When you’re immersed in the movie business as deeply as we movie bloggers are, it can be hard to stay in tune with the shifting attitudes and opinions of the general movie going public. Of course it’s also hard getting an accurate reading on public opinion because, frankly, the attitudes of the public are often finicky and unpredictable.
So in that sense, it’s easy to understand why sometimes it’s hard not to be skeptical when movie fans complain about trends in cinema – sometimes they are voicing legitimate concerns or objections – other times, people are just parroting a popular buzz word or phrase that has taken on a certain connotation. A perfect example of this is the word “remake” and its current dirty-word connotation in the movie fan community.
Movie remakes are nothing new (Siskel and Ebert were complaining about them way back in 1976), but since the world economy has become a battlefield of increasing uncertainty, Hollywood has tried to wrestle some sense of security and certainty from the jaws of chaos, by focusing on movies that feature familiar titles and brands. The theory is that fan nostalgia is its own brand of effective marketing – though that theory is getting more and more questionable with each new movie season.
As stated, “remake” has become something of a dirty word, these days. Doesn’t matter if upset fans are using the word in proper context or not, since connotation often overrides the legitimacy of logic and accuracy. Case in point: David Fincher’s upcoming adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which is continuously bemoaned for being an “Americanized remake,” even though it is NOT a remake of the Swedish film by Niels Arden Oplev, but rather its own, separate, interpretation of author Steig Larsson’s bestselling novel. Though Fincher’s film looks to have great potential (check out the hip teaser trailer), there is already a certain negative perception of it, since it’s thought of (incorrectly) as ‘just another stupid Hollywood remake.’
Another dirty word that is currently being tossed around by movie fans, is “3D.” Director James Cameron dragged the stereoscopic format out of obscurity with his revolutionary movie Avatar, and he hoped (at least for awhile) that the bar he set for the use of 3D would be the high standard amongst Hollywood’s creative visionaries. What we’ve mainly gotten instead is a return to the use of 3D as a cheap gimmick (Clash of the Titans, Alice In Wonderland, Green Lantern), with few notable exceptions (Transformers 3, Final Destination 5) and even fewer 100% enjoyable 3D movie experiences (….um, can you think of an example?).
Here’s the thing about buzz words, though: it’s often hard to tell when people have a legitimate gripe with the topic being referenced, or if that buzz word/phrase is simply the issue du jour to complain about. Despite the objections that instantly crop up when people hear the words “remake” and/or “3D” mentioned in conjunction with a new movie, it’s hard to know which films fans will ultimately avoid and which they will embrace. (This question looms large over upcoming films like Romancing The Stone, Short Circuit, Dirty Dancing, Shark Night 3D, Underworld: Awakening 3D, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.) Strange as it seems (sarcasm), sometimes, a movie fans have complained about at great length still manages to make a disgusting amount of money (the “Transformers Paradox”).
However, recently two 3D remakes – Fright Night and Conan The Barbarian - had the distinct advantage of being the only major new releases in the later summer lineup – and both 3D remakes fell flat on their faces at the box office.
Now don’t get me wrong: no one was expecting these two films to be major money-raking blockbuster hits. Fright Night is a remake of a campy ’80s movie that didn’t do well at the box office back in the ’80s, but found second life as a cult-classic on home video – while Conan The Barbarian is a movie that did alright at the box office, but really gained second life as a cult-classic Schwarzenegger flick. It’s not like either film had much of a bankable nostalgia factor to coast on, and as of right now, the Fright Night remake has earned a staggeringly bad worldwide gross of just $8 million (against a $30 million budget), while the new Conan is limping around with $16 million in pocket (against a bafflingly-high $90 million budget). Suffice to say: both films are flops.
The question at hand is: Are movie fans doing more than just reciting buzz words now? Are they truly tiring of high-priced 3D gimmicks and rehashed remakes to the point that they’re making a clear and distinct statement with their wallets? We won’t mention any names, but we’ve been hearing increasing word from the Hollywood sector that seems to indicate as much – and the box office numbers are there to analyze and interpret, for anybody curious. You may be surprised at how much these 3D films aren’t making.
In our Fright Night review we deemed the movie to be one of the few worthwhile remakes, even if the 3D wasn’t necessary; our Conan The Barbarian review deemed that movie to be wholly unnecessary on all fronts. So there was a difference in the quality of the respective films, in our opinion: one deserved viewers’ ticket money, the other didn’t. But both failed to draw an audience.
Maybe it was the subject matter (vampires are a worn out trend, too) or the ineffectiveness of the marketing (nothing in the trailers or TV spots for either film was particularly enticing). But maybe, just maybe, it’s simply the case that audiences are tired of seeing movies they’ve already seen before (and still remember fondly). Maybe audiences are also tired of being forced to pay considerably more for an often unsatisfying effect gimmick. As much as I enjoyed the film, my $17 Fright Night 3D experience would’ve been better as a $10 2D experience.
We now pose the question to you guys: Let us you know where you currently stand in regards to the issue of movie remakes and 3D. Who knows, maybe somebody in Hollywood will actually listen to what it is you have to say…