Monday, June 21, 2010

Remix...or more accurately, Remastered

We've all done it, at least once in our lives.

Couples do it. Friends do it. Even colleagues.

Going to see a film that you didn't really want to go see but you went anyway because someone else wanted to see it.

I did, last week. Saw The Karate Kid. I had no particular desire to see it. I loved the original, not because it was a good film but because I was a kid when it came out and I was enthralled with everything cinema. Regardless, the original Karate Kid was a classic because it was new and different; it had a spark that captured the awe of all young movie goers. And with Hollywood's recent obsession with reviving old films and television shows through less than stellar remakes, you can imagine how "stoked" I was when they announced the new Karate Kid. I was glad to see Jackie Chan getting work but I had no desire to see Jaden Smith act after seeing how cocky the kid was on talk shows. So, yeah, it was safe to, I didn't go in with high hopes.

The thing about remakes is that ultimately, you've already seen the movie. Maybe that's why the majority of remakes make a decent buck at the theaters. Movie goers already know, for the most part, what to expect. No one went into this year's remake of Nightmare on Elm Street expecting to see a romantic comedy and everyone knew that Willy Wonka was a little "Micheal Jackson" crazy when going to see Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. A cinematic remake is like having a romantic reconnection with an old flame; you already know what to expect and it seem strangely familiar. But...does that mean we should enjoy remakes? Better yet, is there artistic value in analyzing them?

There is a quote out there somewhere that says that every story that can ever be told has already been told, meaning that every since story since then is basically a varied iteration of an original idea. Or in other words, there ain't nothing new under the sun. So in theory this should mean that every film ever made is technically a remake or a rehashing of a particular theme that, in all probability, has been rehashed to death. Does this mean that film analysis is moot and should only apply to purely original content? Of course not. If that was the case, criticism of a story would have ended with the early Greeks.

So then we come back to The Karate Kid...and that cocky little movie star. I went in the theater feeling like somehow I was cheating on Ralph Macchio. And sitting there, watching as director Harald Zwart pulled inspiration from the original classic but in genius fashion set the film in the breath taking vistas of modern day China, I had reminiscent feelings of the 80s. Seeing Jackie Chan return to more serious acting chops that elevate him to the esteemed status he previously held in his old Hong Kong films of the 90s, of which I am a huge fan of, made me feel even more at ease. Then, when it was all said and done, and it turned out that the film actually took itself seriously and didn't pander to current cinematic trends, I had to admit to myself...I actually liked the movie. It wasn't perfect but it wisely avoided the missteps that current Hollywood remakes take. It was respectful of the source material and, perhaps more importantly, respectful to the inspiration behind the original story- martial arts. Even Jaden sort of grew on me, despite the fact that I cheered a little inside when he was getting the crap knocked out of him on screen. Still, he too took the film serious and I appreciated that.

Seriousness is something Hollywood sorely needs these days. But hey, at least it had the decency to not release this Karate Kid remake in 3-D. That would have killed it for me.