Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Stephen King's "It" and the remake controversy



"Remakes are a hotly debated topic within the horror movie community. Some hate the idea, others are open to it. Many can't determine if they like the idea of a "reboot" vs. a "remake" or even what the differences are."
I'm open to remakes, but I'm conservative about them.

My basic criterion can be summed up in a single question: Do monumental changes in filmmaking techniques/conventions since the production of the original justify a remake?

And as a corollary: Does the original now seem like a vintage film? Has it become unintentionally campy?

Consider the case of Battlestar Galactica (BSG). The Sci-Fi channel rebooted and reimagined the 1978 TV series in 2004. 

Many of the changes that Sci-Fi made (such as arbitrarily changing characters' genders) were controversial. Nevertheless, there can be little debate about the fundamental need for a remake here. 

I loved the original 1978 series; but when I watch it now, it feels a bit like watching one of the old Buck Rogers films from 1939. 

So there was something significant to add to the BSG legacy by producing a remake (although Sci-Fi should have been more faithful to the original.)

What about Stephen King's It, though?

The original It was released in 1990. Granted, if you're currently in your twenties, 1990 understandably seems like a long time ago. It's been twenty-five years, no less. That is about the same difference, in years, between the original Battlestar Galactica and the Sci-Fi remake (26 years).

There are important differences, however. Science fiction films are heavily dependent on advances in CGI effects, which progress rapidly. The original BSG's effects were probably fairly cutting edge for 1978. Today they look like something a reasonably imaginative fifteen-year-old might create on his iMac and upload to YouTube.

Also, the original BSG had a somewhat juvenile feel to it. That might be one reason why it appealed to me so much at the time. (I was ten years old in 1978.) 

As I watch some of those old episodes through the eyes of a middle-aged adult, they don't strike me as entirely serious. They're still fun, of course; but perhaps the original BSG's writers made too many concessions to the show's juvenile audience. I realize now, in retrospect, that this limited the series' potential.

Horror, however, is not nearly as dependent on CGI effects. The original Exorcist (1973) still gives people nightmares. Horror is far more reliant on mood, setting, and pacing. While a new It might benefit from CGI advances made since 1990, those benefits would likely be marginal.   

The original It, moreover, doesn't feel like an old production to me--not when I watch it. The It made in 1990 was a serious film. 

An It remake, then, might be a solution in search of a problem. The new version may be very good in its own right; but I'm not sure that it can add much to the original one.