Everyone loves a good cover version of a classic song, but the same cannot be said when it comes to film. Sometimes a movie remake is a chance to add a new perspective to an old story, but more often than not, Hollywood uses them as a cheap tool to cash-in on an old property or a popular film from abroad without investing the story with any trace of originality.
At best, these kinds of reboots fade away as soon as they hit theaters, but at their worst, they tarnish the memory of the original film. Let’s highlight this trend of lazy unoriginality in Hollywood by reviewing some of the worst movie remakes from the past five years.
The boundary-pushing South Korean revenge thriller Oldboy, was always too singular and stylized a film to translate into a strong American remake. However, the version we got was even worse than anticipated. Spike Lee, who helmed the 2013 remake starring Josh Brolin, tries to emulate the original’s visual flair with mixed results, but the changes to the story somehow make the central mystery even more convoluted, confusing, disgusting, and — most egregiously — boring.
2. The Thing
Half-remake and half-prequel, the 2011 version of The Thing is missing almost everything that made John Carpenter’s 1982 version (itself a remake of the tamer 1951 film, The Thing from Another World) endure as a beloved cult classic. Gone are the ’80s practical effects that made the titular alien so terrifying, replaced with sub-video game CGI visuals. Gone is the easygoing banter and the unbearable tension of seeing characters we like fall prey to the alien, replaced by bland dialogue and a cast of interchangeable Norwegian men (with the notable exception of the always likable Mary Elizabeth Winstead) whose deaths carry roughly zero weight.
3. Straw Dogs
Like Oldboy, Straw Dogs is a film so singular in its violent, nihilistic vision of the world that the very idea of a remake seems laughable. The 1971 original, found director Sam Peckinpah and star Dustin Hoffman creating an atmosphere of relentless dread before unleashing the tension in a chilling climax. The new version relocates the plot from rural England to the Deep South but otherwise simply goes through the motions of the original while removing all the nuance that made the film’s questions of morality stick in the viewer’s head. The remake seems to disappear from memory as soon as it’s over.
The 2014 American take on Japan’s most infamous giant lizard admittedly isn’t as bad as the hopelessly cheesy 1998 version directed by Roland Emmerich, but it is a lot more boring. For the first half-hour, actor Bryan Cranston invests the film with all the emotional intensity he can, but after his (spoilers!) unexpected death, the bland Aaron Taylor-Johnson takes over protagonist duties, abandoning his family and jet-setting across the Pacific just so he can follow the movements of Godzilla.
Oh, have I not mentioned Godzilla himself yet? That’s because he’s barely in the film, mere background dressing for the uninteresting human characters.
5. Cabin Fever
Sometimes it’s a relief to see a bad film remade every now and then, since it offers the chance to see a familiar premise done right. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for the 2016 remake of Eli Roth’s aggressively off-putting 2002 film, Cabin Fever. The movie sees the stupidest teenagers ever succumbing to a flesh-eating infection during a woodland getaway. This new version reuses all the tired cliches of the original as well as the same script, forcing viewers to ponder just how pointless a remake of this film truly is.
6. Point Break
Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s a hell of a fun one. It’s an early ’90s time capsule of action movie bravado and surf lingo that’s always entertaining no matter how silly things get. The campy fun is gone for the obligatory modern remake, as are the interesting characters. The emphasis is instead placed on the extreme sports scene (not just surfing this time around), but those sequences feel hollow without any tension or connection between undercover FBI agent, Johnny Utah and freewheeling alpha male, Bodhi.
There are a lot of interesting routes to take for a modern remake of the classic musical, Annie, but the multiracial 2014 version takes none of them. Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Wallis capably lead an otherwise lackluster cast through a series of familiar songs and a few pitiful new ones, with frenetic editing used in place of competent choreography. The characters speak in grand overstatements that leave no room for subtlety, and the film’s style and plot offers nothing new but an irritating sheen of modern gadgets. At least the gadgets occasionally distract from the aching unoriginality of Annie.
The 1959 movie won 11 Oscars and was actually a remake of a silent film. But perhaps movie studios should have stopped while they were on top. The 2016 movie tells the story of a prince falsely accused of treason. It is also full of digital effects and is described as “unimaginative” by critics. The new Ben-Hur also didn’t do well at the box office. The movie’s budget is estimated to be $100 million and it made only $94 million worldwide.
The original Poltergeist was successful critically and financially and helped launch a franchise. So it’s not surprising that it would also get the remake treatment. However, the 2015 movie retelling the story of a family trying to rescue their daughter who is being held captive by apparitions didn’t go over well. There are slight changes to accommodate technology and we see more of the spirit world. However, many critics said it just didn’t hold up to the original and wasn’t actually scary. Audiences weren’t kind to the remake either, but it did make its money back.
The Stephen King adaptation is definitely a horror movie classic so this film was bound to fail. Chloë Grace Moretz stars as the outcast, Carrie White and Julianne Moore plays her religious mother. Many commented that Moretz was an odd choice to play someone who isn’t popular in high school. Critics actually said that the acting in the movie was great, but that the film played it too safe and was an “unneeded copy” of the original.
Additional reporting by Nicole Weaver.
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