Reasoning with Remakes

I’m always a bit wary of remakes and reboots. If Hollywood or the gaming industry is looking to revamp something for the modern audience, there’s a good chance that the original was something like well-liked. Fans of the original would be inclined to see the remake or reboot, and it gives a once popular franchise a chance at becoming popular again by reaching a new generation. The results vary wildly. Some reboots are only okay, perhaps just because they ended up being a shot-by-shot remake with better effects and younger actors. Many are terrible, taking away everything that made the original unique or enjoyable. Only a scant few manage to overcome the standards set by their predecessor and be something truly wonderful.

I bring this up in relation to my feelings regarding the new Ghostbusters reboot. When I first heard that they were going to remake one of my childhood favourites with an all-female team, I was excited. A bunch of ladies kicking ghost ass, taking names, and being downright hilarious? Sign me up!

But as news rolled in, I found myself less and less interested in it. I think the biggest kicker for me came alongside the announcement of the cast. With names like Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig came the movie’s rating: R. Instead of the family-friendly humour of the classic, the remake was going to be a raunchy comedy similar to Bridesmaids. And that was where I lost interest simply because I find no charm in raunchy comedy.

Some of you may remember my preliminary review of the Thief reboot a few months back. At the time, I had only played half the game. Now I’ve completed it, and while I have yet to play any of the original trilogy, I have looked into the stories of those three games extensively. The remake suffered a lot during its production, and it shows. While the game was fun and certainly had replay value, it lacked a lot of things that made the old games—from what I can tell—so enjoyable for so many people. It had a rather boring plot, flat characters, and took away a lot of what made the Thief world (the Hammerites, Pagans, and Keepers, for example) original.        Remakes and reboots are tricky things. Change too much and you’re bound to isolate some of your audience and run the risk of turning what was once unique into something not. Change nothing but the actors the special effects, and people will be asking why you wasted millions. The audience wants something familiar, but they also want something new. Pokémon actually did this fairly well a few years back.

Nintendo re-released Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire under the names “Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire.” While these re-releases featured updated graphics and controls in-line with some of the newer games in the franchise, several key story and characterization moments were changed. The first major change was the characterization of the two “villain” teams—Team Aqua and Team Magma. In the originals, the teams all shared the exact same dialogue, with only certain words or sentences swapped out, making their character designs the only real distinct things about them. They also had extremely vague motivations and goals. In the remake, each group is given a distinct personality—Magma is a team of strict scientists who believe in furthering human progress, Aqua is a ragtag group of pirates who think humans are destroying the world and wish to see Pokémon more able to thrive—and clearer goals. They went from generic villains to fun characters that people could sympathize with or get a laugh out of. A massive plot hole near the game’s end—one which made said teams look rather stupid—was also fixed to seem more sensible.

Small changes can make a good thing better, but sometimes big changes in the remake have the same effect. I was first introduced to the 2001 Thundercats reboot by a friend, who was telling me of the strangeness of the original pilot from the 80s. Between the characters being naked for most of the episode, Lion-O suddenly aging from ten to twenty-ish with no mental hold-backs, and Snarf being weird and annoying, I wasn’t terribly sure what made the show so popular back in the day. The remake, on the other hand, had a lot of things going for it. Firstly, the animation was gorgeous, and the characters actually looked more cat-like. Secondly, they had an original world to inhabit, with a fleshed-out culture. The first two episodes promised a fun, interesting world and likeable characters that were different from their 80s counterparts, and yet still so familiar.

Also, Snarf was an adorable pet and not annoying. It makes me sad that the show only had one season.

Remakes and reboots are delicate creatures. It’s difficult to know how to handle them. Personally? I observe the hype, wait for the opinions, and go from there.

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