Hey girl, Ryan Gosling wants to drive your car.
Anyone over the age of 25 is going to experience some déjà vu when they head to their multiplex this weekend and see Footloose (Original Release Year: 1984) and The Thing (Original Release Year: 1982) emblazoned in big, bold letters on the marquee. No, they haven't accidentally entered a time warp back to the '80s (or even further back, since the '82 Thing was actually a remake of a 1951 picture) -- they're just part of the remake culture that seems to pervade contemporary Hollywood. In the current climate, no pre-existing movie is too good (or, in the case of, say, My Bloody Valentine, too bad) to be dusted off for another go-around. This weekend's double bill of dueling '80s remakes is just another example of what results when the past is routinely pillaged to create product for the present. It also inspired us to ruminate a little bit on some of the questions that the subject of remakes inspire, questions like...
If nothing else, this weekend's dueling '80s remakes offer some instructive lessons in how to -- and how not to -- update a pair of widely liked films that still loom large in the pop culture imagination... at least for those folks old enough to remember the difference between a Goonie and a Gremlin. Craig Brewer's Footloose is a strikingly faithful adaptation of Herbert Ross's 1984 "rebel with a cause (and a groovy beat)" teen musical that rocketed Kevin Bacon to stardom. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s The Thing is technically a prequel to, but really a loose remake of, John Carpenter's 1982 monster movie, which bombed in theaters at the time but has since become a genre touchstone. As is often the case with remakes, neither movie is likely to supplant the original in moviegoers' hearts. But only one truly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as its predecessor. The other is destined to remain in obscurity, living out the rest of his post-theatrical days in the discount DVD bin at big box stores and the 2 AM timeslot on a random cable movie network.
Remember John Carpenter's The Thing? That's right, the movie that for a time made people just a little bit suspicious of their own dogs, blood tests, and Wilford Brimley. Earlier this year, seeming confirmation of a long-rumored remake caused something of a stir among devoted fans of the original. Well, rest easy, lovers of the decapitated-head-spider! Director Marc Abraham recently told Latino Review that it's not a remake, after all. He also says that it's "'more of a prequel than a sequel'" and that it will be about "'the events leading up to the 1982 film.'"
According to CHUD.com, John Carpenter is developing a movie that script writers Jeremy Passmore and Andre Fabrizio say came about because they "were trying to do Unforgiven as a gangster movie." Titled The Prince, theirs is a story about a Vegas gangster who's left behind his life of crime to try to lead a normal life with his family. This echoes Clint Eastwood's character in Unforgiven, who tried the same thing, only to find himself in the middle of bloodshed and violence all over again. Passmore called the project "a bit of a departure" for Carpenter, who's made a name for himself directing horror movies like The Thing and Halloween. It's not hard to see how you'd get from horror to gangsters, though.