Tag Archives: Hollywood

Franchises and remakes: Same old story or a fresh perspective? | Feature | Entertainment

ScarfaceRolling out a re-tread of a tried and tested idea is (ironically) far from a new concept – in fact it has delivered some of the best films, games and even songs out there – but it also has a lot to answer for.

Tried and tested?

Look, a shiny new suit! What do you mean it looks exactly the same as the old one? Quiet I say!
Look, a shiny new suit! What do you mean it looks exactly the same as the old one? Quiet I say!

At present, only one or two films in IMDB’s top 250 are full remakes (though many are adapted from other sources such as books), so what is that makes Hollywood in particular so fond of taking a story for another spin?

The box office tells a different story however, with far more remakes getting a look in. Most recent of these is Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield, which controversially re-introduced the character last year, just 10 years after Tobey Maguire became the web-slinger in 2002. Of course, this case is technically a ‘re-boot’, which the viewing public seem to be more receptive to and forgiving of.

Sometimes, the remake is more successful than the original, such as Scarface (above) or The Man Who Knew Too Much, and can even go own to spawn a franchise of its own. With such inconsistency, it can be difficult to pick out whether the film has been judged on its own merits, or compared to its predecessor, something which often happens with a franchise.

The power of the franchise

Look into my eyes, boy
“What do you mean there isn’t another book?!”

In film in particular, there is a big emphasis on the strength of franchises. For the studio big-wigs, the box office numbers are king, so films can carry on for near-countless iterations before dying out, just because viewers are bought into the franchise. Often the subsequent films don’t even have the same characters, or actors, such as in later instalments of Home Alone or The Bourne Legacy.

In numbers terms, film series like Harry Potter or Twilight make great sense to studios, and so they continue to be churned out year after year, but will their massive commercial success mean they will never fall victim to being remade? (Well, it would give someone else a chance to play a slightly more emotive Bella).

It’s in the game

Dead stare-y heroin Jill Valentine wished she'd brought that HD grenade launcher
Dead stare-y heroin Jill Valentine wished she’d brought that HD grenade launcher

For games there are a variety of different types of remake. Popular with publishers at the moment is the ‘HD re-release’ (see Metal Gear Solid HD Collection). Not a remake per se, this allows games-makers to slap some hi-def polish on a game from 10 years ago and release it as a collection, which often serves to bring the younger gaming audience up to date in time for a new release in the franchise.

Another option, which is more costly and time-consuming, is the full remake, which often takes the game back to basics and gives it a full visual re-working, even adding in new content, such as Halo Anniversary or the Resident Evil Gamecube edition.

Play it again, Sam

When will it end?
When will it end?

The music industry re-releases songs like they are going out of fashion (in fact, a lot of the time, because they are going out of fashion), with a new Rolling Stones or Beatles ‘definitive’ Greatest Hits collection out every few years.

Music gets away with it somehow, perhaps due to it’s ‘timeless’ nature, but where it does drop the ball is the cover song. The lowest of all remakes, this takes a song we know and love and often minces it into a slurry which is poison to our ears. Case in point is anything uttered by hyperactive hair enthusiasts Jedward in the past few years.

On the other hand, a re-imagining can offer a new perspective to a song, such as Gary Jules’ more sombre and more thoughtful rendition of ‘Mad World’, or Gabrielle Aplin’s thoughtful and more sombre rendition of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’. It just goes to show that the whole concept of recycling isn’t a massive waste of time as many have speculated.

So, what’s the point?

Classics like this would never exist if it weren't for remakes, just don't mention Ocean's Twelve. Did. Not. Happen.
Classics like this would never exist if it weren’t for remakes, just don’t mention Ocean’s Twelve. Did. Not. Happen.

As consumers we have a duty to demand the best. If we settle for less, that’s what we will end up with.

That said, there is value in the remake. Ocean’s Eleven and The Departed (to name just two) are way up our all-time top film lists, and the recent Devil May Cry reboot – DmC: Devil May Cry – proved to be far more engaging, stylish and entertaining than at least its immediate predecessor, but there is a danger in not taking a risk once in a while with a new IP.

The lesson is that just because a film, game or single might be from an established name, a long-running franchise, or based on a well-loved and well-used concept doesn’t guarantee its quality – good or bad.

So next time you splash your cash, think carefully whether you are investing because you like what you’ve already heard about it or just because you think you know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it can be a foregone conclusion of course, if you don’t like superheroes then probably the next Thor or X-Men isn’t for you, but sometimes if you take a risk and go in with no preconceptions, you might surprise yourself.

James Michael Parry

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Escapism vs Realism: What is Entertainment? | Film and Gaming | This Is Entertainment

Some people might insist that entertainment as an entity exists as a ‘way out’ from the stresses and hardships of everyday life, but why then do games and films so often strive to be ‘realistic’?

Surely if we just wanted to escape from reality (without turning to hallucinogenic substances), then the most attractive prospect would be to jump into something completely different from our everyday lives.

Take Super Mario for example. One of the quintessential platformers, there aren’t many of us who navigate pits of lava, turtles throwing hammers and flatten grumpy-looking, mushroom-shaped creatures on a daily basis.

Later Mario titles have arguably become even more unrealistic, adding talking fire extinguishers and intergalactic flight, and the titles sell in the hundreds of thousands. Perhaps this argument is a foregone conclusion then?

Not quite so simple in 2012. According to vgchartz.com, role-playing epic Diablo III takes the top spot, a clear point for the escapism camp, and three different Mario titles are in the top ten. On the other hand Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 remains at sixth and eighth on the multi-format global sales chart after a massive 39 weeks on sale.

MW3 is a game which seeks to immerse you into a world of guns, shooting and slow-motion breaching (before more shooting). While this isn’t the sort of thing the average person would get up to on a day to basis (we hope), it is presented in a highly detailed and ‘realistic’ way. From here it’s easy to begin to appreciate how blurred the lines between escapism and realism are.

In the first days of console gaming there was no chance of you mistaking Pac-Man for a real person just wandering down dark alleys looking for pills and trying to avoid his dealers – the poor guy was made up of about 12 pixels and didn’t have any legs – but now with the level of detail capable my modern technology you can very nearly almost be lured into thinking there really is such a thing as dragons from the likes of Skyrim.

In film too the harsh realities of the past decade or so have bled through into Hollywood’s presentation of much-loved characters. Batman successfully shed its campish past for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005. British institution James Bond followed suit and underwent a gritty reboot the following year with Casino Royale. Spiderman too returned to his more ‘real’ comic book roots for Andrew Garfield’s turn as the webslinger only this year.

Clearly escapism for escapism’s sake still exists, exemplified by the mere existence of The Expendables 2, but the new normal seems to be geared towards giving consumers a dose of reality.

There is a flaw in this plan though – people don’t like it when things get too real.

There has been a lot of fan backlash from the reboot or Devil May Cry: DMC. Undoubtedly the ‘new look’ Dante is grounded in a much more ‘real’ universe, albeit with crazy demonic stuff going on. Many fans of the original games took objection to the re-imagining of the character of someone more grounded and supposedly relatable, while others were just averse to change in the first place.

Tomb Raider too has his the ‘realism’ button pretty hard and there has been plenty of discussion whether it is necessary or appropriate to tackle the issue of rape – even in the context of the development of the character.

Undeniably though, horrible things do happen, and for gaming and films to be taken seriously as artistic mediums, they have to tackle sensitive issues. Film has a clear head start, having delivered countless classics over the years revered as taboo-breakers and genre-definers.

With games, it’s more of an uphill struggle, since the medium already has a long way to go to be respected by fellow industries as more than just ‘something kids and teenagers do’, let alone by the public in general.

Could tackling ‘real’ issues help? Perhaps, but it’s only worth doing if that’s what gamers actually want, which brings us back to the debate in question.

Reality is huge, but imagination is limitless, so with nothing but technical stumbling blocks to hold developers and directors back, entertainment should be striving to push the boundaries and show us things we have never seen or experienced before.

Whether that is something relatable, intimate and personal or off-the-wall, crazy and just good fun is up to us. If we as the people enjoying these products don’t give things which are a bit different a chance, then there will be less chances taken by the big studios, and we’ll miss out on things like Inception on the big screen and Bulletstorm on the small.

In the end, escapism and realism aren’t as much at odds as you might assume from first glance, and there is certainly place for both in the entertainment world – it all depends on what you feel like.

James Michael Parry
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