Today, the world of cinema is dominated by remakes. And while Hollywood has always taken inspiration for its stories from pre-existing tales, it seems that this is being taken a step further, with films that already exist being re-made over again.
Film remakes have existed for a long time, with the first being The Great Train Robbery. Released initially in 1903, it makes today’s world of remakes seem laughable as this film was remade just a year later in 1904. Copyright protection was a grey area at the time, and this remake was released under the same name and was near identical to its predecessor.
Remakes differ from reboots, which involve taking elements from an established series and transforming it to reflect a changing time, changing audience or to refresh the story and attract a new fanbase. The first film to be given this treatment was The Return of Godzilla in 1984.
Fast-forward to today, and it seems that every film coming out is either a remake, reboot or a sequel. People find themselves confused as to why no studio seems to want to take a chance on an original story. Is Hollywood out of ideas? Or are remakes what audiences want?
The Walt Disney Company
Disney is by far the biggest culprit of the recent influx of remakes, having churned out a significant number of its old animated classics remade as live-action adaptations. These are the Disney films that have been subjected to a remake in the last few years:
- The Lion King
- The Jungle Book
- Beauty and the Beast
And it seems that the film studio has no plans to stop either, with these Disney films lined up for their own remakes in coming years:
- Lady and the Tramp
- The Haunted Mansion
- Home Alone
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- James and the Giant Peach
- Lilo & Stitch
- The Little Mermaid
- Night at the Museum
- The Parent Trap
- Peter Pan
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The list is long and interspersed amongst them Disney also has plans for the occasional original release. But with this vast number of films lined up to be brought back to the big screen, people are only likely to get more and more frustrated at the lack of originality hitting cinemas in the coming years.
Why Are Remakes So Prevalent?
So, why is this happening? Why are remakes being released so rapidly all of a sudden? Well, many would claim it’s for one key reason: nostalgia.
We live in an age of nostalgia. One brief look at anyone’s Instagram feed on a Thursday would show a mirage of young people posting old photos with the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday – people don’t seem to like to pay attention to the here and now. As such, films are looking back, rather than forward.
Vinyl players are all the rage, and every cool person owns a polaroid camera; a large percent of the populace romanticises the past.
Disney creates a nostalgia that generations of people can relate to, having been a household name since the release of the original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. When Disney remakes and sequels are released, it seems that the long queues at the cinema are filled with adults rather than children, perhaps highlighting the desire people have to head back to their younger days, days filled with no responsibilities or worries.
Another reason has been suggested that film studios just aren’t willing to take a risk on an original idea. It’s a competitive industry, and it’s getting more competitive all the time with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime on the scene releasing their own original films and TV shows. As such, studios find themselves drawn to producing works that they know already have a well-established fanbase. Why take a risk on a new story with unheard-of characters when a studio can remake a popular film that already has millions of filmgoers ready and waiting for its release?
While remakes often don’t bode well critically compared to the original, they seem to do incredibly well at the box office – The Lion King remake is now the highest-grossing animated film and the second highest-grossing film of 2019, yet it received mixed reviews.
While the money is still there – a lot of which comes from the international market – studios like Disney seem to be set on tapping into the nostalgia market for the next few years at least. It is worth remembering, however, that if you find yourself frustrated by your favourite films being remade, the original will always exist for you to enjoy.