Vin Diesel as Vader, dust off the existing script and have at it?


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  1. Perrak_the_Crazed

    Well, if they’re going to remake the movie anyway, why would they stick with the same plot? Film is a mass-market product designed to make money, yes, but of the producers and directors I’ve met – a paltry handful, but I can’t imagine it’s that much different for the rest of them – they were all creative type people. There’s a definite hierarchy on- and off-set, but ultimately they are constructing a piece of art. You try and tell an artist that he should just do what someone else has already done.

    I’d imagine folks who remake movies see the new ones as entirely separate entities. If that’s the case, would it really make sense (other than, perhaps, financially) to keep always the original plot?

    I saw the ’98 version of Psycho, understood it entirely, and thought it answered a non-burning question I’d had for a while. I’ve watched old movies and thought, “Man, I wish they’d done this in color or with better special effects.” Apparently Van Sant had the same itch to scratch, but he’s Van Sant, which means he gets $60 million back scratchers. I think it failed because Hitchcock’s Psycho was not made for today’s audiences.

    Edit: sorry about the lack of spaces. I swear I know what a paragraph is.

  2. Gmork

    It’s amazing how well the original movie holds up. I think jokerdas said it best – explosions, snappy one-liners (oh my god the one liners are fantastic), great action and a surprising amount of blood and baddies. There was the perfect balance of camp and gore.

    When I first heard the Colin Farrell remake was coming out, my immediate reaction was aversion.  After seeing the trailers, I’m encouraged by the quality of the special effects but I don’t think Colin Farrell will be quite as entertaining as Arnold Schwatzenegger. 

     I read one article about the new version that said they aren’t spending as much time on Mars, which I’ve heard is more faithful to the source material (which I’ve never read) but would be an awful shame if it were true.  I really like the baddies they’ve casted but I think having Quiad’s wife and love interest basically look like the same person is a mistake (sorry I cannot tell Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale apart).

    At any rate, I bought a shirt with three boobs on it to wear to the movie and I am hoping for the best with this remake!

  3. jokerdas

    First thing’s first!!!  The original Total Recall was a great movie. Ah-nold was in his peak. Snappy one-liners, great action, lots of explosions and special effects.  Regardless of how closely it was adapted from a story.

    I saw the movie long before I knew it was actually an adaptation. After learning it was a PK Dick story who also wrote Ubik (another alternate reality story I actually recommend!) I was intrigued.

    Now, if the Total Recall reboot is closer to the original PK Dick story, great! If not, oh well, it is another interpretation of a story, but does not instantly mean it will suck eggs automatically because it is a remake. Many remakes are still good.  The 1982 John Carpenter’s The Think was actually a reboot of an old 1951 black and white film The Thing From Outer Space. AND Carpenter’s version SHUCKING ROCKED!!! Head spiders!!!!! That’s all I have to say about that! Admittedly, I have not seen the newest The Thing re-reboot, but 1982 set the bar high for me.

    I may not go the theater to see the new Total Recall, but I will rent it when it is availible.

    Perhaps FDO can return to his movie reviews with a visit to this new film.  What do other junkies think? Give us your awesome take on the movie, Scott? Maybe make your own trailer?

    Any junkies think a remake is better than an original? Name it, my junkie mind wants to know!

  4. scottsigler

    It’s too late for NUEROMANCER, don’t you think? The whole point of that book was that it predicted online worlds and avatars. Now that those things are commonplace (Second Life, MMOs), it’s not really that stunning anymore (not bagging on the book, it’s lights-out legendary). I can see the 20-somethings in movie-land saying, “so?” Will anyone under 30 care about such things when they have lived with them for most of, if not all of, their lives?

  5. Kind_Simian

    It’s important to realize that the original had a lot more to do with Cobra: Space Adventure (a Buichi Terasawa manga) than anything PKDick wrote. If the new one is actually tracking closer to the credited source, well, that counts for something 😉

  6. Texpundit


    Word is they’re working on a Neuromancer movie right now and rumor has it that Mark Wahlberg could play Case. Not exactly who I picture when I think “Case”.
  7. occupy_my_rocktopi

    In general I think remakes are a mistake.  But in the case of Total Recall I thought I had read that the remake better follows the original book storyline, which I would kinda like to see.