Old but gold: the rise in remakes?

Image credit: BagoGames

You might have come across a trailer for the remake of Beauty and the Beast by now. It is a familiar scene: dimly lit hallways of a castle, flickering candlelight over the oil painting of a young boy, a horned head emerging from the darkness.

It is a scene we have seen on our screens before, but instead of animation, castle walls are now made of stone, and Belle is now Hermione Granger. The fact that one trailer alone has already collected over thirty million views on YouTube is not just a reflection of how anticipated the film is, but also a reflection of how we, as an audience, are becoming increasingly attuned to nostalgia.

Nostalgia explains, in part, why 2014’s Maleficent grossed US$758.5 million at the box office, why audiences flocked to watch the two latest films of the Star Wars series. I owned a plastic light saber when I was much younger, and seeing lightsabers make a reappearance brought that memory rushing back. It is a specific type of nostalgia specifically targeted at childhood familiarity and the way in which we respond to it from a new perspective; in an age where action films and thrillers can be found aplenty at the cinema, a remake of an old favourite can feel like glimpsing through a window back to a younger, simpler time.

Filmmakers hope, perhaps that nostaligia will be enough to spark interest, and then that a new concept will then be enough to tide that interest over into watching the film. This has worked to varying sucess: although last year’s Ghostbusters attempted to revamp the classic with a new, all-female cast, it failed to draw in the numbers and was ultimately a box office disappointment; although Maleficent was, in contrast, a box office success, I personally felt that its decision to remodel the titular character into an antihero lacked the gloriously evil touch from the original. The success of the latest two Star Wars films, however, is testament to their ability to present a fresh set of faces and plotlines while retaining the heart of the originals.

The number of remakes that are in the works, however (Mary Poppins, Aladdin, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, for instance), can make them feel more like cash-grabs than genuine attempts to rework a film with heart. How many of these filmmakers genuinely set out with a vision, rather than trying to configure it into something that will sell well? It is a subjective question, and one the lacklustre quality of some films begs. Regardless, the presence of films like the latest two Star Wars suggests that there might still be some value in bringing back the past and reliving a classic. 

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