The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, October 23, 2009

Remakes versus Adaptations

Going to see "Black Dynamite" today. 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, starring Michael Jai White, the most legitimate action star America has right now (maybe Stallone?), and it can't get any traction at all. Opinions vary as to why. Yeah, right.


You know, when I talk about the child part of our personalities, and how most of the reasons I hear for note spending an hour a week working on your weakest link sound like pure 5 year old ("I don't wanna!") I want to back up and assure you that my child self is the favorite part of my psyche. That little boy has done so much for me. He is so alive, and aware, and loving. So optimistic, and comfortable in the moment. But he wants to do what he wants when he wants it. If I listened to him, I'd spend all my time writing, reading comic books, watching movies, eating Screaming Yellow Zonkers, and smoking dope. Well, maybe that last part is my eighteen-year-old. The point is that Li'l Steve has all my creativity, all my aliveness, all my fascination with the world--in essence, almost everything that makes life worth while. But if he is disciplined by my adult self, I can create a safe place for him to play. I have to build the walls high, sweep the broken glass off my mental playground, and keep the pumas at bay. If I do that, he is not only safe, but the creativity produced fuels my entire life.

If you DON'T discipline that child, you end up having the child part of your personality functioning in the adult world, and that doesn't work well. In fact, I rather look at it as pimping out your inner child, and that is a disaster by any standard. Most of the time when parents complain that they can't get their children to do something, it seems to me that their kids are just acting out some version of the parental habit patterns. Parents who drink are startled when their kids smoke dope. Parents who don't get off the couch complain that their kids don't want to go outside to play. Parents who live on starchy foods complain when their kids don't eat vegetables. Parents who hate their jobs complain that their kids don't want to do well in school. Well, why SHOULD the kids work hard, if the end of the line is a life spent toiling in a loathsome environment? Parents who suffer through loveless relationships wonder why their kids select bad partners. It is so sad, and so predictable. Kids imitate us slavishly, especially if it seems that we are happy in our lives. It's what they are genetically programmed to do. If we show them our lives, show them that we are genuinely engaging and that we've found a way to make our adult lives mature versions of our childhood dreams, not only are we providing the best role models for our children, but our lives have a sense of grace and elegance unavailable to those who ignore their inner drives...OR those who cannot discipline their childlike restlessness, sloth, and love of lying. This is the task before us. It is possible to become an adult without taming all three of these aspects, I'm certain. But taking at least the minimum responsibility for each is the surest road to creating a protective environment for the spiritual/emotional child within. You are now your own mother, your own father. And if Mommy and Daddy aren't home, the kids will burn down the house.


Stallone apparently wants to make another Rocky movie. NO NO NO!! "Rocky Balboa" was actually a terrific good-bye to the character, and if he goes back to that well, I cannot imagine it being anything but a sad, compulsive, desperate grab at his past. Make all the "Rambos" you want, Sly--Rambo was always a cartoon. But Rocky was about love, and hope, and that first movie was genuinely great. Please, please please: I promise to go see "Expendables" twice if you will let Rocky rest in peace.


The non-stop cavalcade of remakes, adaptations, sequels, "reimaginings" and so forth in Hollywood rolls on. This is nothing new: there have always been sequels, and probably in tough financial times they do more. After all, the movie industry is just that, an industry. Employing hundreds of thousand of people trying to pay their mortgages and put their kids through college. The auto industry doesn't change its line-up every year--it would be suicide. That said, we've had an extraordinary number of these things recently. Let's see...I'm gonna check and see how many of the top twenty films fall into that category (rustling of paper, surfing of web...)

Well, how about that. Five in the top twenty fit that bill: Toy Story II (sequel), G.I. Joe (adaptation), The Stepfather (remake), Surrogates (adaptation), and Fame (remake). Is that a lot? A little. Hmmm. Just as an experiment, how does that compare with twenty years ago?

Top box office in 1989 included EIGHT in this category (that I could count): Batman (adaptation), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (sequel), Lethal Weapon 2 (sequel), Back to the Future 2 (sequel), Ghostbusters 2 (sequel), Dead Poet's Society (adaptation), Little Mermaid (adaptation), Christmas Vacation (sequel).

How about fifty years ago? Again, I'm too lazy to fact check every one of these, but it looks like:

1) Ben Hur (remake/adaptation)

2)Sleeping Beautfy (adaptation)

3) Darby O'Gill and the Little People (adaptation)

4) Imitation of Life (remake)

5)Suddenly Last Summer (adaptation)

6) Anatomy of a Murder (adaptation)

7) On the Beach (adaptation)

8) Journey to the Center of the Earth (adaptation)

9) Hercules (adaptation?)

10) A Summer Place (adaptation)

11) Some Like It Hot (considered a remake of a German film)

12) Nun's Story (adaptation)

Now, I've probably missed some, but there is an interesting pattern emerging I hadn't anticipated: Hollywood is basing its films more on its own past, where a generation ago films were more based on books. A drop in literacy? Intellectual cowardice? Statistical aberration? I don't know. What do you think? has remake/sequel fever gotten totally out of control?


Mike Ralls said...

Sounds like it's no worse than it ever was and that Hollywood has never been that much into creating original products.

Quickly glancing at IMBD's top 250 list;

It's rare to find a completely original work and it looks to me that a large majority are adaptions or sequels or remakes.

As long as I get good films I'm happy.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Stallone apparently wants to make another Rocky movie

Please, please, please, please no.

I swear, I'll go see the next Rambo movie twice if Sly will skip the Rocky project. And I'll rent "Over the Top" and this time I'll even watch it.


It's sadly amusing how often, reading you, I think, "Boy, I sure know people that's true of." And then sometimes I catch myself at it....

My life, of course, is different, with unique challenges that most people couldn't understand ... you know, like everyone else's life.

Scott said...

Much bigger film oevre now than 50 years ago; much less true for books.

Scott said...

Oeuvre, damn it.

Ashe Hunt said...

Yes, remake/sequel fever is WAY out of control. All of the writers, novelists creating such great stories and they're barely being touched.

AF1 said...

Black Dynamite is more of a comedy than an action movie though.

That mix didn't get any traction for Stallone either when he did Oscar.

suzanne said...

Much bigger film oevre now than 50 years ago; much less true for books.

I must not get what you mean
because I find hundreds of new books
every day
that I want to read
huge piles of them accumulating
in my lair
in all genres and some
in no genres to speak of
as a Voracious Reader
this makes me very happy
so I can't believe
you're saying fewer books
being written

Bennett said...

Speaking of new movies coming out, I know you've mentioned being a fan of the horror genre before. I went to see this new 'Paranormal Activity' one last night (and only today discovered all the hype about it, so I somewhat regret joining in on the trend as it were.) Usually I find 'scary' movies comical at best, and dull at worst, but this one honest to god disturbed and scared me.

So have you caught it yet, and if so what're your thoughts on how effective it was? And if not... for goodness' sake go catch it! Just, uh, not alone. And not on a night when you need to get some sleep.

Anonymous said...

I think the only way another Rocky movie would work is if it's a zombie movie...


Pagan Topologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pagan Topologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pagan Topologist said...

I have not seen any of the Rocky movies, so I am speaking in a vacuum, but it occurs to me based upon what I read here that the way to make another Rocky movie is the last step of the Hero's Journey: The student becomes the teacher, wherein Rocky becomes a mentor to a young boxer and helps him begin his journey.

Marty S said...

Way to many sequels and remakes are made. It's amazing and gratifying when they resist making a sequel to a blockbuster like ET.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"wherein Rocky becomes a mentor to a young boxer"

That's part of the plot of Rock 5, one of the two worst films of the franchise (the other being Rocky 4, i.e. the Italian Stallion vs. the Russian Terminator).

Anonymous said...

Make it be the whole plot. Rocky doesn't fight at all.