So recently there has been a small and vocal group who are dedicated to remaking the Last Jedi. Attempting to remake a movie that was a success at the box office by professionals from one of the richest studios with crowdfunded money and fan support, not even a year after the film was released, does shine a light on the absurdity of remakes. Remakes are often lambasted when they are announced. Why remake something that is already great? More importantly, what is the purpose of a remake?
Turning to video games, in that medium remakes/remasters have become fairly popular in recent years. Due to the iterative nature of consoles and changing technology, games are lost to the past by virtue of being stuck on old hardware. Not everyone wants to connect half a dozen consoles to play the games of their childhood. Introducing older games in the form of a remaster or re-release give the game a second shelf life. Sometimes the games are from some generations ago, as in the case of the Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy. Sometimes the games are from the previous generation, as with the Uncharted Remastered Collection. So surely the same principle applies to movies, right? Re-release something with a new coat of paint.
Obviously, the closest thing to games remastering in film is releasing a film on a new form. No-one changes their movies post-release except George Lucas. However, there is an instance of a film being a complete recreation of an earlier film with contemporary technology, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. A film that is regarded as … not good. Though the same process isn’t all bad. After all, the 1939 Wizard of Oz wasn’t the first adaptation of the book to be put to screen, but it was the most memorable because of its use of colour.
So, why remake something? Certainly, the cynical fan and the shrewd businessman might agree that name recognition goes somewhere. However, I want to advocate for a different class of remake. I think that the same intent is always behind a remake but often it gets lost in the making of the thing. A remake exists to re-interpret the story. You can examine a story from a new angle by changing the casting of key roles. I think the most interesting thing a remake can do is to engage with the original text on a new level. A remake as adaptation if you will.
Let’s look at a film that isn’t a remake but rather a sequel that engages with elements of its previous films: Mad Max Fury Road. The first three Mad Max films crafted an apocalyptic landscape that became a point of reference for apocalyptic works. Fury Road took elements that were familiar from the earlier films and used it to tell the story of Furiosa. A wholly original character and one whose motivation spoke to a new theme in the film. A look at how the apocalypse would give rise to a more blatantly tyrannical patriarchy. The chase between Immortan Joe and Furiosa speaks to how a patriarchal figure treats the women in his life. Fury Road is also more skilled on a technical level then it’s predecessors. The ‘remake’ doesn’t negate the original and builds on top of it. That’s what a remake should be.
With that in mind, let’s not look at remakes being announced and suddenly assume the worst. There is power in using an existing text and building on it with another text to create new meaning. There are plenty of examples where movies don’t do this but maybe they should look at it like this more often. So, should fans remake the Last Jedi? Maybe. If there a legitimate thematic nuance they can get across by utilising the basis of the Last Jedi then good for them. Go make your thing. If it has merits, it adds to the discussion. If not, well, the internet is very good at tearing down Star Wars films, I hear.
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