When I was fourteen years old I went to see the first showing of the Dawn of the Dead remake. I was really excited for the movie, my dad took me and a bunch of my friends and we all sat really close to the screen so that it eclipsed everything else. Then I hated it. I liked the gore, the silliness, Ving Rhames, and I absolutely loved the zombie shooting range. I knew it was a good but I still hated it. To clarify, I don’t hate the movie I just hate that it’s called Dawn of the Dead. Dawn of the Dead is a 1978 George Romero movie that I saw when I was too young to see zombie movies and I love that movie.
The problem I have, and the problem that I think most people have, is that when we think about remakes we usually put them in competition with their predecessors. We see remakes as ugly new rip-offs of the original, sad, empty, attempts to recreate something that’s already been done before. But perhaps this is an unproductive way of thinking. Tonight all across the country Prometheus will open up in theaters; and if we’re to believe the critics they’d say that Prometheus stands in opposition to this way of thinking. In fact if we look back at latest big prequels, sequels, and reboots in the sci-fi genre we can see that most of them stand in opposition to this way of thinking. But is this openness of alteration and progression due to the caliber of the films themselves or is it something bred into the genre itself.
The last big science fiction reboot I saw was Rise of the Planet of the Apes and I loved it. I did not have the same long term relationship with the original Ape films that I had to the original Dawn of the Dead but I still loved and appreciated them. In fact, I spent the day before Rise opened rewatching all of the original ape films in anticipation and by the end of the marathon I felt skeptical about Rise. Then I saw the film and I loved it. What I liked so much about Rise of the Planet of the Apes is that it took the fundamental elements of original films but then restructured them in order to explore a new story. To put it another way they were exploring another dimension of the planet of the apes.
But isn’t this what sci-fi has always been about? Sci-fi Pushes forward, inward, and outward all at once. It truly opens up a subject matter and explores every aspect of it. Science fiction is about creating a whole new worlds! If Prometheus was just a film set up to deliver the same claustrophobic scares as the original it wouldn’t have tried to distance itself so far from the source material. When I talk to my friends, co-workers, and family about Prometheus I’m never surprised when they tell me they have no idea it is a part of the Alien universe. Instead it is a film that wants to show you something new, something we haven’t seen before, it wants to explore another part of an alien world.
What do you think? What reboots do you think have been the most successful and why? Can you think of a fairly new and unpopular sci-fi remake? Please leave some comments below so that we can continue our discussion on why I will never admit liking the 2004 Dawn of the Dead, the Planet of the Apes time lines I’ve mapped out, and how excited we all are to watch Michael Fassbender play a robot!