Whence the Remake Hate?

Yesterday, the big movie news I came across was that Mary Poppins is getting a remake/sequel. Rob Marshall and the team behind Into the Woods is setting its eyes on portraying the continued adventures of the Banks family, 20 years after the first movie took place. (Will it be all about how Michael is now a jerk of a father, and he needs Mary to come straighten him out? I hope not. That seems a bit too . . . obvious.) But regardless of who’s making it or what it’s about, what spawned this blog post was me seeing how many people are up in arms about it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m usually right there with those people. Why remake movies that are already awesome in their own right? Why not just let people watch the originals?

I know the typical arguments: remakes are nothing more than money grabs, hastily produced, shoddily acted and directed. Worse yet, fans of the original are required (for the rest of their lives) to note they’re talking about “the original, not the remake.”

But here’s the thing. Remaking a movie does nothing to the original. (Unless you’re up to some serious George Lucas level shenanigans, which is rare.) The original is still there, able to be viewed whenever someone wants. If anything, a remake generates more interest for the original. It exposes a whole new generation to the material, and they’re then free to search out the original at their leisure.

If they don’t search it out? So what. They weren’t likely to search it out anyway.

The more I think about the topic, the less I think the complainers have a leg to stand on. It’s just like people objecting to a book being adapted, or a book being poorly adapted. Nothing is taken away from the original. A bad remake or bad adaptation can help you understand more why you appreciated and loved the original to begin with.

(This is coming from a man who watched 14 different Huck Finn adaptations, each of them worse than the one before. In other words, I have a fair bit of history thinking about things like this.)

So what am I missing? Are there some solid arguments about the damage a bad remake can do to the original, other than it offending our tender sensibilities? Saying that it shouldn’t be done because Hollywood should produce more original content is also a non-starter for me. Hollywood is going to produce a fair bit of garbage no matter what. Accept that.

If someone wants to give a new stab at old material, more power to ’em. I hope they come up with something brilliant.

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