Remakes of popular films, often those that invoke childhood nostalgia, are propagating in theatres across North America. In 2023, we saw The Little Mermaid, a live-action remake of the 1989 animated film, split the internet in half through the discourse of the relevance of the racial background of the film’s main star, Halle Bailey. According to Forbes, Bailey “received both praise and racist backlash online, including from some who tweeted the hashtag #NotMyAriel”.
In another case, Netflix’s rom-com period film Persuasion received an onslaught of hate for its lack of historical accuracy and the overt awareness of its protagonist, Anne Elliot, played by Dakota Johnson. The remake derives from the classic romance novel by author Jane Austen, this is not the first of her books to be created into a film, with remakes of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility rising to popularity among young fans. Harper’s Bazaar found that fourth-wall breaks through playful winks and knowing looks with the viewer and alterations in dialogue were received poorly among die-hard fans of Austen’s.
It’s not surprising that most of the public finds the remakes to be inaccurate when compared to the original or lacking in how emotionally effective it is. Major film productions have been driving themselves into a wall as they come up with one remake after another, despite the popular sentiment being that remakes are just not what people are looking forward to seeing. Not all remakes cause tension the way that The Little Mermaid or Persuasion has, 2018’s A Star is Born, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, made about $42.9M on opening night and was praised for its incredible soundtrack.
A Star is Born had about 3 remakes, the original film was created in 1937 and starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. But what makes this remake so popular and different from other remakes? Bizarre special effects and daring stunts were not necessary to raise the popularity of the film, the key aspect of its success lies in minor changes to the plot which raised the overall appeal of the film, outdoing the prior 3 versions. Some changes specified by Collider were that the main leads were equal rather than portraying a relationship of give and take.
Their romance shares the foundation of a love for music and performing, and shares this love with viewers through a heart-wrenching and catchy soundtrack. Not all live actions are doomed to fail, but there is a trend of creating live actions to make a quick buck and keep the audience satiated with their hunger for new content. The online consensus, however, disrupts this easy money-grabbing system as people demand better storylines and films that have that essence of originality.
Writers are part of the underpaid foundation of the film industry, along with VFX artists, and the WGA (Writer Guild of America) strike matters a lot in terms of whether those original films will be created or not. The tragedy of live-action films stems from the fact that often they are not created in appreciation of their predecessor but as a convenient method of earning money while having to do half the work of coming up with a pitch. Childhood classics, especially those created by Disney, are losing their nostalgic magic through the implementation of hyper-realistic CGI and the loss of silly songs turned into pop-song covers. Perhaps there will be a future for the film industry in which remakes are created for the sake of appreciation, but until then, one can only hope that upcoming remakes are not as terrible as the Twitter threads claim.
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