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The Life of P

When I Rule The World II: Hollywood Remakes

We all have grand plans for when we’re in charge. Instead, this series of posts embraces the little things that would make the world a little better for everyone. Or just a little less infuriating for me.

When I rule the world…
…Hollywood remakes will be limited to the US Midwest.

I have clearly mellowed with age. In the past I railed absolutely against Hollywood remakes and would have banned them outright. However someone explained the reason for their existence and the folly of my outrage very succinctly: “they aren’t made for you.” He went on to explain that there are people living in the US Midwest who, throughout their entire lives, will never see a subtitled film. Is it really better that they never be exposed at all to the ideas and concepts explored in foreign cinema? If I go and see one of these remakes, which is not really intended for my consumption, that’s my own fault.

I found myself in reluctant agreement. The problem is, of course, that the gargantuan budgets mean these films are pushed out to the entire world and marketed in such a way that many of the original films are drowned out. Many of you will know my pet hate here is Vanilla Sky, which embodies all I hate about remakes* and yet most people have never even heard of its superior (if less slick-looking) predecessor, the Spanish Abre Los Ojos (“Open Your Eyes”).

In the Midwest, fine. Here in the literate world, not so much. We can read subtitles and we can watch the originals. Limiting geographic release will greatly reduce the income from such remakes which will undoubtedly reduce the financing. All that saved money can be pumped into proper marketing and distribution of the originals, which will become more profitable in turn. And once people start watching more foreign fare, they may find it contagious.

I accept this plan is not without drawbacks. We would lose stellar remakes like The Departed (you did know it was a remake of the Hong Kong Infernal Affairs trilogy: they made that clear, right?), and perfectly adequate remakes like Let Me In might drop in quality. Yet that is, I would argue, a small price to pay.

* Vanilla Sky did not just take the film rights; it also nabbed the original’s lead actress — one Miss Penelope Cruz — and made her act in English, as if this would somehow elicit a better performance rather than a stilted one in which she was too focused on her lines in an unfamiliar language. The most obvious sign of the director’s cavalier disrespect to the source material lies in the name change. Not only does “Vanilla Sky” have nothing to do with the film itself, he revealed in an interview that it was simply a title he’d always wanted to use — in fact he nearly gave his previous film that name!


  1. There was a tenuous connection to vanilla sky – it was the name of Tom Cruise’s character’s favourite painting that the sky looked like the whole time during the film. Abre los ojos is a far superior film though!

    I hate to say the following exceptions to your rule (but I guess they prove it!):
    Evil Dead 2
    Casino Royale
    Star Trek (granted, not the same story, but better imagined)
    Bram Stoker’s Dracula

  2. Well, okay, but they had to insert that just to justify the title rather than the other way around…

    Your list makes an interesting point which is that I guess my focus was remakes of foreign cinema. Hollywood remaking, rebooting or adding sequels to its own franchises I suppose I take less issue with. To an extent, anyway.

    On your list:
    Evil Dead 2 – is this a reference to the cancelled Evil Dead remake?
    Casino Royale – the first film was a spoof outside of the subsequent Bond franchise so I don’t really feel the new one was a “remake” as such
    Star Trek – similarly, despite sharing a name it’s more a rebooted sequel but a totally different film as you mentioned
    Narnia – good point
    Bram Stoker’s Dracula – I’m still not sold on Coppola’s version, although I definitely accept there are several good interpretations of Dracula
    Hairspray – no comment

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"Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has."

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