Top 5 Movie Remakes
Remakes are, without fail, grumbled at. Amidst ill-informed claims that the remake in question won't ever live up to the original, they're frequently used as examples of why Hollywood sucks. I've got news for you: Hollywood doesn't suck because of remakes, it sucks because it's full of people afraid to take any risks. A good remake does just that, and then some; it is bold enough to attempt reviving a loved film, and (if it's really, really good) it takes things in a bold new direction.
I'm glaring very hard in your direction, Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake.
So here are the five remakes I deem to be the best. If there are any you feel belong here, please leave comments with a minimum of snakiness in the comments section!
Originally directed by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972, and based on the 1961 book by Stanislaw Lem, Solaris is a classic. Tarkovsky made some… let's call them dark films. Ponderous, articulate and at times thrillingly morose, his style lent itself perfectly to the sci-fi genre. Solaris is a story which would be ruined by revealing too many details, but I will say this: when Steven Sodedbergh and George Clooney released their remake in 2002, a labour of love between marquee names, critics lost their shit. Well, I lost mine, as did pretty much every other film academic I was in touch with at the time.
The book, the original film and the remake are all different, but for my money (of which I have precious little), Soderbergh's is perfect. It has one of the best film scores of all time courtesy of Cliff Martinez, it's perfectly shot, edited and paced, and Clooney gives a powerhouse performance. Imagine David Lynch in space. There. You intrigued?
I'm not even going to put a trailer here. Instead, here's a piece from the soundtrack entitled First Sleep.
4. A Fistful of Dollars
Sergio Leone, having pretty much interned on 1949 masterpiece The Bicycle Thief, was hungry for subject matter, so in 1964 he created a bold spaghetti western take on Kurosawa's 1961 masterpiece Yojimbo. It's an unofficial remake, but the influences go further than just the occasional nod, with both stories charting the tale of a wandering hero who enters a town torn asunder by rival gangs, then proceeds to play said gangs off one another.
It kicks off the Man with No Name trilogy (For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly pick up where Fistful leaves off, although one could argue The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is a prequel), and features a killer score by Ennio Morricone. It also marks the point in history when Clint Eastwood went from a bit player to an A-list legend.
This is pre-chair talking, obviously.
Wow. Trailers sure have improved, haven't they?
Zatoichi is tricky, because it's more than just a remake; it's a reboot, and it's also the continuation of a series of films and TV shows that span decades. Takeshi Kitano, actor, director, writer and maniac, decided to remake the long-running Japanese story of Zatoichi, play the lead character, dye his hair blonde, and infuse the 2003 film with bizarre musical numbers. The end result is sheer genius, and I've yet to meet a person who wasn't utterly won over by the time the credits rolled.
The character of Zatoichi, incidentally, is a profoundly compelling one: a blind swordsman who wanders feudal Japan as a masseuse. So he's pretty much Daredevil.
Take Brian DePalma at the height of his powers (both directorial and supernatural), Oliver Stone writing the screenplay, Pacino giving the performance of a lifetime, and Giorgio Moroder dousing the whole film in a synth-heavy score, and you've got the ultimate remake. The original Scarface, helmed by Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht, came out in 1932 and is generally regarded as one of the finest gangster films of the genre.
But the 1983 remake—a bizarre, angry and borderline arrogant tale of a psychopath's dizzying climb towards a pile of cocaine so big you could hide a house inside it—is an utterly wonderful movie. Depressing, overstimulating and unbelievably gratuitous, but wonderful.
1. Oceans Eleven
THERE. I SAID IT. For me, the greatest remake of all time is the total, glorious, genius 2001 overhaul of the 1960 Rat Pack-filled original. So what if the sequels sucked? Oceans Eleven is like a huge, brutal, gleaming game of mousetrap. Very rarely does a heist film actually work, but this one does. Also, Clooney. Clooney Clooney Clooney.