Saturday, 9 October 2010

Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary...

There are some movies that are timeless. One such example is Back to the Future - and whilst I'm at it, the two sequels are just as timeless as the superbly scripted original. Being that I was only a baby when the first movie hit cinema screens, it was a real joy to see this beloved cinematic classic on the big screen.

Back in 1990 I remember seeing the third movie in the trilogy (but I can't remember if I had seen the second in the cinema, or on video, at that point). Seeing the third movie at the cinema in 1990 is one of my earliest cinema going experiences (I also remember seeing Duck Tales: The Movie either the week before or the week after), and so pretty much for my entire life the Back to the Future trilogy has been there as a truly timeless and beloved classic, sitting beside other all-time, all-life favourites such as Ghostbusters (1 and 2), Short Circuit (1 and 2), and Batteries Not Included.

Fast forward to 2010 and me sat with a grin across my face for those two hours as I relived one of my all-time top ten favourite movies ever on the big screen. The vibe in the theatre was buoyant. Young families were there with their children - kids born after the beginning of the New Millennium - and there was a real sense of quiet, enthralled enjoyment in the crowd. It was like an enraptured hush, punctuated by gleeful giggles at some of the razor sharp comedic lines littered throughout the script.

It didn't matter to these kids that the movie was 25 years old, that it was made in the 1980s, that the special effects aren't up to present day standards - the strength of the script, the performances, and the entire direction of the movie sold it to the audience (new and old alike) with conviction.

In short, this is a popular movie loved by countless millions upon millions across the globe, and being that it hit #7 in the UK Top Ten, it just goes to show that a true classic never dies and transcends technical improvements in the realm of filmmaking.

My point is, there has been a real obsession in Hollywood for years now with remakes. Remakes, re-imaginings, re-hashes and re-dos ... mostly of time-tested, long-standing, dearly beloved cinematic and genre classics. However, no remake of a true classic is ever going to come close to the sense of wonder, loving craft, and fan loyalty that the original embodies.

Surely the entire point in re-doing something is because you didn't do it right the first time around. You don't redo something you've done perfectly the first time, because your effort is only going to be wasted on something not as good - and quite often - something lacking the same 'perfect storm' charm of what was so successful in the first place.

True cinematic classics, the milestones of filmmaking history, were so often the films that were dangerous to make at the time. Films that had no certainty attached to them, no brand recognition, no built-in audience - films that were an honest risk to take in the first place. Back to the Future itself didn't have a perfect take-off. Eric Stoltz was replaced after several weeks of shooting, and before the DeLorean there was a time-travelling fridge. It could have missed the mark by small margin, or it could have been a bit of a bugger up - but no - the money men took the risk, the creative minds focused and worked hard, and forever after the audience has reaped the rewards with a fantastic film experience.

A soul-less remake of something that was done correctly the first time has no risk. It feeds off brand recognition like a parasite, there is no danger attached to the project, an audience is built-in and it's almost a sure-thing to rake in big bucks. What's more, the soul-less remakes - the unnecessary remakes - feed on the cinema goer's innate curiosity, that easily overcomes their preference to hold on to that ten bucks instead of seeing something crap. That sense of curiosity has given the remake factory an endless excuse and a strong revenue stream.

Now, not all remakes are bad - if you're remaking a movie that was never a solid classic or a perfect thing, then you're probably going to be able to bring something new to the table. While I was initially very sceptical about the 2010 remake of George A. Romero's good (but not amazing) The Crazies, I discovered it to be just as good as the original - both versions doing different things better and worse than each other. As such, both versions fulfill different purposes and look at the same scenario with different eyes - the viewer is being given an alternate experience that is actually worthwhile.

Similarly, the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes has a third act which easily beats that of the original movie. Sure, for the most part the first two acts are essentially the same thing, but the remake takes hold of that '1950s nuclear test site' angle and runs with it with conviction to give the viewer something worth seeing in conjunction with the original.

Sadly there are only a handful of worthwhile remakes. The majority are pointless and never live-up-to, nor exceed, the standard of the revered originals. Circling back to Marty McFly's time travelling exploits, there are rumours of a remake floating around - whether it's a load of bull, or whether there is some truth in it, I dearly hope it proves to be nothing but a load of hot air.

Back to the Future - a 25 year old beloved classic - has done well for itself at the UK box office, and it'll kill on the up-coming Blu-Ray re-release. How on earth would a remake have any point to it whatsoever? You can never set out to capture lightening in a bottle, and certainly not with such creatively void intentions as the common remake does. So please, for the love of common sense, cinematic and creative decency - leave Back to the Future alone and focus on celebrating what we have been gifted with for 25 years, and what we will continue to be gifted with in the future.

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