By Brendan Trump
Movie remakes seem to be something of an inevitability these days; if one isn’t currently out in theaters or hasn’t been recently announced, it’s only a matter of time. General opinion of remakes is relatively negative, with the public voice indicating that these films are unwelcome and unwanted, although the box office does not support this. The 2019 remake of The Lion King grossed an astonishing $180 million in North America during its opening weekend, proving that regardless of what we think of these movies, they continue to fulfill their actual purpose, which is solely to make money. But something making money doesn’t necessarily translate into a worthwhile piece of media, and I find it hard to convince myself that these remakes don’t range in quality from unnecessary romps of fluffy fun to boring and blatant attempts to profit off of your nostalgia.
I think if we put our nostalgia aside, we could agree that there’s really not much to be gained from watching a movie that’s basically the same as the one we’ve already seen but mostly worse. Remakes, by and large, don’t have nearly the passion put into them that the original films did, because the need simply isn’t there. You’re not luring people to see this movie based on the quality, you’re luring them in based on them recognizing the property; with that in mind, why put time and effort into the quality?
The Lion King serves as the ultimate example of this. It’s more or less the same move its remaking, but it has such a noticeable lack of the heart and charm that went into making the original film a masterpiece. The remake is all polish and no substance. It boasts a star studded cast and breathtakingly real visuals, but a cast focused more on bringing in famous stars rather than casting the proper talent to many of the parts leaves a lot of characters feeling far less fleshed out than one would expect, and the all to realistic visuals tend to look muddy and dull. It can’t capture the colorful, painting-esque quality that the original animation had. The animals look impressively real, but it’s taken too far; they can’t emote properly, and as a result don’t feel nearly enough like the characters that we expect them to emulate. It overall is the epitome of an unnecessary remake; trying to recreate something that already exists but failing to even match it in quality.
So the question is, then, is there a situation where movie remakes really justify their existence as films? I think there’s a surprisingly simple case where one could argue this: when a remake actually does something different. On the subject of Disney remakes, The Jungle Book (2016) serves as somewhat of an antithesis to The Lion King. While The Lion King tries to be just a recreation, The Jungle Book remake actually seeks out some of the imperfections of the original animated film and remedy them, allowing it to stand on its own and feel worthwhile. The original always felt a little bit too light to me, as if there was really no heed paid to the severity of this small child being on his own in the harsh and unforgiving jungle. The remake actually acknowledged this and changed things, giving the film a considerably darker tone to really convey the danger that Mowgli is in at any given moment. This huge tone shift makes the movie drastically different, and I consider that to be nothing but a good thing. The Jungle Book (2016) certainly isn’t a perfect film, or even a particularly great one, but it stands out for me among remakes because watching it actually makes me feel like I’ve gained something new by seeing it.
Overall, though, this is a flawed line of thinking as if I gained enjoyment from it based on the deviations from the original film, I would’ve gotten much more enjoyment from just watching something completely original. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter what I think of movie remakes, or what anyone thinks of them for that matter. Until people decide to show their voice with their wallets and stop contributing to these films making the profit that they do, we will continue to see them year in and year out.