We exist in a climate of remakes and sequels. It’s a cycle that seems like it may never end, with each and every popular commodity from the 80s and 90s due up for a reboot almost every year. Time-honored childhood classics such as Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have or will be risen from their movie graves, brought to life to make even more money for their respective studios. Because of this, Back to the Future represents an incredibly unique case, due in large part to the very special contract Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale signed with Universal and Amblin way back in 1984.
The exact terms of the contract are about as straighforward as they can get: Gale and Zemeckis retain complete control over the rights to any remake, sequel, or spinoff to Back to the Future until the day they die. When asked by The Telegraph as to whether or not he’d consider the possibility of a remake or sequel, Zemeckis made his thoughts abundantly clear.
Oh, God no. That can’t happen until both Bob and I are dead. And then I’m sure they’ll do it, unless there’s a way our estates can stop it… I mean, to me, that’s outrageous. Especially since it’s a good movie. It’s like saying ‘Let’s remake Citizen Kane. Who are we going to get to play Kane?’ What folly, what insanity is that? Why would anyone do that?
Would Zemeckis and Gale stand to make a whole pile of money bringing their beloved property back to the big screen? If Jurassic World told us anything, the answer is a firm yes. With that said, it’s more than a little refreshing to see both filmmakers pass over that profit to defend their art; something not often seen in the film industry anymore.
Zemeckis just about hits the nail right on the head, too, in noting the pointlessness of remaking a good movie. Almost every studio will greenlight a remake for one simple reason, and we can tell you that reason definitely isn’t “trying to improve on the original with a better, more relevant story.” That simple reasoning boils down to money culled from a built-in appeal from universally loved properties of the past. If meme and Internet culture have achieved one thing, it’s to give rise to nostalgia in quantities measured in the metric tons. Studios, in turn, scratch that nostalgia itch by taking the TV shows and movies the 18-29 year old generation grew up on, and bringing them back.
Back to the Future, on the other hand, won’t be part of that trend for purely artistic reasons. Could some talented writer/director combination hop in to make a halfway decent movie that would do well at the box office? Abso-freaking-lutely. And because Zemeckis and Gale own the core rights to Back to the Future, they’d make money hand-over-fist. Rather than force an unnecessary remake that’ll probably star Chris Pratt as Marty McFly, we see a staunch defense that flies in the face of the fundamental nature of the way movies are made today.
For that we applaud you, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. For as long as you may live and hopefully long after that, we hope your wishes are respected. Some old movies deserve a remake. Hell, some even demand it. Back to the Future and its two sequels fall into neither of these two categories. Now if you’ll excuse us, Chris Pratt is calling; we have to go watch Jurassic World.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest