There are two very bad things that can eventually happen to classic films. The first one is the unfortunate case where they will be forgotten by audiences. Usually, however, there are mechanisms in place which prevent that – either they have enough of a cult classic status to remain under the spotlight for decades, or they get an occasional re-release (usually on anniversary years) to get some box office revenue, as well as viral marketing. The second very unfortunate case, however, is a different one – they get a ‘modern’ remake, and it sucks so much that the very nature of the original is threatened. Let’s explore a few cases of the latter category:
The 1999 original film follows an adventurer who raids archeological sites and sells the artefacts he finds – and inadvertently resurrects an Egyptian princess who had been buried under the desert for millennia. While certainly not matching Indiana Jones in production value and storytelling, it delivers a somewhat similar experience in spirit – something that the remake is severely lacking. Despite the success of casting Tom Cruise as Nick Morton, he doesn’t really gel with the role, the plot is not exciting at all, and even the CGI is rather off. The mummy should definitely remained buried.
The 1973 original is a fantastic film in every sense. It is centered around a policeman’s investigation of a missing girl’s case, as he ends up on a remote Scottish island that is home to a Pagan cult. Starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, this movie is a lesson on how to craft an exceptional thriller / horror with a meagre budget. Not quite the same can be said about the 2006 remake, which is an over the top and unintentionally funny reimagining starring Nicholas Cage. The fact that it even exists is a real insult to the original.
The original Godzilla was a Japanese production back in 1956, and set the standards for all the ensuing films that star the big monster. And, while the first American remake (Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film), set in New York City, was actually a pretty good and enjoyable monster flick, the most recent remake was extremely poor. Despite somewhat returning to its Japanese origins, it was a poor overall experience, using Brian Cranston’s name just for marketing reasons, and underdelivering in every aspect apart from needless FX.
Jacob’s Ladder was truly one of the best psychological thrillers of the 90s. Starring Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, a troubled Vietnam War veteran plagued by conspiracies, flashbacks and hallucinations as he struggles to make sense of what’s real and what’s not, the original is a real cult classic. Not the same can be said about the 2019 remake, which scores an abysmal 3.5 / 10 on IMDb. While the original is a modern day interpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, with philosophical and biblical references, the remake is a mish-mash of material that misses every central point that the 1990 version made. The only positive about it is the acting, but the performances feel wasted on the whole.
The original film was released in 1990, and was an instant hit, mostly due to Arnold Schwarzenegger being the figurehead – what ensued was a sort of goofy sci-fi with over the top action and plenty of entertainment on display. The remake failed to replicate any of that bar the fake memories angle – it even didn’t replicate Mars as the setting – and thus felt completely devoid of any charm and substance that came with the name. Moreover, while Colin Farrell did a great job here, the role just doesn’t quite fit him. This remake is by far better than most others on this list, but it remains a great disappointment.
Thankfully we got a half-decent reboot of the 1984 classic this year, but the previous attempt was an absolutely disastrous one. The decision to remake the film with an all-female cast felt a tad forced, and reinforcing a gender-swap of roles that never really got anywhere positive with previous iterations of classics, regardless of the direction it went into. Beyond that, a poorly structured plot, lack of creativity and a very lengthy runtime pretty much put a nail in the film’s coffin.
Ben-Hur is one of the all-time great films. Still in IMDb’s Top 250 films of all time, the 1959 classic won 11 Oscars at the Academy Awards in 1960 and the tale of a Jewish prince that is sold into slavery in 1st century Jerusalem has remained a reference point in world cinema. The same story is explored in a more ‘modern’ 2016 remake, but the film is pretty much stripped of all that made it a masterpiece in the first place. While the effects are remarkable (not surprising considering the big budget), the action is lackluster and without any standout moments, the chemistry between the two brothers is quite poor, and the plot is a shaky mess.
In a dystopian version of Detroit, where crime rate is through the roof, a terminally wounded policeman returns as a powerful cyborg in order to continue his duty. Although rather corny, this 1987 film is a very solid action film that pretty much defined the late 80’s approach to action-packed sci-fi. The 2014 remake is not an absolute disaster, but is quite a distance away from the original in terms of quality. So, while not all that bad for those longing for some old-school action, the Robocop remake offers nothing remarkable at all.