A few days ago, the new trailer for Mowgli was released, set to come out in October of this year. I happened upon the trailer a couple days ago and all I could think was, “Wait, didn’t they just make The Jungle Book a couple years ago?” And the answer is, yes, they did. The Jungle Book was released in early 2016.
It made me wonder why Hollywood was making another remake a little over two years from the last one. I see this frequently with remakes. Let’s take another classic Hollywood loves remaking: Romeo and Juliet. Two films were made of it in 1976 and 1978, and more recently Gnomeo and Juliet were released just two years before Romeo and Juliet in 2013. In fact, since 1908, during the Golden Age of silent movies, there has been a Romeo and Juliet at least every couple years. Similar examples include Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Beauty and the Beast.
So the question stands: Why make a remake when you could make an original movie? A better question I want to ask in this essay is the contrary.
Why make an original movie when you could make a remake?
A Sure Bet
Let’s face it. Hollywood loves making money. Without the average John and Jane going to see their movies, they wouldn’t exist. And many smaller movie studios could fail if they make one horrible movie. So why would you take a chance when you could be certain of success?
Why do Marvel (and DC) movies continue to feature extremely similar, almost cliqued plots? Well, because it sells, of course. It’s been tried and proven multiple times. The underdog going up against ultimate power, only to gain power himself/herself and defeat internal and external evil. There is nothing more great than that.
When it comes to making movies, why would a company take a chance on an unknown movie when they could simply remake a movie which already has a fan base? It’s a sure bet to make them some money, even if the movie itself is horrible. And, as the record proves, often times remakes are less well-received than their predecessors. Look at recent remakes like Ghostbusters and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (this one I actually enjoyed, mostly because of the actors) which made back their money in the box office but were both panned by fans of the originals and did not make as much money as expected.
An Unsure Bet
When the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977, it had a budget of only $11 million (which sounds like a lot, but for a movie it’s small). George Lucas worked on the idea for years, being rejected by United Artists, Universal Pictures, and Walt Disney, until 20th Century Fox finally agreed to give him $150,000 to write and direct the film in 1973.
Four years later, the movie was released which changed the history of the Sci-Fi genre forever, as well as started an obsession with space, aliens, and the Force which persists today.
All because one man, George Lucas, had a vision he would not give up on.
Star Wars was an unsure bet. Alan Ladd Jr., the head of 20th Century Fox, invested in Lucas because of his passion, not because of the project itself. And yet it went on to be the highest-grossing film of all time after its release and spanned a multi-movie series which has touched three generations.
But like I said, it was an unsure bet. Star Wars isn’t the type of movie a movie production company would want to throw a lot of money behind. Why invest in an unsure bet?
It’s clear why Hollywood loves remakes and sequels, but I now want to make an argument for originality. I gave you the example of Star Wars simply because that is perhaps the most successful movie which was an unsure bet. But there are many other examples.
Monty Python were a group of British comedians who started with almost no budget, and yet their movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and TV show like Monty Python’s Flying Circus have become cult classics. Monty Python and the Holy Grail had a budget of $400,000 and made over $5 million at the box office. Doctor Who began as a low-budget TV show in the 1960s, and is now one of the biggest, most well-known TV shows of all time.
My point is that success is about creativity and passion. These stories of success from small beginnings are the exception. Most low-budget movies remain unknown, even if they had a lot of potential. Big budget movies are the norm, and will probably remain the norm unless all moviegoers decide to ignore hype and boycott any big movie (and what sense would that make?).
Remakes are going to continue to be remade again and again. There is no end in sight.
And yet, movies of true unique, original content will hopefully also continue to rise between the heights of successful franchises.
As the web takes over and gives indie creators the chance to become successful (on Youtube, Instagram, etc.). I have great hope that there will be a time that massive Hollywood franchises will become obsolete. When an average movie studio can create a moving picture for the fraction of the cost of a Marvel movie. Until then, the world remains as it has always been, and I will continue to loving watching, reading, and playing indie movies, books, and video games. And Hollywood will continue making remakes.
What are your thoughts on remakes? Do you believe Hollywood will ever change? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventures,