Remakes, reboots, prequels and sequels of past films and franchises are the biggest trend going on in Hollywood right now. Every studio wants to capitalize on the money-making potential of these types of films. Because of that, they’ve caused many an audience member to moan and groan fearing for the worst of the worst with these projects. They’ve got people calling out Hollywood for the lack of original content being put out and so forth.
But hold on a minute! If there was one thing 2011 had taught us, it was that given the right production and casting of any film, there are still really great films to be made from remakes, reboots and prequels/sequels. On the flipside, that doesn’t mean all films under this trend will be great. Life just doesn’t roll that way, but for the most part part this year, the bad hasn’t been all that bad.
So let’s take a look at the films from 2011 that fell under these categories.
*note that some films fall under multiple categories*
The Good: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Though I personally consider Fincher’s version to be his own adaptation of the novel rather than a remake, I’ll make use of his film for this section of my spotlight. Easily my favourite film of the year, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) was met with huge skepticism by fans of the original film when it was first announced for an American adaptation.
The stigma of Hollywood poorly remaking foreign films was already there, and with the original film already having a huge fan base, it seemed like this film wasn’t give a proper chance before it even got off the ground. However, once David Fincher was announced as the director for the American adaptation all doubt left my mind. I mean ask yourself this, “What was David Fincher’s last bad movie?” The answer: his very first movie, Alien 3, which rests more on the shoulders of the writers than Fincher himself.
The Bad: Footloose
Now this isn’t to say that the 2011 remake of Footloose is a terrible film—or that I found the original 1984 film to be great in any sense—it’s just that when you are remaking such an iconic film from over 27 years ago, it has to be something great to be able to live up to its original film’s name. It’s sad to say that the remake just didn’t have that same cultural impact that the original had, and it’ll be a surprise if it’s even talked about a year from now. When it comes to remakes, you can’t just take the route that they decided to go with for Footloose.
Other Remakes of 2011: The Mechanic, Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Straw Dogs
The Good: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
If there was any rebooted franchise I was more worried about this past year, it was the Apes film franchise. We all know how things turned out with the last film in from franchise: Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. So when the reigns for this reboot/prequel were handed to new comer Rupert Wyatt, it didn’t really bolster confidence in the average moviegoer since very few people had seen his previous works.
Still, when all was said and done after, the film’s audiences were treated to a really great film. It became a refreshing experience to re-live the origin tale of how the Apes gained their super intelligence and broke free. Whereas this film could have just been left as a prequel, it also gave itself the opportunity to go off in its own direction, while keeping in place similar elements found in the original series. Not only that, but audiences were shown yet another amazing motion capture performance by Andy Serkis, who is truly a genius when it comes to the technology.
The Bad: The Three Musketeers
Again, this isn’t a case of the film being completely terrible. It was enjoyable in a lot of ways. But much like previous film adaptations of the famed characters, this incarnation retained much of what annoyed me. Is it really that hard to assemble an entire cast that can at least put up consistent and convincing accents? It’s really hard to take a gorgeously designed film like this seriously when you have actors that are miscast in a period piece. I just couldn’t stand Mila Jovovich and Logan Lerman in this film; they’re poor performances became distracting and really ruined an otherwise fun film.
Other Reboots of 2011: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, X-Men: First Class Conan the Barbarian, The Muppets
The Good: X-Men: First Class
The old adage that you can’t make a good prequel film is gone, and it’s thanks to a film franchise I haven’t really been a big fan of. As good as First Class turned out to be, it wasn’t without some skepticism at first. Let’s not forget that this project was originally conceived as an X-Men Origins film for the character of Magneto, much like the Wolverine film was for Wolverine. However, it was a good decision to switch it up as a complete origin tale of the meeting and fallout between Magneto and Xavier.
Had this film taken taken the same route as Wolverine, I’m quite sure the film wouldn’t have been as critically acclaimed or successful as it would have with the story it chose to tell in First Class. With that in mind, it could have been left completely alone as prequel had it not succeeded, but it did succeed. With the way it was written, it allowed itself to not only work as a prequel, but as a separate series able to go in its own direction without being restricted to the first X-Men trilogy. Now with plans to turn First Class into a trilogy, there’s just so much more to be excited for with the X-Men universe.
The Bad: The Thing
Was I bored in this film? No, not entirely. I was entertained throughout the film, but the filmmakers didn’t really do anything new or surprising, making this prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic feel entirely unnecessary. They could have told an interesting story about the original Norwegian team that found the mysterious alien creature, but the end product was pretty much a rehash of the same events found in the original film.
Other Prequels of 2011: X-Men: First Class, Puss in Boots
The Good: Kung Fu Panda 2
Every studio nowadays is looking for franchises that they hope will be money makers. Though it’s pretty much guaranteed a sequel will make money, it’s very rare that sequels end up being just as good—if not better—than the original film. Understandably, it’s a difficult thing to build on the success of the first film without relying too heavily on what made the first film a success and balancing out new elements that will keep the franchise refreshing and entertaining. Every studio is hoping for that second film to wind up becoming something like The Dark Knight or The Empire Strikes Back, and not something like Rise of the Silver Surfer.
That brings us to what I found to be 2011’s best sequel film, Kung Fu Panda 2. Though I found the original Kung Fu Panda to be good, it wasn’t anything incredibly special to me. So when I got the chance to revisit the characters of this film franchise and see what DreamWorks did to not only expand on the world Kung Fu Panda was set in, I couldn’t help but love this film even more. Throw in the addition of 3D technology, and DreamWorks truly created a film that was so much more superior to its predecessor in so many aspects.
Now with a hint for a 3rd film already in place, I look forward to DreamWorks wrapping up their Kung Fu Panda series on a high note based on what I saw from Kung Fu Panda 2.
The Bad: Cars 2
I never thought I’d ever have to write about Pixar in this situation, but with this past year’s Cars 2 sequel, what was thought impossible was made possible: a bad movie. Yes, this beloved animation studio of Pixar did the unthinkable by putting out a film that was just so far below the quality of what they’ve done in the past. It’s really hard to imagine what made John Lasseter think what he wrote for Cars 2 was anything good. Take a good look at Cars 2 and tell me how it can stand up to the rest of their library of work? Even the original Cars was far superior to this film. This was just a bland and irritating film that shouldn’t even be under the Pixar name.
Other Sequels of 2011: Big Mammas: Like Father, Like Son, Scream 4, Fast Five, Hood Winked Too! Hood vs. Evil, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hangover Part II, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Final Destination 5, Johnny English Reborn, Paranormal Activity 3, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Happy Feet Two, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Sherlock Holmse: A Game of Shadows, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.
So looking back at 2011, it’s quite something that despite all the complaints of remakes, reboots, prequels and sequels, a fair amount of them have been really great films. This is made even more so by the fact that these films accounted for a good portion of the major releases the past year.
Now with 2011 done, that leaves 2012 with its own roster of remakes, reboots, prequels and sequels. In Part 2 of this Spotlight, I’ll be going over a preview of what to expect from films under these categories. I’ll also briefly be giving my own thoughts and opinions of two American remakes that have been getting a ton of backlash in: Oldboy and Akira.