Before we get to the possibly the most contentious section of the article and the one most easily targeted as “nothing more than a cash-in”, let’s take a look at one of the richest (in terms of possibilities and potential box-office due to an in-built audience) area to be mined for a big-screen remake; the humble world of television.
Cinema has been around longer than TV, but the latter obviously has a larger audience as virtually every home in the developed world has at least one television set. Because of this, it’s a no-brainer for a movie exec to look at a TV show and think to himself that turning this into a film will reap rewards.
To that end, there have been movie versions of many, many shows. Some of my favourites include The A Team, 21 Jump Street, Batman, The Addams Family, The Beverly Hillbillies, Charlie’s Angels, Dark Shadows, Dragnet, Dukes of Hazzard, Edge of Darkness, The Equalizer, Serenity, The Fugitive, The Flinstones, Get Smart, Masters of the Universe, Lost in Space, Maverick, Miami Vice, Mission Impossible, The Naked Gun, The Saint, Shaun the Sheep, The Simpsons, South Park, Star Trek, Starsky and Hutch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Sweeney, Thunderbirds, Traffic, Transformers, Veronica Mars and The X-Files.
Now, these vary in quality and some were adapted more than once (with Transformers having both a critically-acclaimed animated version and a less acclaimed live-action film), but they are all movies I enjoyed.
Stand-outs are 21 Jump Street (which, along with the sequel, is absolutely hilarious), Serenity, The Equalizer, The Fugitive, Maverick, Dragnet, The Naked Gun (sublime), Batman (1966 Batman, 1989 Batman and Batman Begins are all good in their own different ways) and the should-be-seen-by-everyone classic that is Traffic. For me, it’s Steven Soderbergh’s greatest work.
Special mention should go to Mission: Impossible, which (after a really intelligent first film, stuttered a bit with the second and then found it’s groove with the third and fourth) has become a phenomenon in its own right. Much of that is down to Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, but surrounding himself by great writers, directors and co-stars have helped this franchise run and run.
In a similar vein, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is getting a movie adaptation with Henry “Superman” Cavill and Armie “Lone Ranger” Hammer taking on the roles of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin respectively. Unlike the Mission: Impossible series, this will retain its early 1960’s setting.
It’s looking good from the trailer that was released, which you can see here:
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Then there’s Saturday Night Live, where characters and sketches have been translated to the cinema on a semi-regular basis. Of course, not all of them work (it is difficult to take something that is essentially a two-minute joke and turn it into a 90+ min feature), but successes have been achieved with The Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World and, most recently, MacGruber.
Of course, it’s not just shows that air on TV; you also get made-for-television movies too. Usually these are daytime “Hallmark Channel” time-fillers, but now and again there’s a great story there too.
Two of the most critically praised movies of recent memory are The Bourne Identity and Heat. It will surprise a lot of people to hear that both of these films are remakes, with Bourne’s saga keeping the same name, while Heat sprung from the ashes of L.A. Takedown. Even Fatal Attraction is a reworking of a little-known British TV-movie by the name of Diversion.
Heat is famous for its scene where Al Pacino and Robert De Niro share the screen for the first time ever, the absolutely amazing heist-gone-wrong shoot-out (that inspired, among others, the immensely enjoyable “Three-Leaf Clover” mission from GTA IV) and Val Kilmer again showing the world he really is a great actor, while The Bourne Identity genuinely changed the game when it comes to spy thrillers.
For evidence of this, look no further than the James Bond movies before and after Matt Damon’s version of Jason Bourne.
As you can see, television is a great source of material to remake into movies that can be successful financially and / or creatively.
See page 3 for reboots…