If it’s not broken, don’t fix it – a mantra little heeded where there’s an opportunity to cash in. Especially in Hollywood, where if it doesn’t have a superhero in it, it’s almost certainly a remake.
Many of them flop – this year alone, Ben-Hur lost tens of millions – but that doesn’t dissuade studios, who are set to kill your childhood with new takes on everything from Jumanji to Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.
But a second opinion isn’t always bad. Granted, remakes always face a certain cinematic stigma (looking at you, The Planet of the Apes) but there are some gems that won’t make you want to set the DVD player (and yourself) ablaze.
The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Genuine ensemble casts are rare. Refreshing, then, that The Magnificent Seven enlists a batch of bright stars – Denzel Washington leads a posse that includes Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke – in this western tale of bloody retribution.
On the eve of the American Civil War, seven bounty hunters (of the magnificent kind, obviously) are hired to protect a small town from looming industrialists. And soon enough, the protection of simple folk becomes a matter much bigger than money.
The Magnificent Seven won’t win the Palme d’Or. But it is another imaginative stepping stone in the revival of the western – stow it alongside The Hateful Eight, Slow West and fellow remake-worth-watching True Grit.
And if that’s not enough to persuade you, The Magnificent Seven is actually a remake of a remake – the original transposed the Japanese classic Seven Samurai to the wild west.
Funny Games (2007)
A remake in every sense of the word, Funny Games is a shot-for-shot replica of a landmark Austrian horror from 1997. Everything remains the same – the director, the costumes, the plot, even the setting.
So why bother making it? Because a) many western audiences are too lazy for subtitles, and b) many western audiences like big Hollywood stars. Enter Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt and Tim Roth.
None of the original’s brutality is lost in translation, though. The tale of neighbours gone postal will make you think twice about lending a cup of sugar, and raises important questions about the death of community spirit. Literally.
Evil Dead (2013)
The original Evil Dead wasn’t terrifying. Just absurd. The 2013 remake was expected to follow suit, but it would take a very particular sense of humour to find any humour in it. Just terror. Deep, shocking terror.
In lieu of the original’s chainsaw histrionics, six young adults face a demonic infection, various dismembered limbs, and a book made of human skin someone abandoned in a cellar – from which they read a verse aloud. Demons spring forth, as is tradition. But these limb-cracking, wide-eyed monsters offer little in the way of clunky animatronics and fluorescent fake blood.
The torture porn trend of Saw has long been derided, and while Evil Dead does make for some uncomfortable viewing, the real terror stems from an unwavering assault on the senses. So much so that one particular scene with a scalding shower will leave you unwashed for days.
War Of The Worlds (2005)
OK, so Tom Cruise is past his Oscar nod heyday, but not all of his recent flicks are as cringeworthy as that Oprah appearance.
Case in point, 2005’s War of the Worlds remake. The classic tale of alien invasion is older than your dad’s wraparound sunglasses, and as such, has been reimagined over and over again. Which would usually be quite boring.
Armageddon is different this time round, though. There are no underground military command bunkers. No stiff-lipped soldiers that battle aliens and return unscathed. Just a normal man, with normal children, trying not to die. The result is remarkably engaging.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
What happens when you put Clooney, Pitt, Damon and García all on one screen? Magic, that’s what.
Ocean’s Eleven was always a brave endeavour. Not only is the original a piece of landmark cinema, such an expensive cast could obliterate a movie studio if it flopped. Lucky for director Steven Soderbergh that the risk paid off.
Like the original, the remake sees Clooney’s criminal bunch rob three casinos all in one night – not without some mishaps, of course. The quick-witted script, sharp stunts and talented cast bring a dated tale up to date, which makes Ocean’s Eleven a worthy match for its predecessor.
Al Pacino’s depiction of Scarface was not the first; that accolade belongs to the 1932 film of the same name. That said, it is arguably the more famous. Instead of prohibition speakeasies, we’re in 1980s Miami, and contraband booze is swapped for something far more sinister: cocaine.
More plentiful than the caches of class As is the film’s global cachet. Not only did the remake earn three Golden Globe nominations, it topped ‘best of’ lists worldwide, inspired video games and was even reference by Nas and Jay-Z on ‘Last Real N*gga Alive’. And let’s be honest – hip-hop shout-outs trump gongs any day.
Tony Montana’s rise and fall is a story few forget. But even more impressive than its legacy is how Pacino makes Cuban heels look cool.
Total Recall (2012)
There’s only one Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, despite Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Arnold Schwarzenegger in almost every single film, he’s still a cinematic god. Good thing that Total Recall takes an entirely different route, then.
The fundamentals are still there – explosions, aesthetically pleasing sidekicks and some mighty visuals. But Colin Farrell is a different man entirely in 2012’s remake. Still a blue collar worker, but with fewer one-liners than Arnie and frankly, a little less ridiculous – two things that make this sci-fi tale of drug-induced escapism worth the reboot.
True, the film does lose its way a bit. And yes, Kate Beckinsale is about as convincing as Joaquin Phoenix’s rap career. But Total Recall builds a complex, believable world in the space of minutes with overcrowded slum-like cities and a contrasting metropolis for the wealthy – something the original sacrificed in exchange for cheap gags.
And for diehard fans, yes, the infamous three-breasted alien makes a reappearance.