Sunday 25 August 2019

Why Hollywood loves to remake old movie flops

Box-office duds can be better second-time around, writes Declan Cashin

Declan Cashin

There's only one thing that Hollywood movie studios are more terrified of than failure, and that's originality. It makes sense, therefore, that the hottest trend in creatively-challenged Tinseltown is to delve into its catalogue of big-budget film flops and remake -- or, to, use the term du jour, reboot -- box office duds of yore for modern audiences.

You can almost hear the studio suits defiantly assuring their nervous investors with a rallying cry of, "These movies didn't fail; they just didn't try hard enough!"

Because having exhaustively plundered its stash of movie classics and box-office hits for the re-make treatment -- such as recent successes like Star Trek, Superman, and Batman -- Hollywood has few places left to turn other than the career-wrecking flops over the past few decades, all in the hope that a massive buck can be (re)made.

One of the first filmic corpses up for disinterment is Overboard, a 1987 comedy starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Though it's achieved something of a cult status since (and is a personal guilty-pleasure for this writer), Overboard sank on its initial release, receiving a mauling from the critics, and hauling in a measly $26.7m at the height of both stars' pulling power.

Be that as it may, Sony plans to re-make the comedy as a star vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, not known for consistently delivering the goods at the box office. It's doubtful that such illustrious J Lo classics as Gigli or Monster-in-Law are inspiring the hope that Jenny from the Block can succeed where an accomplished comedienne like Hawn failed, so perhaps all concerned are hoping that '80s nostalgia will be enough to keep Overboard 2.0 afloat.

Also set to be salvaged from the depths is Dune, David Lynch's 1984 sci-fi fantasy which starred Sting and Francesca Annis. Having opened to dreadful reviews, the movie made back only $30m of its $40m budget.

Such was the scale of the disaster that Lynch has all but disowned the movie, and in fact in some cuts, his name is removed from the credits altogether, to be replaced by 'Alan Smithee', the pseudonym of choice used by mortified film-makers to deflect their involvement in duds. The new Dune will be helmed by Pierre Morel, the man behind Liam Neeson's 2008 thriller Taken.

It's not just '80s flops that are getting the rehash; it seems the '90s are fair game too. The Shadow came out in 1994, and starred Alec Baldwin as the vigilante crime-fighting hero from a series of popular 1930s serials and radio dramas. It was supposed to herald a new merchandise and fast-food tie-in movie behemoth, but instead, the action caper tanked, and is widely held up (or down) as one of the worst ever comic book adaptations.

That hasn't deterred Sam Raimi from showing interest in resurrecting The Shadow in a bid to replicate the success of his three Spider-Man films.

Similarly, the Japanese mega-lizard Godzilla was given the Hollywood treatment in 1998 by Roland Emmerich, of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 fame/notoriety.

The movie was panned by critics, but managed to gross a healthy $380m. That said, it was an abject failure in terms of kicking off a potential franchise, so a reboot is now in the works that will ignore the first American version.

Elsewhere, other debacles scheduled to be re-visited include Red Dawn, Red Sonja, and The Black Hole, Disney's lamentable 1979 attempt to ape the success of George Lucas's Star Wars.

Many would argue that this is just a further indication of Hollywood's creative bankruptcy, alongside its constant remakes of foreign movies and endless book-to-screen adaptations.

That said, there is always the chance that the gamble could pay off. "I don't think it's necessarily a bad move if it gives a fresh take on, or offers something different to the original," says Vincent Donnelly, editor of

"I'm looking forward to Robert Rodriguez's take on Predators in August, and the new version of A Nightmare On Elm Street which looks like it will fix a lot of the damage done to the Freddy franchise by its multiple sequels and spin-offs."

So maybe banking on the bombs might prove to be a savvy move on Hollywood's part, but only time -- and audience reaction -- will tell if these one-time turkeys get their happy Hollywood ending after all.

Irish Independent

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