Monday, February 19, 2024

Remake rant

What triggered this was finding out there are people actively planning to do a remake, or reboot, or retconn, or whatever the word is, of the 2004 version of Battlestar Galactica. Which itself was a remake of the dreadful 70's era version. That one was so bad I was amazed anyone would consider remaking it, since the property was thoroughly tainted with the badness. Mind you, in such a case the bar for success is so low that almost anything would be better.

Except somehow they got it made, and people kept telling me how good it was. We eventually started getting the discs out of the library and really liked it. Critics said it was the best thing on television, and they might have been right. I don't watch enough television to have an opinion. We even got a deal on the boxed set, and I was going to rewatch them in the correct order while doing spin training on my bike. Except for complicated reasons that didn't work out.

My big question throughout the series was wondering how much of a pay cut James Callis (Baltar) took when he found out that Trica Helfer (Six) was going to spend significant time draped all over him in that slinky red dress. Somewhere on that ship there must have been a huge booze production facility, since they seemed to run out of everything else except that.

So once upon a time there was Batman, a cheesy 60's era TV show. It was so bad it was good, and there's a market for that. (I'll come right out and say I like a good bad movie.) I saw the 1989 movie and was not impressed. There are a great many listings in IMDB for Batman, I know some are remakes, and others are sequels, and others are related stories in that universe, it's hard to tell. Not interested in any of them. OK, the clips of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, I'll cop to that, and the same for Heath Ledger as the Joker, but not the rest of it.

There was the 50's era TV version of Superman, and when I look at IMDB, there are a great many versions since then. I saw the 1978 version and wasn't impressed. There's been well over a dozen movies or TV shows with Superman in the title. I don't know if they would all be remakes, some seem to be sequels. Not interested in any of them.

Now that I think about it, I did see the one Batman sequel with Michelle Pfeiffer because, Michelle Pfeiffer. The rest of it was dreadful. There might have been another one I saw because our work team went out to celebrate something, but I'm pretty sure I slept through it. Superhero movies are boring, and the recent spat of superhero movies interested me not even a tiny little bit. 

I'm not even going to talk about the endless Star Wars or Star Trek add-on's to the original material. Then there's  King Kong and Godzilla. So many remakes! What on earth is the attraction? Sure, tell the story once. Done. Move onto something else.

So why a remake of Battlestar Galactica? I'm guessing it's been 20 years, so the network execs know it only by rumour. Like book editors who want something fresh and new, but exactly like what they know has sold in the past, the execs don't know how to tell a new story. They'd rather stir old dough and hope nobody notices. Or maybe it's a network exec bigger dick thing, my version is better than yours.

And besides, they tried telling another story in that universe. It's called Caprica, and it got cancelled pretty quick. I'm wondering how they can top the 2004 version? Although perhaps telling it from the Cylon point of view might be interesting. Maybe if Tricia Helfer is involved again, I'd consider it.

A digression. Back in the day when there were stores where one could rent DVD's, we liked browsing. So about 2002 when Ocean's Eleven came out we went to rent it. A clerk asked if he could help us find something. I told him I wanted the first version of Ocean's Eleven. He gave me a funny look because I had the George Clooney version in my hands. I told him we would watch the remake, but wanted to watch the original again. He thought this one was the original. He didn't believe me when I told him about the 1960's version. I made him look it up. Of course, the remake was so-so, and the following sequels were no better, till Ocean's Eight. I watched that one. The plot was predictable, but the star power! That was fun.

There are a few exceptions to the rule that the sequel is always worse. Aliens and Terminator: Judgement Day come to mind. The Terminator TV show was pretty good as well, just finding it's feet as it was cancelled. That happens so often.

The thing to keep in mind is that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. According to the authority of E. B. White, there are a certain number of words necessary to tell that story. Adding more doesn't make it better, just like adding parts to a functional machine doesn't make it better. In the movie world, things aren't so cut and dried, but there is an optimum length for a movie. Sometimes more is good, adding detail and richness to the story. Sometimes more is bad, padding out the story with flab. (Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies, I'm looking at you!) 

It's said that there are really only 7 original plots, and everything is a version, or combination of those elements. In that sense, West Side Story is a brilliant retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Or that other works of Shakespeare fueled Akira Kurosawa, who in turn fueled the producers of various spaghetti westerns and Star Wars. 

Why do remakes when there are so many stories out there begging to be made into a movie or TV show? I'd line up to see a BBC version of just about any Georgette Heyer novel, especially the Regency Romance novels. There's a couple short Alfred Bester novels that would make a terrific movie. Done right, the Lensman series could be good, or it could be terrible. I'd love to see Larry Niven's Known Space stories on screen, though Ringworld is supposed to be coming to Amazon Prime any decade now. The Mote in God's Eye could be a great movie, with no shortage of other war stories in that universe; you'd think that would excite the network execs. Bujold talked a bit about a movie option for one of her Vorkosigan books, and was relieved it didn't come to fruition. The network execs had butchered the story beyond recognition because they said it would sell better, while the novel had won a Hugo.

There was even talk of doing a remake of Princess Bride, which would be an utter travesty. That is very nearly a perfect movie. Fortunately that project seems dead now. (I am manfully restraining myself from quotes. If you know, you know. And if you don't, just go watch the movie, you can thank me later.)

So what should the rules be around remakes? Personally, I'd say as long as anyone involved with the original production is still alive, remakes are out. Clever retellings, or retellings with a twist, but without the original character names, are probably ok. Sequels, hmmm. If there's actually more to the story, and it isn't just doing the story over again, I guess are ok. 

While my blood is up, let's explore another aspect of why Hollywood productions are all so bad, with very, very few exceptions. If there's a problem, it's solved with guns, or maybe an oh so macho manly fist fight. Both of these "solutions" go on and on, well past boredom. Personally, these sorts of movies should be restricted to 18+. After all, just about anything happening with guns in these movies is depicting an actual crime. Yet 3 F bombs or a flash of boobs and a movie is restricted.

Yes, I know they are movies, and here I go bringing reality into again. I'm fine with conventions like there always being a parking spot near the entrance. I know the actor really isn't driving, but it's barely safe to let most people drive when they have nothing else to think about, and acting is harder than it looks, so yes, they've rigged up a Rube Goldberg contraption where someone else actually drives, or it's a clever fake in a studio.

But I've no patience with a plot that relies on the stupidity of characters, or their inability to say a simple thing that would clarify the situation. I don't want to watch teenagers (and especially adults playing teenagers) emoting, or trying to, which is one of the reasons superhero movies are boring. High school was a dreadful time for me, and I've no wish to revisit it. I made it through one season of Veronica Mars (because Kristen Bell) gritting my teeth and rolling my eyes. 

I'm tired of the revenge story. The one man against the world story. The conspiracy behind everything story. Gratuitous nudity (male or female) or the opposite, the pulling sheets off the bed to avoid nudity. Chase scenes in general, but especially when the characters are cardboard at best. The ticking countdown clock. Related to the prevalence of guns in movies, the villains are bad shots. And the villain talks too much rather than getting on with carrying out his or her evil plans for world domination. (And if they were THAT competent, let's let them run things, it couldn't be worse than the current clowns in office, could it?) I love cats, but using them for cheap jump scares is demeaning to their dignity. Being a photographer, I know you can't zoom deep into a photo (on screen or in print) for endless detail. And of course, deus ex machina. 

What did you like, if anything, I hear you asking. I quite liked most of Elementary, especially the season with John Noble. The earlier seasons of Leverage. Slow Horses and Killing Eve were wonderful. The afore mentioned Battlestar Galactica. Arrival was brilliant, and the opening scene brought joy to my photographer heart. The Good Place. Most of Lucifer was fun. The earlier seasons of Big Bang Theory. Most of Stargate SG-1. The Fifth Element. The Usual Suspects. Alien and Aliens, but not the rest. Terminator, T2, and the Sarah Conner Chronicles, with Dark Fate being an almost, and the rest are bad. I talked about Foundation in earlier blogs. Leon the Professional. All the Miss Marples with Joan Hickson, the other's are pale imposters. I still say that Yes Minister, and Yes Prime Minister are some of the wittiest shows ever. Fargo, the movie. Dead Like Me. My Fair Lady (which is a retelling, rather than a remake, I think, but so fabulous it should close the doors on any further remakes.)

That should give you an idea of what I've enjoyed. The most recent thing for me is Slow Horses season three and I can't wait for the rest. I'm not sure what's next. We are looking through Apple + while it's a freebie from buying a new Apple TV box. Any suggestions?

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