Reboots, Remakes, and Rehashes: Hollywood and the Ugly Truth

Editor's note: Coalton wrote the first draft of this on July 13, two days before the Ghostbusters 2016 film debuted in theaters. His predictions have proven wholly accurate, as it was met with almost universal critical disdain. It has made a hefty chunk of cash--$122.4 million--but has yet to make back its production budget. 

Every year, especially during the summer blockbuster season, we get the same exact complaint, concern, or conversation from the internet: 

"X franchise is being rebooted/remade. Why don't they just leave X franchise alone? Hollywood is going to ruin my childhood! Don't remake X franchise. It's better left alone!"

We had this conversation last year for Jurassic World. We had this conversation in 2014 for the Robocop and Annie remakes. In 2013, CarrieOldboy and Evil Dead had remakes. Red Dawn and Total Recall were remade in 2012. I could go on. I could go backwards in time each year for probably a decade or two, because Hollywood and its studios have perpetuated continuous remakes, reboots, rehashes and regurgitations in the film industry for several decades.

I'm not saying remakes or reboots are inherently a bad thing. Sometimes, film remakes can enhance the legacy of the franchise. If a film remake accomplishes two things--1) expanding on the premise or the scope delivered by the original, and 2) respecting the legacy of the original--then it can sometimes succeed in triumphant ways. One of my favorite films of all time, John Carpenter's remake of The Thing, did exactly this, and it still holds up as one of the best horror films ever made. Some remakes are even pretty decent. But for every The Jungle Book, there is a Clash of the Titans. For every Karate Kid, there is a Conan the Barbarian

The aforementioned conversation has now arisen again for the newest studio recycling dump, now in the form of a Ghostbusters remake. Hollywood has an obsession, a hunger, an unquenchable appetite for remaking and rebooting classic franchises, consequences and fanbases aside. Still, even though this cycle has perpetuated itself for decades (and has been a constant in the film industry), the widespread consensus among moviegoers is that people don't want remakes. People want original properties. Even if the story is not new, a reboot can contribute original interpretations or more profound musings on the themes originally offered by the films that inspired them.

Well, unfortunately, that consensus, while a valid opinion, turns out more often than not to be a pipe dream. Because the reality is this: remakes can often make mad, mad money.

So far, I've listed fourteen films that have been remade in this article. While not every one of them have been financial successes, and some have been outright forgotten and trashed flops, a good number of them have been financial juggernauts. Everyone talks about how bad the Clash of the Titans remake is, so it was a colossal misfire from the studio, right? Wrong: the remake made almost $500 million in its worldwide gross. Jurassic World became one of the most profitable reboots of all time at a worldwide gross of over $1.6 BILLION. These films and films like them turned out to be critic-proof, as despite receiving mixed reviews and pretty hefty criticisms, their flaws did not prevent the public from going out in droves to see them.

Hollywood wants to have you believe that the Ghostbusters remake arose out of a need for more female roles in film. Just like Hollywood wanted you to believe the Clash of the Titans remake would provide a good franchise to bring in updated CGI effects into a mythological power fantasy film. Just like Hollywood wanted you to believe Oldboy could work as an English film, with Korean cultural contexts removed and half-baked attempts at homages to the iconic Korean revenge masterpiece. But the facts and the research prove that, ultimately, these films are remade, rebooted, recycled, and regurgitated out of a purely financial hunger.

Hollywood keeps rebooting its classic franchises because it doesn't trust visionary directors or brilliant writers to come up with the next best idea. The business juggernauts at Fox, Warner Bros, Lionsgate, Sony, and most other studios have potentially turned down the next 2001: A Space Odyssey from an eccentric auteur in favor of a Caddyshack remake (this remake hasn't happened yet, but Hollywood wants it really badly. Remember the Vacation remake? Oh, no worries, nobody else does either.)

While this decades-long trend in constant recycling stifles creativity and leaves cinephiles frustrated and angry, movie studios aren't completely at fault here. If the public TRULY didn't want these films remade, all they would need to do is refuse to purchase tickets to see them. Or at lest, if they truly want to see them, instead choosing to wait to view them for free on streaming services like Netflix. As many of these remakes have often required hefty budgets, the trend in rebooting would die off due to lack of interest and low box office grosses. Unfortunately, while a vocal minority of moviegoers will flock to sites like reddit and 4chan to broadcast their hatred of Hollywood's newest regurgitation, the complacent majority will prove that film remakes can remain a good idea for film executives as they continue to succeed financially in the box office.

Make no mistake: this is going to happen with the Ghostbusters remake. The average moviegoer will see it, and they will see it not because of the new, all-female cast, or the gratuitous marketing, or even the awful, completely tonally bankrupt trailers. They will see it because of capitalism's ultimate weapon: brand recognition. The goodwill built up from the original '80s films will persuade both newcomers and franchise faithfuls to see it, the former of which will see it without nostalgia goggles, perhaps just wanting to be introduced into the universe in the quickest, most modern way possible, and the latter of which will see it with a preconceived judgment already in mind, whether hoping for it to be good or at least hoping to form more complete thoughts on why it may not be good. But will the public remember this film in six months, or even three or four? That remains to be seen, but if previous remakes from previous years have taught audiences anything, this remains doubtful.

Perhaps the reboot market will eventually die off. Maybe one day, far in the distant future, when our public conscience has transcended to accomodate higher forms of entertainment, we will finally see that we have no need for reboots or remakes. Or, perhaps the opposite will happen: maybe we will see more The Thing type remakes as filmmaking styles and technological advancements progress. Whatever the case, as long as the public perpetuates a consistent complacency to pay full price to consume the same product they consumed thirty, forty or so years ago, we will continue to see remakes, good or bad, and this conversation will come back around every year, and round and round we go.

Also, I'm not sexist, so don't even open that can of worms. I'm all for more female roles in film if the film itself calls for it, but Ghostbusters never was the franchise that deserved this type of reimagining. 

Sources:
http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=clashofthetitans10.htm
http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=jurassicpark4.htm