Monday, December 19, 2005

You Go Back, Jack, and Do it Again

With multiple remakes at the multiplex (King Kong, Fun with Dick and Jane, Zorro -- even Narnia, which has been adapted a couple of times on TV), people grumble at the lack of originality in today's films. While there is some justification to that criticism, I think there's nothing wrong with remaking a classic story, just as a new interpretation of an old play or opera by an innovative director and a new cast can be a new work of art.

People sometimes forget that many of the Hollywood movies that are deemed classics are remakes of stories that had earlier been turned into films -- such as:

-- John Huston's The Maltese Falcon.

-- 1939's The Wizard of Oz (adaptations of Oz are almost as old as film storytelling).

-- Cecille B DeMille's The Ten Commandments.

-- Ben-Hur.

-- The 1940's Thief of Bagdad.

-- The Bela Lugosi Dracula.

The question, of course, is what sort of story can support multiple interpretations.

What contemporary stories will be adapted again and again, like Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, or Agatha Christie's Poirot, or ERB's Tarzan?

Will those who grumble at the story elements left out of the Harry Potter movies see a new adaptation of the novels, with different cast members, ten or twenty years into the future? Imagine a BBC series adapting the novels in slavish detail, with some yet unborn kid playing Harry.

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