Saturday, 22 November 2008

Remake or Readaptation?

A matter of contention when it comes to the topic of remakes is that of re-adaptations. What's a remake, and what isn't? I think the answer to that question is different depending on who's being asked, but here are my thoughts.

I don't think that a re-adaptation is a remake. I don't think that Terence Fisher's Dracula is a remake of Tod Browning's film about the count. Similarly so, I don't think Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (phew) is a remake of James Whale's classic film. I do, however, think that previous film incarnations can massively impact upon future adaptations of a source material. Perhaps most obvious is Jack Pierce's make up work on Frankenstein, having more influence over most designs of the monster since 1931 than Shelley's original words do.

The differences between Universal and Hammer adaptations aside, the line between remake and readaptation can be very thin indeed. Take Ringu/The Ring, for example. Both films credit the original source novel by Kôji Suzuki, however, The Ring also credits the screenplay for Ringu. I've not read the novel, so can't comment on which it draws from most, but the use of the original film as a starting point is quite apparent. Gus Van Sant's Psycho credits Robert Bloch's original novel, but that film is quite clearly a shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock's adaptation.

A recently announced film project is Steven Spielberg and Will Smith's Oldboy (not strictly horror, but often lumped in nonetheless). Fans were outraged at the thought of Park Chan-wook's 2003 film being watered down to a PG-13 star-vehicle by one of the most Hollywood of Hollywood's filmmakers. Either by pure coincidence or by clever PR, Will Smith has since pointed out that they're not remaking the film at all, but that they're adapting the original manga series. Time will tell quite how much truth there is to this statement, and I'm sure many will retain their cynicism in the meantime, but Spielberg's Oldboy will surely cement the greyness of this area - Park Chan-wook's film being very faithful to the manga.

Personally, instances like Dracula or Frankenstein are not remakes. There are, in the case of a film like The Ring, instances when the distinction between remake and readaptation becomes muddied. This is only part of what makes 'remake' so difficult to define in the first place.

Your thoughts?

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