Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

October 7, 2013

Tidbits: Keep your hands off my favorite movies

CROSSVILLE — Sure, I could write about the continuing government shut down. I could regurgitate all the nonsense each side has thrown about over the past week. But I'm a moderate and, if we've learned anything from politics of late, it's that no one cares about what the moderates think. And, it's hard to make a column out of "Both of you [political parties] grow up already."  I'm sick of people having to prove how "Republican" or how "Democratic" they are. So, I offer a bit of diversion from the world of finger pointing and despicable rhetoric that serves no purpose but to divide.

* * *

I remember it all so well. It was Thanksgiving 1992 and we were enjoying an afternoon of family fun and togetherness. The grandkids, all nine of us, were in our teens and, instead of running around playing with army men or dolls, we wanted to watch a movie.

For about two hours, nine teens were there in the basement of my aunt and uncle's home, virtually silent. The grownups carried on with their conversations and card games and dessert. We still didn't stir.

Then, there was a collective scream as the film adaptation of horror master Steven King's novel Carrie came to an end with a final horrific scene.

Sissy Spacek played the title character, a shy girl socially ostracized, who becomes the butt of a cruel joke at prom, perpetrated by the school's "mean girls." The entire senior class pays for the crimes of those girls as Carrie unleashes her telekinetic powers in a rage.

I'd go into more detail, but if you've seen it, you know what happens. If you haven't, you'll get a chance to see it with fresh eyes later this month when the remake hits theaters.

This will be the third film adaptation of King's 1974 novel. It's said this latest version stays truer to King's book than the first film, so I'll give it a try but I'm not optimistic.

It's hard for something new to replace something that holds a place in your mind — with all the great connotations surrounding it. The new movie might be a more faithful adaptation. It might have better effects thanks to new technology and a bigger budget than the original. But in the end, it gets compared to what came before. And if you loved the first one, the second one almost always falls flat.

Take, for example, the latest Star Trek re-boot, Star Trek Into Darkness. That great villain Khan was introduced as much younger and much more British than that rogue we recall from the original series (viewed on a VHS tape) and the best of all the Star Trek films, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Of course, if you watched director J.J. Abrams' first Star Trek reboot, you know that what was isn't what shall be, because of a change in the whole timey-wimey spacey-wacy stuff and a worm hole and Spock going back and meeting himself. But if that's the case, why choose to take those moments that are held near and dear to Trekkies? And why aren't Trekkies up in arms over this remade reboot? Why am I — a shallow-end-of-the-pool Trekkie, the only person I know outraged?

Turns out, I'm not alone. A crowd of Star Trek convention goers voted it the worst Trek film of all time, but Wil Wheaton (you might recall him from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or from more recent appearances on Big Bang Theory) absolutely loved it.

That's the problem with a remake. Some folks don't mind. Some mind terribly and wonder, as I have found myself doing in recent years, "Are we out of new, original stories? Why do they have to keep messing with the classics?"

Hollywood, of course, loves a remake, especially if they think it will not only win over those that loved the first version but also wow those that weren't impressed or never knew the first one existed. And there have been many successful remakes that totally eclipsed their originals.

Take Scarface. I never knew Scarface was a remake, but it turns out it is a do-over of the Howard Hawks' gangster film Scarface, with Brian DePalma (who also directed the first Carrie) swapping alcohol for cocaine and an Italian immigrant for a Cuban immigrant, with Al Pacino offering an over-the-top but brilliant Tony Montana. Can you tell I'm a fan?

Then there's the movies that should never have ever made it past being the punchline of a joke — like the new Karate Kid movie in 2012. It's not even Karate. It's a completely different type of martial arts. House of Wax showed us the acting talent of Paris Hilton. She didn't have any.  Walt Disney Pictures sunk $110 million into its 2004 remake of Around the World in 80 Days, starring Jackie Chan and Steve Cogan. It grossed about $72 million at the box office. I'm no math genius, but it looks like Disney gambled and lost — big time.

With that failure in mind, I was surprised to see another Disney gem from my childhood, Flight of the Navigator, on a list of remakes in the works. It was this charming story of a child that basically gets kidnapped, on accident, by a curious extra-terrestrial and returns eight years later not having aged a single day.

What other childhood favorites are slated for an update and a do-over? War Garmes, Gremlins, National Lampoon's Vacation, Poltergeist, RoboCop and yet another Terminator (though they are bringing Arnold back for this one, thankfully).

Also up is Highlander, with the story and script still in the works. We can only hope they learned a thing or two and don't repeat anything even remotely related to Highlander II: The Quickening.

Unfortunately, it's getting harder and harder for original stories to be told and movies to be made because Hollywood wants a hit. And they think we'll fall for them just repackaging our old favorites with new actors and some changes here and there. Personally, I'd love to see something new and different. And I hope that someday they will let that happen.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinis@crossville-chronicle.com.

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