The Cinematic Education of our Youth

Be warned….this is going to get ranty.  So I apologise in advance.
Kids nowadays have it easy.  I remember the days in school when passed-on notes were the best means of communication, penpals sent handwritten letters and if you wanted to watch a film before it came on TV, you need to wait a good year to rent the video.  Now, everything is done through the Internet or their mobile phone by tapping a few buttons.

I recently watched an episode of Glee and the weekly musical theme was disco.  This was a genre that the glee club characters didn’t like – their sentiments were two words, “disco sucks.”  Yet, the episode was based around an album that defined a significant era in film, as well as music.  Co-incidently, it is the lowest-rated Glee episode of all time.

The thing is that teenagers seem out of touch due to the influence of modern technology – the same can be applied to films.  Most of the recent blockbuster films are plastered with wire-dependent stunts, CGI and 3D conversions, as well as they need to be based on something, whether it is a book, television show or – God forbid – another film.  So, what gives?

This is the never-ending problem with prequels, sequels and remakes; not only is the quality of the film not as good as the first one but in a way, they ‘overwrite’ the original film…or in rare cases, fact is assumed as fiction or vice versa.

Take the following example – when Titanic was re-released in 3D format earlier this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the disaster, there was a backlash on Twitter as numerous users were ignorantly unaware that one of highest-grossing films of all time was based on a real event.  Right…next thing you’ll know, people will be flocking to 221B Baker Street in London to find Sherlock Holmes, or trying to find more evidence of Abraham Lincoln’s life as a vampire hunter.  Grrr indeed.

Horror remakes are a repeat offender – examples such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and the forthcoming Carrie remake, starring Chloe Moretz as the titular Carrie White (in the name of all things holy, WHY?  But then again, it isn’t the first time Moretz has starred in a controversial horror remake…let’s hope no-one makes her cry about this 😛).   A most recent offender away from the horror genre is the 2011 remake of Footloose, which was a modern, yet too-close-for-comfort take on the original 1984 teen movie, starring Kevin Bacon.  From the dancing montages to the costumes worn during the prom – it is a celluloid copy, only 27 years later.



Hmmm….do you think people are going to tell the difference (?)

Adam Shankman’s Hairspray offers a slight twist yet represents another example – rather than remake the 1988 cult classic directed by John Waters and starring the then-unknown Ricki Lake, it was primarily based on the successful (and more mainstream) Broadway musical, which stars an ensemble cast including Michele Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and John Travolta.  Besides the extra dollar and the  opportunity to showcase the talents of the hip-and-now teeny-boppers (that’s what I call them, like the oldie that I am), is there anything that warrants to reincarnation of what can be considered cult/classic material?

It is not remakes that have the same problems: there was a lot of anticipation for the recent sci-fi film Prometheus, which not only marks the return to the Alien universe since the disappointing Alien: Resurrection but also Ridley Scott as the director – 33 years after he made the first film in the series.  Even though not a prequel or remake, it echoes certain plot elements from the original – strong female protagonist; an ‘invitation’ to an uncharted planet; an undiscovered civilisation and a hidden connection with Weyland Corporation (that would ultimately become Weyland-Yutani Corporation as established in Aliens).  If viewers unfamiliar with the Alien franchise watch this film then the original films, it is likely that they’ll assume Prometheus is directly linked to the original franchise, therefore ‘tainting’ the story of Ellen Ripley.

  The newbie and the veteran…or for the sakes of Alien-series chronology, is it the other way round?

Now don’t get me wrong.  There are some good remakes and adaptations out there and certain re-releases have done well to earn critical and financial praise.  Classic example is Christopher Nolan’s work on the Batman series.  After Joel Schumacher’s quite disastrous Batman vs Robin, relaunching the Caped Crusader was the last thing on Warner Bros.’ agenda.  However, Nolan was able to revive the franchise and create a series of successful comic book adaptations that have raised the bar on how future comic re-workings should be make.   Touch wood that he will be able to achieve what no-one has yet done – a critically acclaimed comic book adaptation trilogy.  Another would be Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.  Such complex novels needed a visionary to make the story come to life and Jackson was able to do this and opened the coolness of fantasy novels for a new generation, as well as  raise hopes for a live-action adaptation of The Hobbit.

It seems that the key demographic for ‘success’ is 16-25 year olds (i.e. the iPod generation), because thanks to the developments in social media, they represent the audience with the most influence.  Once something starts ‘trending’ or ‘is shared’, that’s it – you’re onto something.  But what this demographic has to remember that when they rely on older generations to teach them lessons in life, this can also apply on a cinematically educational level – would they be aware of classic films such as CasablancaSingin’ in the Rain or even perhaps the original Star Wars Trilogy?
In other words, films that defined the genres as we know and love.  Sure, they may think these features are dated, unrefined – hell, they may even say they suck – but would it be worth it to prove that old-fashioned is not necessarily out of fashion? 🙂

Thanks for reading.

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