I watched the recently released Coen Brother's remake of TRUE GRIT. I was hesitant at first because I had fond memories of John Wayne’s Oscar winning performance and didn’t want to contaminate them by subjecting myself to a remake. There are, with a few exceptions, no good reasons to remake a “great” movie. Having said that; I have to admit that as a lover of Cinema, I am interested in any and all movies, and I sometimes enjoy seeing a classic or older movie brought into modern times, with the new technology that allows a man to fly and visits to locations that were previously only available with cheesy animation or strong imagination.
I think it takes a very talented writer to update a script, that many thought was perfect, and tell a story that the audience is already familiar with, in a way that makes it worth revisiting. If it is not changed at all, then I think it is really a waste of time and money. Take for instance the remake of PSYCHO which was shot frame for frame the same as Hitchcock’s original, and it stunk up the room. KING KONG on the other hand, with the recent Peter Jackson directed release, benefited from updated technology and told the story from a new angle that made it enjoyable. There is no argument that Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion animation original was a masterpiece, but the computer aided realism Jackson brought to the screen was truly amazing, and fun to watch, and it stands apart from the original. There is a classic Cary Grant movie that is called BRINGING UP BABY. It was remade by director Peter Bogdonavich and his version was almost unrecognizable. He called it WHAT’S UP DOC. It was clever, funny and one of my favorites, along with the original.
Which brings me back to True Grit. I can say I liked it. The performances were good, although I do think Matt Damond was miscast in the Glen Campbell role as the Texas Ranger. Jeff Bridges was very good; not as Great as John Wayne but then, who could be? The new girl, Hallee Steinfeld, who played Maddie Ross, followed in the footsteps of Kim Darby who was also a relative unknown in the day. She was as believable as Kim had been in a part that very easily could have slipped over the top into caricature instead of character. For that I credit the writers who took sometimes trite dialogue and made it credible.
The bottom line is; I believe some movies should NEVER be remade. ( But no one listens to me) Some are sacred and untouchable and any remake of a true classic should be ignored. (Who would want to see CASABLANCA without Bogart or GONE WITH THE WIND without Gable?) Other already told stories can be made with the new tools of movie making and would be as enjoyable, or even more so, as the originals.
There certainly are a lot of remakes out and more on the way. Some I am looking forward to, some, not so much. I don’t think it is a slam against writers who cannot come up with new ideas, but rather a Hollywood studio system that wants to hedge their bets and put out a product that they know audiences are already familiar with. It is, after all, the movie business and all about making money.