Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Modernized remakes and adaptations

It seems to have been a trend during the last decade or so that every time they make a movie that's a remake or adaptation of a story, they always modernize it to happen in the modern world, even if the original story is set to happen many decades ago. It doesn't really matter if the original story is set to happen in the 1980's or the 1920's, the trend seems to be to always adapt it to happen in the 2000's.

Sometimes this has no big impact in the story, so no bad consequences follow this modernization. However, oftentimes they have to bend over backwards in order to make the adaptation work.

A very typical example is that 20+ years ago almost nobody had a cellphone, while nowadays it's rare for somebody to not have one. Thus if the story relies on people being stranded or otherwise cut from civilization or the authorities, the adaptation needs to go to extra lengths to try to explain why the cellphones aren't working or why they don't have them. And that's only one example.

The thing is, usually all these modifications are pretty moot because often there is no advantage in setting the story in modern day. It brings nothing of value to the story, and there's no reason why it couldn't have been set in its original time period.

A much rarer situation is when the do the exact reverse, and go completely overboard with it. In other words, not only do they keep the story in its original time period, but they actually make the movie itself look like it has been made back then.

This gimmick is rather inexplicable. What possible value is there in making the movie deliberately look like it has been made decades ago, rather than it being a modern movie set in that time period? What possible value is there in limiting the technology that can be used to make the best possible movie?

The most egregious example of this that I can think of is the 2005 movie The Call of Cthulhu. It's set in the 1920's, as per the books. However, it's deliberately made to look like it has been made in the 1920's. It's black&white, silent, and with production qualities similar to movies of that time. And for what? What exactly has been gained from this? What could have been an awesome movie ended up being nothing more than a gimmick.

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