Winnie the Pooh has his second, although very different, movie opening this weekend. To tie in with it’s release we all cast our minds back to our childhood, then back to the modern era and talk about these adaptations, are they good or are they bad?
As a wee lad I was utterly obsessed with a little TV show called Thunderbirds. I had all the toys, the costume and most episodes on VHS (I’m getting old) and I spent hours pretending to be one of the Tracey’s, saving people around the world…or at least around the living room. I won’t talk about the disastrous Thunderbirds movie..I just can’t do it. But I will talk about ITV’s new CGI Thunderbirds series. Now this is the kind of remake I can get behind.
Realising what made the original so great the new series just provides a modern take on the classic with updated technology and fewer strings! Part of the retained charm comes from the new series still using models and sets for the Thunderbirds themselves and only using CGI for the characters and effects. This is how it should be done and I’m excited to watch more of this perfectly crafted homage of a classic!
Look, we all have old stories we love. Whether that’s classics like Beowulf, Lord of the Rings, and Frankenstien or more modern works like the Disney Classics, there are stories that ring true in our hearts, and we want more of them. Often, they’re things we fell in love with as children, and this is a key factor which studios often miss. You see, as anyone reading a child bedtime stories knows; when a child loves a story, they don’t want a different story. They don’t say “Read me another book, dad!” They say “Again!”
Fans of these kinds of classics are much the same. We don’t mind slight shifts which texture key moments differently, any more than we mind subsequent readings of bed-time stories being done with different voices. Different actors give different performances, different directors shoot scenes differently, and so on.
This is radically different from recent attempts at re-doing old works. Disney’s Maleficent missed the mark not because it was about Maleficent, but because it changed her character. Compare this to, for example, Disney’s recent revamp of Beauty and the Beast and we see that studios are starting to learn. The characters in the latter were explored more richly -without- compromising the story. Occasionally, broadening a tale works, as we saw in Wicked‘s reworking of The Wicked Witch, but that isn’t what most audiences want when it comes to stories near and dear to them.
We want subtext explored, not a new story.
First off I need to let everyone know that I already have my tickets pre-booked for Winnie the Pooh as my girlfriend is a Pooh nut (lol) and i’m pretty excited. Adaptations can be good and bad and i’m not sure what it really comes down to, perhaps it’s how adaptable the characters are or perhaps its just how good the adaptation is, or how close it is to the source material. For example I enjoyed the Paddington films but that’s really because it’s just a simple kids film about a bear and i have no personal links to Paddington.
But much like Big Will above I was obsessed with both the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles AND Power Rangers and lets be honest recent adaptations of both have been shit. I hated the second Turtles Bay film with a passion and the rangers film didn’t remotely interest me. Is this because the shine has worn off since i was young or just because they were really bad? Well I still enjoy the turtles animated stuff so must just be a bad movie!
Oh no… here comes Luke to be an absolute anal bastard about this! Look I am not going to bore you with the specifics of everything in here but in my mind I feel that there have been a LOT of absolute bangers that are essentially remakes of yesteryear… Instead what I will do is list my 10 favourites (in no specific order) below:
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Based on the Laputa plot in Gullivers Travels
- The Lion King. Based on Hamlet
- The Magnificent Seven, based on The Magnificent Seven which was also based on The Seven Samurai
- Baz Luhrmanns Romeo and Juliet based on… you guessed it! A Christma… Just kidding.
- Scarface was a modernised remake too
- Sherlock – A modern reimagining of Sherlock Holmes
- Star Trek
- The Nutty Professor – Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
- Edward Scissorhands can be argued as a modern retelling of Frankenstein
- (This one’s a stretch) but The Evil Dead is all based on Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.
Told you I would go full bastard on this.
Well, one of my favorite series of all time is basically an adaptation of Journey to the West. That’s right I’m talking about Dragon Ball. Just wanted to beat William to it but I’d like to point out a recent adaptation that I absolutely adore, Devilman Crybaby. This show is just a retelling of the original story by Go Nagai but with an art style and general tone that can only be achieved from the director of such works as Tatami Galaxy.
I think that adaptations are a really interesting thing because when a director with a unique style adds their own spin on it, it can be some wild shit.
Remakes of classics can be good, or…very much not. Unlike a new property, a remake comes with certain expectations attached to it, which can make it harder to deal with – but studios pursue them nonetheless because ‘easy cash in’. I think the key element to making a good remake, though, is meeting the expectations of fans by retaining enough of what made the original great, but still letting the remake be its own thing so it feels like it has a point to exist. Series that manage this balance well, like Netflix’s Voltron for example, get to retain the old fans whilst making a ton of new ones, and help refresh the overall franchise’s relevancy. Series that screw it up, however, become sore points for old fans, and don’t really gain traction like the Powerpuff Girls or Gem reboots (though there are exceptions to this, like Teen Titans Go! – it’s been going for years, so presumably someone out there must be watching it).
Although I haven’t seen it yet, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Ducktales reboot, and that it addresses things that plagued the original (eg. the triplets were the same person, and Webby was ‘The Girl Character’ and nothing else). And, as mentioned, Voltron seems to be doing well too (another show I really need to get around to seeing). Ideally, I’d really want something like Gargoyles or Swat Kats to come back though; one of those grittier, darker toon classics could work really well given a fresh insight and a good budget.