It is fair to say, nearly everyone has at least one film they hold dear from their earliest childhood. These are the films that left a mark; the films that inspired our creativity, or simply were the best way to spend time.
For many of my generation, the most influential film (or series) may well be the original Star Wars trilogy; for others it may be The Goonies or Back to the Future. For me, the most important films from my childhood were Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, the original Indiana Jones films and The Iron Giant.
Sometimes, viewed years later, at another juncture in our lives, these films disappoint and other times are just as good as you remember. If the film lives up to your memories of its greatness, in some ways, it is also recollections of your childhood that remain intact; if it doesn’t, you wonder why your young self could have been so obsessed.
With the recent trend of reboots, remakes and sequels, a new threat to our childhood memories has arrived. It is something many film geeks and just most people who grew up in the 80’s felt with the release of the new Star Wars films.
There is a certain magic to one of these films and when a remake or sequel is released it is hard to keep the two apart. Case in point, the Star Wars films.
With the original trilogy being easily one for the most beloved series of all time, when the prequels were released, many considered the series to have been ruined. It was not just only the prequels, but with Lucas having added CGI to the original films, it is now difficult to find the films in their original form.
Now you may argue that you should be able to disassociate a film from its sequel or remake, however when a film is held so dear to your heart, that can be difficult. While I didn’t share the pain many felt over the release of the new Star Wars trilogy, several other recent releases have disappointed me similarly.
As a child, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a film I could watch over and over without getting tired. The music, acting and imagination just pulled me in. Tim Burton’s 2005 remake, took everything I once loved about the film and manipulated it, leaving a shadow of what I once loved.
This is something Burton has been found guilty of before with Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland and Sleepy Hollow as the witnesses for the prosecution. Each time, he took a childhood favourite and added his own twist. Unfortunately, Tim Burton’s twists usually mean twisting the life and any magic out of the film.
This is not however, an argument against remakes as they can be a great creative opportunity. The problem is that these films usually do not stem from a strong creative vision on the part of the director; rather the point of departure is usually a studio seeing the chance to bank on nostalgia.
This was exactly the case with Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. For years we heard of a possible sequel, and with Harrison Ford’s age becoming a factor, we finally got one. Frank Darabont was hired to write the script–a script that Spielberg said was the best he had read since Raiders of the Lost Ark. Instead, due to George Lucas’ dislike of the earlier script, we got a new script from a different writer, one which Spielberg has publicly admitted he was not happy with.
While the other films in the Indiana Jones series were not technically perfect, they were genuine. They were made with an obvious love for film and for the characters and the story being told. This film on the other hand was riddled with flaws: an unimaginative story, overuse of CGI and most of all, a lack of passion.
It is hard to watch the other films without taking into account this latest installment, as it is part of the official cannon. Spielberg and Lucas took a series–which in many of our minds was perfect–and added something that sucks much of the magic that the series held.
I hate to admit it, but this is never going to stop. Hollywood is at a point where remakes, reboots and sequels appear to be the highest grossing opportunities. Studios see a chance to take something we love and update it with the chance at huge profits.
All we can do is hope that some of our other favourite properties don’t get these updates, and remain as perfect childhood memories.