Remaking Our Childhood Memories

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.

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13 Responses to Remaking Our Childhood Memories

  1. Or we can refuse to watch these updates and work at showing others the pitfalls of remade childhood memories. That’s what I do…

  2. RunningSiren says:

    Hollywood can never take our memories away of the first time we watched a film that simply wowed us – whether it be “Gone with the Wind” (which still must be seen on the big screen to truly appreciate it) or “The Sound of Music” or “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid”. or “Avatar” for that matter. Someone can and will remake them and it may be another viewer’s “wow” moment that they’ll remember.
    Recently I looked up “Wuthering Heights” – 14 different films so far with No.15 in preproduction! The first film was way back in 1920, the 1939 film with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon is probably the top choice of most film lovers. I remember Timothy Dalton as Heathcliffe in the 1970 film, and more recently Tom Hardy as Heathcliffe in the 2009 film (and prefer both over the 1939 version). Version No.15 (2011 release) is in preproduction by one of my favourite directors Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) and I’m sure it will be very different and I look forward to it.

    • I do agree that some of these remakes can be a good thing, however I think the bulk of them are made for money reasons instead of being from a creative need to tell the story again.

      My problem is with those films, like the films that Burton has been releasing recently. This may just be a personal problem, but I have trouble separating the 70’s Willy Wonka with the Burton Wonka film. It has taken away much of the magic from the film for me.

  3. saighton says:

    Well, there’s yet another reason to say “FUCK George Lucas”, isn’t there. When was the last time he was a useful consumer of oxygen rather than a marketing expert?

  4. Wayne Marshall says:

    I am 37 and Willy Wonka is one of the first movies I remember falling in love with. I owned it on VHS, it was my first DVD purchase and one of the first Blurays I owned as well. I watch it several times per year and still love it as much today as I did then.
    I disagree with you 75%. I enjoyed Sleepy Hollow, Alice and Charlie…in that order.
    I am a Tim Burton fan though and kind of look at them as “covers”.
    I used to moan when I heard about someone remaking a movie, but realize it will happen regardless. Sometimes it even end up in something better than the original.
    Casino Royale
    The Thomas Crown Affair
    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
    Little Shop Of Horrors
    Ocean’s 11
    Heck, even George Lucas admits that Star Wars is heavenly influenced by The Hidden Fortress.
    Sure, there are lots of remakes that fail and that generally comes down to personal preference. I have gotten to the point where I refuse to let a sequel or remake taint my reason for loving the original. I still love The Matrix, The Indiana Jones trilogy, Psycho and many other movies just as much as I did before the release of their sub-par cinematic relatives.
    Ah film…how I love thee.

  5. You are right about most of those remakes, although Casino Royale doesn’t really count. I am not arguing against remakes as I love many, especially the 70’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The post concerns the films specifically from your childhood and the remakes or sequels damage your memories of your childhood.

    • Wayne Marshall says:

      One of the main reasons I like the new Alice in Wonderland is because it has become my 11 year old daughter’s favorite movie. Given the subject of the post I felt it appropriate to point out that while we may not like some of the movies listed, they may become “childhood memories” for the current generation.
      Example: My 10 year old daughter proclaimed tonight that she much prefers the newer live action “Charlotte’s Web” to the animated version and I felt a little sad.
      Opinions: Animated LOTR movies vs live action and adding Toy Story 3 to the Toy Story series so many years after the originals. Both were childhood favorites of many and the newer versions could have failed miserably. TS3 was in the same boat as the new Indy films and the new Star Wars films…same creators coming back to the material.
      Certainly those are arguments for remakes, updates or sequels of familiar material. I was the first to roll my eyes when I heard that Toy Story 3 was coming. The only saving grace is that I love and trust Pixar. I also could say the same for George Lucas at one point, so thankfully they delivered.
      But I can see how some remakes aren’t for everyone.
      If someone announced today that the Goonies were being remade with Disney channel stars or Back to The Future was being shot with Justin Bieber, I would probably vomit in my mouth a little, just ignore them and go on with my life. If I choose to see it then it’s my fault…I encouraged it and I allowed myself to taint the childhood memory. I haven’t seen the new Clash Of The Titans, passed on Bewitched and have stayed as far away from The Pink Panther movies as possible.

  6. Fe says:

    Tim Burton’s fans are so aggressive… I’m glad I’m not one anymore, Alice in wonderland was the most disappointing film I ever sat through, and even though I still really like many of his old movies, I have no problem admitting that his more recent ones are horrible. Alice in wonderland was embarassing, when the Johnny Depp started to dance I had to cover my eyes.

    • Wayne Marshall says:

      Really….I came across as aggressive? That wasn’t my intent in any way, shape or form. I was simply stating my history with the original Wonka and explaining my side of the debate.

  7. RunningSiren says:

    If someone wants to do a remake and is serious about it (not just to promote the latest 15-min. of fame celebrity), then that’s fine with me but they better be prepared for the months and months of blogging about their “stupid idea” remake, their casting choices – and even more critcism when the film is released. [And Wayne I agree with you, if they remake Back to the Future they can forget my box office dollars – saw it again on TV last week and it still holds up. And Bieber is no Michael J. Fox.]
    I think part of the problem these days is that available film financing dollars are scarce and investors in Hollywood films would rather go with a remake of a proven hit than try something new – sad but true – but that’s another subject entirely.

    • Runningsiren you are absolutely right! Hollywood today is being so careful with what they produce, the number of original, big budget films produced each year is very small. It is very frustrating considering we have had three great in the last couple years of why original works; Avatar, Inception and Disctrict 9.

      You are also correct, in my opinion, about Back to the Future. Where many 80’s films don’t stand up to future viewings, Back to the Future demands it! It is such a great film and works just as great today as it ever did.

      • Wayne Marshall says:

        There’s no talk of a remake, as far as I know. I was just making a worst case example.
        God forbid some movie person Googles Justin Bieber and sees it, giving them the idea.

  8. RunningSiren says:

    You can bet that someone at Universal or Amblin Entertainment (original producers) has already sent some “assistant” to go through the masses of old scripts submitted for a BttF re-make to find something decent for the Bieb, and someone at Calvin Klein has already sent email about using their underwear in the remake! Looks like original director Robert Zemeckis is kind of busy though with lots of new project, including (sigh) Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2 – it never ends.

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