Originals vs Remakes: The Film Face-off
Film buff Gemma Hurst – aka Popcorn Heart – has honoured us with another silver screened article; this time the movie connoisseur is pitting golden oldies against newcomers and answering the all important question of which is better, originals or remakes.
Old Dogs vs New Trick
There is no finer song on Earth than Hallelujah. Originally sung by the gravelly tones of Leonard Cohen in 1984, it exudes through the speakers so seductively and swells to bursting point in the chorus. An original that stands alone amongst competition. It’s also responsible for a quite raunchy scene in Watchmen (seriously, it is turn-your-radiator-to-the-highest-heat-in-the-winter hot). Ten years later, Jeff Buckley decided to cover this pivotal piece of music and created a haunting yet tender version which even today, basks beautifully amongst modern music. Untouchable, and a prime example where a newer piece of work eclipses the original.
Then, regrettably, we have Alexandra Burke’s take on the composition… Wow. It was more about her vocal gymnastics rather than the raw power that Hallelujah emitted. If you ever get time, have a gander at the lyrics. Put it this way – this song is not a call to attend a Christening, I can tell you. It was a sully on the good virtue of the song and an adaptation that the majority tend to gloss over with a proverbial paintbrush, hoping no one sees the bawdy graffiti marks on the wall.
Remakes are becoming popular trend in film, especially in recent times. There almost seems to be a monthly announcement of reboots of old, classic movies reimagined for today’s audience. From Disney to National Lampoon, Alien to Ghostbusters – everyone is milking the cash cow and hoping to make an expensive ice cream sundae out of it. So I thought I would look at ten different films of the original and the remake (no easy feat, I can concur). I wanted to see how they differ from each other, how they relate to their audiences of release dates and more importantly, which is better. So order the event via pay-per-view, open up a can of whoop ass and try not to fall asleep (as these kind of events tend to be on at 4am a la Mayweather vs Pacquiao).
Taxi vs Taxi
Original Released: 1998
Remake Released: 2004
A cool and charismatic taxi driver must team up with a bumbling police office to capture a gang of thieves. One wants the respect of their police comrades – the other just wants to drive, dammit.
- This quirky French action comedy works surprisingly well with it’s snappy dialogue and high octane car chase sequences. Even at the start with Danny (Samy Naceri) riding through the Parisian streets on a motorbike, weaving through the traffic like a furious snake with a rocket strapped to it. There’s more to France then stripy tops and a bicycle competition.
- The slapstick scenes genuinely raise a laugh, particularly when Emilien (the police officer in this particular film, played by Frédéric Diefenthal) unfortunately crashes his car into a butcher’s shop when being taught in an unfortunate driving lesson. It could have been worse – I failed when I hit the curb two minutes into my test.
- We see a young Marion Cotillard being utterly charming and proving her metal that she would flourish into an Oscar winner. The chemistry between her and Danny (Samy Naceri) sizzles more than when you order fajitas at a top notch Mexican restaurant.
- The partnership of Danny and Emilien is a joy to watch. The reluctance that Danny shows to help Emilien is gradually replaced with ideas and “back-watching”, and Emilien advances from a Mummy’s boy into a fully fledged, self-assured cop.
- The car chase scenes are used at opportune moments rather than every five seconds. From when we see Danny’s pimped-out taxi tear through the streets to the final action sequence’s bridge shot, they are filmed with finesse. It also teaches you to maybe drive on roads that are actually completed.
- The role of Danny is replaced with Queen Latifah, so the idea of switching gender for the remake is a good idea. They even pop her on a bike for the opening sequence rather than a motorised one. But Hollywood has made her not only ride through streets – they’ve introduced the subway, trains, bridges, a department store. Yeah, original Taxi. Take that.
- In the original film, the lawbreakers are a German group of robbers whose greed ultimately gets the best of them a la the bridge scene. This time around, we have Brazilian supermodel bad guys headed up by actual famous face Giselle, who plays gang leader Vanessa. The demographic audience is fully established (especially in the next point).
- There’s subtle sexuality, and then there’s full on wave-your-hands-in-the-air obviousness. One scene sees the villainous vixens take Lt. Robbins (Jennifer Esposito) hostage in exchange for a innocent lad. Vanessa then frisks Lt. Robbins for any wires – when I say frisk, I mean firmly grope and stroke in a provocative fashion to please the younger male audience. I suppose money needed to be made somewhere.
- It is pretty much the same storyline – man is sick in the very fast taxi car, they change the colour of the car to escape, that bridge scene – the only real original feel about the film is the inclusion of Queen Latifah as a main character. And Andy (Jimmy Fallon) being able to drive only if he is singing Natalie Cole’s This Will Be. Hardly changing the wheel (pun completely intended).
- The gravitation between Latifah and Fallon is lacking somewhat. I’ve seen more chemistry in a beaker of water with lithium dancing on the surface.
When remaking a film, it’s best to try and create a twist which can be a bit tricky. Taxi tries but ultimately fails by excluding a chunk of the original’s demographic. For real laughs and enjoyment, I think this one is quite an easy decision.
Ocean’s 11 vs Ocean’s Eleven
Original Released: 1960
Remake Released: 2001
Danny Ocean and eleven blokes all get together and plan a heist to rob targeted Las Vegas casinos. Thusly, pocketing a fair amount of money in the process. But will it all go to plan? (If you’ve seen the films, you’ll undoubtedly know the answer to this one).
- Firstly, this has The Rat Pack in it – if you ever want to make a film cooler than an ice sculpture of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze, then this is the way to do it. Sinatra, David Jr, Martin, Lawford, Bishop. They give the slickness that this film has been cemented in for decades.
- With that said, this was produced in 1960 and films in this time tended to be very drawn out and lengthy with dialogue. About 30 minutes could have been shaved off to make the film snappier. Hard to hack with a whisky hangover.
- Personally, I loved the scene where Sammy Davis Jr started to croon “Ee O Eleven” (and Dean Martin’s rendition of “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” – a prime example that this was a golden age of cinema. Not just showcasing the acting ability but the vocal chords of true superstars with stellar talent. It seems like now if you can play the spoons using your face as a base then voila – screen time.
- This film is quintessential 50s/60s. From the sophisticated bar fights in a strip club to the colourful opening credits that feel like a Walt Disney movie. Its class exudes through the pores of the score playing refreshingly in the background. Even the restrained true feelings of characters are not as explosive as those seen in a Nicolas Cage film (which we will cover later. Beware).
- The ending to this original strays away from a typical happy ending. It leaves a bit of a sour taste after all the cohesiveness of their plan. It somewhat is a downbeat feeling after the japes the gang encounter. But hey – at least it’s not like Marley and Me.
- An all star cast was always needed to reflect the star spectacle of the original. So what better way to enlist heavy hitters of Hollywood such as Pitt, Clooney, Damon, Garcia, Cheadle, Roberts and Gould to name but a few? More stars than a Butlins’ 90’s weekend.
- Steven Soderbergh is a dynamite director (see Solaris, Traffic and and Out of Sight if my statement is not believed) and he crafts this remake beautifully. Smoother than peanut butter without the bits in, the flow of the film fits perfectly for the modern audience. A visual masterpiece only made even more perfect with the hilarious failed detonator gag. It almost makes the film feel timeless, which is hard to achieve.
- If there was one slight snag, it would be the unusual approach of Don Cheadle’s British accent. The only explanation I can think of is that Cheadle graduated from the Dick Van Dyke School of Vocal Definition. With honours.
- The introduction to everybody in the gang feels established in the space of five minutes, whereas the original needed a good portion to define the characters. This could reflect today’s standards of storylines. You need to ensure that the audience are pledged throughout the feature – and Soderbergh masters this in a light and easy fashion.
- The end scene. I can only describe this as one of the most elegant and classy scenes I think is capable in cinematic history. The fountain show at The Bellagio. The orchestral arrangement of Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune. The way each gentleman walks away after pulling an intelligent and successful heist. Breathtaking.
Although it feels criminal to not validate the efforts of The Rat Pack, I truly believe that the newer version of Ocean’s Eleven completely revives the story in a new light and even gives the Hollywood ending the original gang so rightfully deserves.
Let the Right One In vs Let Me In
Original Released: 2008
Remake Released: 2010
A bullied young boy finds solace and common ground with a young girl. Seems innocent enough, except she enjoys feasting on the blood of the living. We all have our drawbacks, I suppose.
- I feel slightly biased as Let The Right One In resides in my top ten favourite films of all time. One of the biggest reasons why this is a phenomenal film is the author of the book of the same name wrote the screenplay (John Ajvide Lindqvist, book fans). It is one of the most true films adapted from a novel and is wonderful to see brought to life.
- The budding relationship between Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson) is both remarkable and heartbreaking at the same time. This is because of the presence of her guardian Håkan (Per Ragnar), which will become clearer towards the conclusion. Someone give the kid a break. Or at least an XBox One. That should relieve a bit of stress, at least.
- As the subject of vampires is the staple of this film, there is violence and gore. But it is filmed to an impeccable standard. The stark contrast with the snowy backdrop of a winter in Sweden with the rich crimson of spilled blood dominates the reason of the film.
- The pool scene. Well… if there was justice for Oskar, this scene will be the winner. This must be seen to be believed. Enough has already be said.
- It is a wonderful re-telling of the traditional vampire story. Away from all the teenage delight of the Twilight series, away from the stalking danger of Nosferatu – the mood is eerie yet sublime, uneasy yet hypnotic. A fine specimen for the genre.
- A two year gap for a remake to suddenly appear seems a bit excessive. It’s liking telling a marathon runner who’s just won their race to do a lap of honour – at least let them breathe, right?
- The grittiness of the original seems to be buffed and polished. They have made the role of Eli into Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), more beautiful and girly than the ambiguous interpretation of the previous. This is often seen within remakes – to make a somewhat ordinary looking appearance look like they’ve just stepped out of a talk show’s makeover special. However, Moretz is a superb actress and carries the conviction of the murderous vampire.
- To try and give its own individual stamp from the original, the car crash scene is spellbinding. The whole shot is a joy to watch and attempts to stand alone from Let The Right One In. It is an impressive moment shot within an inch of excellence.
- There seems to be more of an obvious threat with Oskar’s counterpart Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) than the original. The Swedish version had a quiet menace with Oskar’s bullies, however the tormentors of Owen seem a bit more brash and in-your-face. Yet this still makes the viewer uncomfortable to watch, as it should be.
- You get to see the promise-broken relationship between Owen and his father, something which the original did not cover too much on. This was an important area within the novel, so it was greatly appreciated to see not only the remake staying faithful to the story but covering grounds that the original did not have time to retrace.
Overall, both films do not stray away from the intent of what happens in the novel. Although the remake did tremendously well to adapt into an American version, it simply could not stand alone without its origin.
The Wicker Man vs The Wicker Man
Original Released: 1973
Remake Released: 2006
A man of the law goes to a remote island following the disappearance of a young girl. However there seems to be something a bit bizarre with the townspeople. It doesn’t look like this is going to end well.
- There are two words that make this film so iconic, so frightening and so well known – no, not massive stickman, but Christopher Lee. As Lord Summerisle, he revels in the eccentric yet enigmatic leader. Plus he sort of reminds me of that hotel character in Little Britain (just Google Little Britain Yessss. You know the one).
- Once Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives on Summerisle, this is when the film starts becoming a visual prog-rock album. Folk dancing around a maypole whilst singing a catchy ditty. A fancy dress party that Howie didn’t seem to get a chance to RSVP to. Britt Ekland writhing all over a wall whilst wearing not a stitch of clothing. Not an everyday occurrence in some places (insert own location joke here).
- The songs sung in The Wicker Man have a pagan influence, adding to the mystery of what is really happening on Summerisle. Music contributes a lot to the atmosphere of this film as we see it in the eyes of a Christian police sergeant who only knows his own religious beliefs. What seems like a celebration of their community is cruelly tainted in the film’s final moments.
- The Wicker Man itself. Even to this day, I cannot think of a more scarier creation than this. The fear that Howie conveys when met with is gloomy fate is a terror that we the audience share. He screams, “Oh My God” and “Jesus Christ” as a way of comfort in his faith, but the community of Summerisle are too strong of a force. The way how Howie attempts to sing a Christian hymn and is drowned out by the volume of the people of Summerisle. A joyful song with a sinister reason.
- The film unravels pure terror and we experience it the same time as Howie. This film is unapologetic in making the viewer feel unstable as it has its own agenda. In a time where the good guy always wins, the film wanted you to feel that hey – this could be real life. And real life doesn’t always reward good deeds. Now there’s something to think about before going to sleep.
- Now I love watching films and really enjoy writing about them as well. I am always willing to give films a chance and will hold my opinion until the end of the film. I have indeed completed watching the duration of this remake… I can safely say I will never get those 102 minutes back.
- The location has now moved to an American island but you can’t help but feel is it a serious film or a spoof. The townspeople find every opportunity to be as strange as strange could possibly be. They might as well been carrying neon signs attached to their heads saying, “We are undeniably bonkers and you have every right not to believe us”. Or with every sentence they should have just obvious winked to the camera.
- Nicolas Cage… Gone are the days of Adaptation, Leaving Las Vegas and Con Air. Instead, we are forced to watch the incredible Cage Face. For those of you unfamiliar, this look consists of wide eyes, a mouth often open to great effect and a flash of those famous pearly whites. For maximum Cage Face, skip to the end when he gets some sort of bee helmet strapped to his head. You shall not be disappointed.
- For a film that is supposed to be tense and creepy, it sure is unintentionally funny. A personal highlight (although if it was real life, it would be incredibly grim) is when the people of Summerisle of contained the Cage and need to make sure he doesn’t run away. Cue a sledgehammer to the shins – ouch indeed, dear reader. However, it is Cage’s performance of reacting to this. More ham than a supermarket’s delicatessen.
- They also switch the gender of Christopher Lee’s ominous role. Summerisle is now headed up by the imaginatively titled Sister Summerisle (Ellen Burstyn). She is about as scary as if Mickey Mouse played the role of Hannibal Lecter. The Braveheart style make-up towards the end does nothing to strike the fear of hearts as Lee did all those years ago.
I’m running out of words to explain just how awful the remake is. For genuine scares, the 1970s will always win. For laughs and a cuddly toy, watch the remake. But at your own peril. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vs The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Original Released: 2009
Remake Released: 2011
A disgraced journalist and a clever young hacker team up to solve the mystery of a young woman who has been missing for 40 years. Can they solve the mystery? Or can they solve… each other? (Dramatic music on cue).
- The second Swedish film in the article, Stieg Larsson’s first volume in the Millennium trilogy came out to a thunderous reception. For those who read the novel understand the slow slog it takes to finally get to the story. With this film, no such pain!
- Noomi Rapace captures the essence of Lisbeth Salander impeccably. Many argued when the remake was announced, no one could match this performance. But we will get to that later. As the socially awkward but deplorably abused hacker, Rapace quickly gains the audience support through triumph and tragedy. Her pain is something we the viewer want to reach into the screen and make it right. A career best in Rapace’s catalogue of characters.
- Again, I’m talking to those who have already read the book. That bit. With Lisbeth and her newly appointed guardian. When she asks for more money after her laptop is stolen via a mugging. It is even worse to stomach it on screen. A brutal moment in the story and it is gut-wrenching to witness. Lisbeth will get her justice, but it is a horrifying way to claim it.
- The dynamics between Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) are strong and make it a memorable partnership since Turner and Hooch (and one of them was a canine, for crying out loud). They need each other without realising it – they are a ying and yang that compliment the case and get the results.
- It is a wonderful adaptation of the book that, like Let The Right One In, stays true to the ethos of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Now if only someone had told Jack Black before signing up to Gulliver’s Travels.
- So this time around, we are treated to the acting stylings of James Bond and the girl at the beginning bit of The Social Network who dumps Mark Zuckerberg (Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, respectively). And you know? They fit the roles like steak and kidney mixed together in a pie.
- How can we forget the opening credits? In my opinion, one of the most memorable way to open a movie since Mr Craig’s previous work as a certain secret agent. Karen O belting out Immigrant Song like a war cry. The thick, viscous oil that oozes into shapes and beings. The references to each novel in the Millennium trilogy. Everything foreshadows exactly what you are about to watch through symbolism. I could write an essay on the opening alone. But for now, let’s just say David Fincher masterfully sets the tone for the movie.
- When the remake was announced, many cried that Noomi Rapace WAS Lisbeth Salander. So Rooney Mara had some big proverbial shoes to fill. Did she deliver? An Oscar nomination and praise from critics certainly said so. She is still able to bring the vulnerability to a damaged girl who still wants to fire on all cylinders.
- With a remake happening so close to the original’s release, the concern was if it could establish itself on its own two feet. This remake stood tall and brought a new dimension for a contemporary audience to enjoy. There will always be certain types of people who will flat out refuse to watch subtitled films. This remake is such a great example of translating the original successfully.
- Daniel Craig delivers a fine example of Mikael, however I can’t help but feel Nyqvist out-performed him. This is Mara’s film and rightfully propelled her career. As Craig is more known for the Bond series, this is just another recognised accolade for him.
This is the closest one out of the films we’ve looked at, but I have to say my gut instinct will always favour the Swedish. You can thank Rapace for a life-affirming performance – how she never got an Oscar nod is beyond me.
So what have we learnt? Well chances are if a film has been publicised as getting remade, it is not going to be better than the first edition. However if it involves Brad Pitt eating in nearly every scene, a bit of easy smooth jazz in the musical score and smart removal of cash in big bank vaults, then it could be an exception.
It is worth pointing out that under no circumstances is it a good idea to pitch a classic British horror with the man who previously had his face switched over with John Travolta .
There are, of course, so many more examples of this out there in the movie kingdom (I’m sure you have other activities in your schedules to attend to). Which remake outshines its original counterpart? Which films should not have been thought of for the revised treatment? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
AKA Popcorn Heart