So Oldboy‘s coming out soon. You can check me off as a fan in the original department, which justifies my anxious trepidations just thinking of Spike Lee’s “creative” choices. But that could be my over-worrisome nature talking, making an issue out of absolutely nothing. I mean how bad could an American remake of a well-crafted, highly regarded, standout East Asian film be? This question got me thinking a bit about all the remakes I’ve actually seen and all the connecting originals I’ve actually seen. Short answer: Eh… about 50/50. Long answer:
Hit: The Ring (2002) – [Ringu (1998)]
Dark rooms were not my friend for a good year after watching this one. It had to have been around the age of ten or eleven when I first witnessed The Ring, feeling like such an adult at the time, big kid on campus getting to watch a scary movie. O, but how my esteem swiftly dispersed.
There are a couple reasons why I consider The Ring a hit. Gore Verbinski – of Pirates of the Caribbean fame – was at the helm directing a somewhat unknown Naomi Watts. Then there’s Hans Zimmer creating an eerily thought provoking score, one that screams, “You are alone!” It made $250 million in the box office, although as we will see, profit does not mean success. But holding the most importance is its genuine crossover from Ringu. Adaptations usually score a hit in my book when they respect their source while further expanding the work at hand. Thus, hit.
Miss: Godzilla (1998) – [Gojira (1954)]
So when I said profits don’t always define success Godzilla was specifically at the top of my mind. With a budget of $130 million, this film miraculously mustered up $380 million. Edging out Argo by a mere $4000, to give some perspective. Let’s just say I was a foolish child. I saw this and thought it was the bee’s knees. Fast forward to last year, when older, much more mature me, sat down and experienced Gojira.
Simply put, Godzilla was a slap in the face to its predecessor. A complete and total disregard for all that inspired every other monster film thereafter. Some blame it on the film’s director, Roland Emmerich (I could do an entire Hit or Miss post on his filmography alone… and maybe I will, spoiler: Godzilla will be a miss), others blame it on the target audience’s IQ scores.
Hit: A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – [Yojimbo (1961)]
This one’s a tiny bit cheating. According to director Sergio Leone, A Fistful of Dollars was in no way an adaption/remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. To the rest of the world, it was… clearly. While Kurosawa will forever have my unfettering devotion, it in no way keeps Fistful from being a hit. Plus, how could the start of Clint Eastwood’s illustrious career be a miss? Not to mention, the start of The Man With No Name series.
A young Clint Eastwood should be enough explanation, but I will add in Leone’s brilliance, Ennio Morricone’s composing, and Lee Van Cleef’s manly seriousness. As far as “remakes” go, Fistful puts on a clinic for how to do it right.
Hit: The Departed (2006) – [Infernal Affairs (2002)]
It’s funny, I watched Infernal Affairs specifically for this post. I’m actually surprised – a bit ashamed too – it has taken me this long, and since the film is fresh in my mind I will probably talk about it much longer than necessary. IA‘s editor definitely took some chances, and the film’s scoring has interesting moments, but none of that matters to me. What matters, obviously, is the writing. This story, man this story… I would say it has Oscar-winning potential, but The Departed already proved that. It has a gripping nature to it that demands every aspect of your attention. I have been known on occasion to do a bit of multi-tasking while watching a film, maybe get some writing done or do some research while it plays in the background. I can firmly say my computer stayed in sleep mode throughout IA‘s entirety.
Now, I realize there is little to no talk about the subject film. I strongly believe there is no need. Let The Departed‘s awards speak for themselves. I don’t feel like explaining why a Best Picture winner is good (well on occasion I might explain why a Best Picture winner was undeserving). Still, I’ll just say The Departed did not mess up and leave it at that.
Miss: The Eye (2008) – [The Eye (2002)]
If this list was about high school crushes, Jessica Alba’s The Eye would be at the top. Unfortunately, this is a list about American adaptations of films out of East Asia, so it doesn’t rank that high. Although I am not really a fan of the Pang Brothers’ 2002 original, it still deserves some sort of credit. A tiny bit. Of course, the U.S. was and still is on a high from the likes of The Ring and The Grudge so all Asian horror films should translate nicely right?
Miss: Bangkok Dangerous (2006) – [Bangkok Dangerous (1999)]
This one is completely cheating, but I find myself justified. No I have not seen the original Bangkok Dangerous, however I would argue that I really do not have to. I am a Nic Cage fan. Always will be, but this is without even a teeny tiny glimmer of a doubt the worst film he has ever been in, ever. I saw this film IN THEATERS! BD taught me a valuable lesson that day, spend your money wisely. Or at least not crappily. Still, when the Nicolas Cage is involved, all bets are off.
Hit: The Magnificent Seven (1960) – [Seven Samurai (1954)]
Oh what a cast. The Magnificent Seven is just one of the classic Westerns continually referenced day in and day out. And for good reason, as the aforementioned cast consists of Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, and Robert Vaughn, which is pretty crazy to think about, plus the film has its story taken from one of the greatest storytellers of any generation. Akira Kurosawa, is a genius in his own right, and has two films on this list (both “Hits”). Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is widely regarded as his magnum opus, which again leaves America to “not mess it up.”
John Sturges managed to rise to the occasion, creating a film neither forgettable or cringeworthy. The Magnificent Seven is far from Seven Samurai‘s stature, perhaps maybe in its shadow, but there was never any chance of that anyways. It did great for what it had and what it could be, and it is because of that I consider it a hit.