5 Movie Remakes That Didn’t Suck
If a movie was successful once, there’s no reason it can’t be successful twice, right? That seems to be the thinking behind Hollywood’s obsession with remakes. Many film fans regard remakes as sacrilege, and I agree there are some films that are so flawless the mere idea of a do over is offensive. However, not all remakes are terrible.
The five on this list don’t all surpass the originals, but each one of them was entertaining in its own right. I’m not saying we should encourage Hollywood to indulge every remake whim, but we can be grateful that they have produced at least five remakes that didn’t suck.
My initial reaction to the news that there would be a new True Grit film was utter dismay. The 1969 John Wayne version is a classic and the perfect gateway western for people who are reluctant to give the genre a chance. The role of the aging U. S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn felt tailor-made for Wayne, and his chemistry with Kim Darby’s Mattie Ross made for a sweet film in a genre not usually known for sweetness. It may not have been groundbreaking, but it was a solid family film.
The 2010 Coen Brothers’ version might very well be a masterpiece. The film isn’t a remake really; it’s a return to the original source material, the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. The Coen Brothers place the focus squarely on Mattie, this time played by Hailee Steinfeld, whose performance is revelatory. The young actress brings both strength and vulnerability to the film’s headstrong heroine. The 2010 version also boasts a more interesting take on the character of the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf who reluctantly assists Cogburn and Mattie in their quest to find the man who murdered Mattie’s father. Glen Campbell did a respectable job with the role in the first film, but Matt Damon’s take is both funnier and grittier. Add in the beautiful cinematography and the smart script and you have the makings for the rare remake that actually transcends its source material.
Originally adapted as a film in 1953, H. G. Wells’ invasion classic has been remade for film, television and radio many times. The first film version is regarded as one of the best sci-fi films of the ’50s, and rightly so. It plays on the Cold War fears of the era brilliantly, and it remains a highlight of the alien invasion genre.
War of the Worlds was remade once again in 2005 by none other than Steven Spielberg. The blockbuster auteur turned the tale of an alien invasion into a post-9/11 horror story and grounded it by having Tom Cruise star as a father trying to get his children to safety. The film is intense, the aliens genuinely frightening and just like the original, it plays into the national fears of the time. While it lacks the importance of the 1953 version, Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is still a worthy follow up to the original.
The 1969 Italian Job is beloved in Great Britain. The caper film is a perfect encapsulation of everything that was cool about the country’s culture in the ’60s. For that reason, Americanizing the tale seems wrong, but that didn’t stop director F. Gary Gray from doing it.
Surprisingly, the modern Italian Job isn’t bad. It’s a fun early action-vehicle for Mark Wahlberg, and it boasts a talented cast. In addition to Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Jason Stathem, Mos Def and Seth Green are all on hand to round out the team. The film is also notable for its nifty action sequences. The remake will never be called an “institution” like its predecessor, but it has proved to be an enjoyable film that can peacefully coexist with the original.
I Am Legend was Hollywood’s third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name. Neither of the first two films, 1964’s The Last Man on Earth and 1971’s Omega Man, were ever anything more than cult hits, so it wasn’t surprising that Hollywood would give the post-apocalyptic vampire tale a third go.
Like the previous two films, I Am Legend isn’t perfect, with its biggest flaw being its forced “happy” ending. Still, it has Will Smith. As the supposed last man on Earth, Smith is captivating and capable of reflecting the horror of the situation without alienating viewers who are looking for escapism (it was a popcorn movie, after all). I Am Legend isn’t as scary as it needs to be, but Smith’s star power goes a long way in making up for the film’s shortcomings.
I must confess I’ve never seen Internal Affairs, the 2002 Hong Kong thriller that Scorsese remade as The Departed, so I can only judge The Departed by its on merits. Scorsese’s version was gritty, dark and full of daring performances–the most notable of which were Leonardo DiCaprio’s turn as an undercover cop, Mark Wahlberg as one of his supervising officers and Matt Damon as a mole inside the police force. The film walked away with four Academy Awards in 2007, including Best Picture and Best Director. I can’t say whether or not it holds up when compared to the original, bit it is a great film in its own right.
There must be a few more remakes out there that weren’t awful. Share your favorites in the comments!
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