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Reuse, Rebrand, Remake: Reintroducing an Old Property to a New Audience

So I was browsing a small video sharing website one day, minding my business, passing time before having to leave for work. Scanning the homepage, a particular video caught my eye. A movie trailer for a particularly old internet phenomenon, to be produced by Hollywood, and as a horror movie no less.

Interesting, I thought to myself. Finally, bringing an internet icon to the silver screen. Maybe it’ll score higher than 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But as I watched this trailer, I wondered: hasn’t the Slenderman trend passed already? Is it as relevant as it was back when Marble Hornets first launched their YouTube channel? Does this story need retelling?

As I thought about it more, my mind wandered. What about other titles and stories that were left unfinished, cult classics forgotten by mainstream media? Or the titles that have been remade and redone time and time again, watered down and near unrecognizable? Can some of these old favorites be brought back? Should they even be remade for a contemporary audience, or left untouched? What constitutes a worthy adaptation or reimagining, if there is such a thing?

Be it by the hand of fate or the YouTube algorithm, the question was raised: when is a good time to reintroduce a property to a new audience? What deserves a reimagining, what even needs one, and what should be left alone? Does a remake always pale in comparison to the original, and why?

With an unhealthy dose of caffeine and insomniac mania, let’s discuss remakes.

Recycle, reuse, remake

Originality is difficult in the screenwriting world. From superhero movies to horror flicks, romances to dramas, nearly every property can be broken down into influences. And if not small nods and references, it’s either an adaptation or remake. Just take a look at how many times Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween have been rebooted.

That’s not to say that remakes are necessarily bad. Sometimes a new coat of paint or butt in the director’s seat can turn an old, familiar story into something great for the new generations. The 2003 remake of 1969’s The Italian Job wasn’t an Oscar winning flick, but it was still a good movie in its own right. The newest True Grit was nominated for several academy awards and even won a BAFTA. Scarface would likely not be such a cultural icon if the 1932 version was all we had of Senor Montana. Remakes can sometimes break through to redefine the property, and these often overshadow the original.

Too often, however, do remakes fail to properly tell the original story – they simply fall flat. The original The Vanishing was a chilling and horrible film, while the remake with Kiefer Sutherland was just horrible. The Pink Panther, Psycho, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The freaking Mummy, all had serviceable to great original source material in their own rights. But now, having been remade, the old adaptation will be associated with the new, often for the worse.

Adapt and overcome… or not…

Often times, a reimagining can serve to disappoint fans of the originals source material, leaving them saddened at best or furious at worst. (I hope they do well on the Last Airbender movie, though, whenever that comes out.)

Adaptations are tricky things when broken down. For every Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there has to be a Ghost Rider with Nic Cage. Aside from cast and direction, films struggle with the limited time available to them. With comics or novels, there can be as much or as little development or backstory as the writer wants. With films, thousands of pages need to be condensed down into a couple of hours, so details will be cut. Seriously, imagine if Peter Jackson tried to show every event from the Lord of the Rings series. Even with the extended DVD releases clocking in at 682 minutes, there were dozens of pieces that had to be omitted. Otherwise we’d end up with a 20+ hour movie… although I doubt there would be many disappointed in that.

Let the story end

If you didn’t already know, I love Firefly. The stories are great, the characters are nuanced, and the world was brilliant. Like many browncoats, I’m still disappointed that the show was cut down so early. That said, I feel the series and its followup movie do a fine job of telling the story of Serenity and her crew. The finale of the movie, while open-ended, serves as a graceful coda to the story. There doesn’t need to be more. What we have is a cult classic series with a loyal fanbase that’s still going strong after 15 years. There can be smaller stories and character origins explored elsewhere, but putting it back on screen would likely taint it.

The worst thing for a series is, in my mind, dragging so far along that it eventually jumps the shark. Scrubs, The X-Files, The Simpsons, Dexter, all series that trudged forward past the point of mediocrity. Having a show remade or rebooted always runs the risk of hitting that wall quickly, and as a result reflecting poorly on the original. We can see that with the Disney-influenced Star Wars movies being released currently. Bringing back an old story is a gamble, and often, unnecessary. Let sleeping franchises lie.

To the readers

What are your thoughts or opinions on reboots? Am I totally off in my assessment? What are some series you feel should make a return, or some that should be put to bed? Please feel free to put your thoughts in the comments. As always, I’ve been Crab, and thanks for reading.


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