Somehow, in the midst of Open Left, the subject of movies came up. David Sirota was asking whether the recent spate of remakes and sequels to 1980s-era film and TV series was due to some kind of political nostalgia or influence. I thought no, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to vent my opposition to worthless remakes and sequels, as you’ll see below.
The following is cross-posted from Open Left here, dated December 21 2010.
I would caution against reading too much politics in our pop culture (0.00 / 0)
Without having seen either Tron or Tron: Legacy and thus unaware of any political messages in either film (and please don’t share them with me until after I’ve seen them, in a few weeks’ time), I think the revival of 1980s-era film and TV series is due to a far less pernicious reason: enough time has elapsed to allow remakes and sequels that are “fresh”.
You see, contemporary Hollywood seems to be utterly incapable of creating – or perhaps, utterly unwilling to finance – new and original ideas for movies, instead preferring to revive franchises that were long thought dead and resting in peace, solely because of the perception of those franchises being a sure-fire box office winner. This is done mostly through remakes (which are almost never worthwhile or equal to, to say nothing of better than, the originals) but also through long-spaced sequels. For example, see 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, released 19 years after 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Rambo, released 20 years after 1988’s Rambo III (though Rambo was actually better than some of the other Rambo films, IMO). And now, we have Tron: Legacy, released a stunning 28 years after 1982’s Tron. Is this a record for the longest gap in time between sequels?
Unfortunately, remakes and sequels tend to work commercially, because 1. Fans of the series go see it 2. There’s a sort of brand recognition in place and 3. Anecdotally, some people my age (early 20s) refuse to watch any movie older than, say, 1990, because they apparently have a weak stomach for inferior visual effects. So they settle on watching subpar remakes and sequels instead, as long as they’re made with more recent technology and feature more familiar contemporary actors.
We’re seeing 1980s remakes now because filmmakers seem to have decided that a gap of at least 20-25 years or so is required to distance the remake from the original. Strike too soon and moviegoers will reject it as the original is still fresh in their memories. By waiting long enough, you not only avoid that problem, but you can also attract younger moviegoers who are probably not even aware that the originals even exist, or if they are, refuse to watch it, as I discussed earlier.
I don’t know what’s the deal with sequels, which are usually not spaced out that far. The aforementioned examples are probably exceptions rather than the rule. I don’t know what the case is with Tron: Legacy specifically; I suspect they just thought it was a “cool” idea that could be commercially successful with a gigantic budget and even more gigantic helping of 2010 visual effects, which I’m sure are far more visually impressive than anything they had back in 1982. But I don’t know why they decided to go with a sequel rather than a remake.
Anyway, long story short, this is a case of bad cinema, not bad politics. But both vex me to no end.