The Firstest With The Mostest

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019-02-09 13:00:00-05:00 No comments

Some time back I noted that in technology, it doesn't matter to anyone except historians, patent lawyers* and nerds who did something first. It matters who does something best, because that's the only part of it the majority of us are ever going to have any commerce with.

Okay, says the skeptic, but what about art? Well, consider one of the most hated aspects of modern popular culture: the remake. I am not in principle against them, it's that they are way too often done for spurious reasons, or done badly. But when used to correct the obvious deficiencies of a previous attempt at something, a remake can be a powerful thing. The version of The Maltese Falcon we all know and love was the third film version of that story. (Denis Villeneuve's take on Dune might well be a third-time's-the-charm project.)

There is no point, though, in remaking something where there's nothing to either add or take away. 2001: a space odyssey has nothing missing and nothing superfluous. One could, I guess, re-adapt the novel Arthur C. Clarke created as the source for the project, but to what end?

Most remakes are done for the dumbest reasons: because a property was available, or because it has some "name value" (something I've always felt was a grossly overrated attribute). They're not performed as aesthetic or cultural rehabilitation projects, because Hollywood is a business and its function is to maximize returns of investment on things at minimal risk. So if most remakes are trash, it's because the true potential of such a project is almost always not the motive..

* If someone has been cheated out of credit for doing something first, they absolutely deserve to be known as who did it first. I'm talking more about, say, the tiresome wars I saw between Apple fans and Windows users about the origins of the GUI in a consumer setting. Nobody wins those arguments.

Tags: movies remakes