When most people think about the 80’s they envision bright clothing, original Nintendo and lots of movies about dancing and teen love. Although this is a fairly accurate snapshot of the era, 80’s film output has also provided remake fodder for the past 30 years, seen in the large number of classics rebooted for modern audiences. When a film is remade or revamped it has to impress two kinds of viewers, loyal fans of the original and new viewers who travel to the theatre with or without the knowledge that the film is a classic remade for their viewing pleasure.
Rearticulating classics can do films justice or a grave disservice that can make viewers want to forget that they had ever seen the film. The slew of 80’s remakes can be divided into the categories of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Starting with ‘the good’, ‘21 Jump Street’ is a hilarious remake that blends enough of the original series with the humor of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum , while including cameos of original cast members, Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise . Being true to what audiences would expect, the film includes lots of inappropriate jokes, epic gun fights and a battle to fight crime. Part of the charm of the film is that it openly acknowledges its remake status through jokes and cameos and doesn’t try to be an exact duplicate of the original.
‘Tron: Legacy’ employs the same technique, of reinterpreting, not duplicating the story. In the remake, Kevin Flynn is visited by his son Sam inside a computer controlled world, which is a slight variation that acknowledges the original film. The film is a great example of a quality remake, which captures a visually impressive, digital world that is painted by light. Using the elements of the classic storyline, ‘Tron: Legacy’ modernises the film through the use of CGI and the rhythms of Daft Punk as the film’s soundtrack. This unique piece of cinema has even become a cartoon, allowing audiences of all ages to appreciate elements of the original film, even if they don’t know it.
Not all remakes are great additions to the viewing experience of fans; some lose the essence of what the film was or intended to be. ‘Clash of the Titans’ is one of the greatest films from the 80’s as it combines inventive filmmaking and mythic storytelling. However, the recent remake grasps little of the original films presence and timeless quality, which made it something to remember. The majority of the special effects were done through stop motion animation giving the film a unique and mythic quality that most viewers remember fondly. The remake however, is just an action film loosely situated alongside Greek myth, and offers a simplistic snapshot of a hero fighting giant creatures.
Subsequently, films such as ‘A-team’ and ‘Red Dawn’ pay little homage to their original counterparts, besides the fact that they attempt to follow the same storyline. Within the realm of 80’s film there are many failures, successes and cult classic that should remain untouched by the remaking craze of recent years. ‘Karate Kid’ is one film that shouldn’t have been remade, mostly because fans of the original wouldn’t accept a remake produced by Will Smith , and starring his son. ‘Wax on Wax off’ is an iconic phrase from the film that should remain in infamy and not be reinterpreted. Often by rearticulating and remaking films from the 80’s like ‘Karate Kid’, they dilute the quality and presence of the original, thus don’t add anything new to the filmmaking, they only poorly imitate it. The film ‘Dirty Dancing’ is also slated for a remake in 2013, and considering that it is the fine work of the late Patrick Swayze, the remake will have to be impeccable to not be shunned by fans of 80’s filmmaking. Often the quality of the original film is not brought into question, as the reason for rebooting the franchise is to make a profit by cashing in on nostalgia.
Unfortunately, this profit oriented view will be true for many remakes in the coming years. Paying closer attention to the artistic elements of the original 80’s films or by openly alluding that the films are remakes, in turn creates a final product that is more engaging. That being said, it is difficult to reproduce a film that captures both new and old audiences, while also becoming a meaningful addition to the realm of 80’s film. Whether viewers are fans of the original films or discovering them for the first time, the filmmaking of the 80’s offered a unique perspective of life; one which is still being imitated three decades later.