Make & Remake: The Remake Culture

By Nico 2 weeks ago

It’s undeniable that several artistic works have marked the world and even entire generations. They’ve reached such a remarkable impact that, years later, many people seek to recreate them by adapting them to the present day in order to take advantage of their success. This is what we actually call the remake culture.

This trend has both supporters and detractors, but also examples of great hits and flops. In this article, we’ll review some of the most interesting cinema cases in terms of aesthetics and image.

The First Remakes

In 1896, Loise Lumière created “Partie d’écarté” (Card Game), one of the first films in history. In it, we can see two people playing cards and a third one reading a newspaper in a courtyard. Then, a waiter serves them wine so they can toast.

Later, Georges Méliès, remade the film under the name “Une partie de cartes” (Playing Cards). He filmed this remake in his own garden. The film shows Méliès smoking and reading a newspaper while two people are playing cards. He then calls a woman, who asks another woman for some wine for them, and finally, he reads a story from the newspaper that makes the other men laugh.

This could probably be the first remake in history. We need to clarify that during the early years of cinematography, it was quite common to remake films, partly because of the novelty of the technology. People were more interested in filming than in telling a story, hence the simplicity of the stories.

Nowadays, it’s increasingly common to hear that a remake of an old successful film will be released. Some of the most special ones for us are:

Scarface (1932/1983)

Remake: Scarface

“Say hello to my little friend…” This is probably one of the most iconic phrases in cinema, but not too many people know that this blockbuster is indeed a remake of a 30s classic.

Aesthetically, the technology of the time helps to differentiate the two titles.

The first one was filmed in black and white. Thus, for certain shots, shadows were cast on backgrounds to recreate certain too explicit scenes that were restricted in those years. From the 1932 version of Scarface we also need to stress that, even though it was filmed in black and white, the whole film has a mostly dark setting, partly to give more drama to the violent police thriller. Regarding framing, we need to mention that mainly medium and wide shots were used, and short shots of faces were used to emphasize the emotions of the characters.

Back to the future and focusing on the remake, it’s interesting to talk about the changes in aesthetics rather than on the plot.

On the one hand, the appearance of color allowed the director to show rawer and more explicit scenes without needing to use special resources. Also, thanks to the style of the cameras, the director was able to shoot scenes that could have never been shot before. For example, filming with a handheld camera. That way, he could come along with the characters creating a camera movement that made the audience able to walk with them, as we can see in this scene (0.30):

On the other, we need to talk about the costumes and setting. The first movie takes place during the 20s. The elements that stand out the most are all related to the gangster world (from the suits to the cars and weapons such as the “Tommy Gun”). In the remake, we can also notice the influence of the Cuban culture from the 80s. The suits are colorful and very saturated. As for the scenarios, we can also appreciate such high saturation, however, the brightness of the images is duller. Only gold is highlighted in certain scenes to give a luxury sensation.

Also, another of the characteristics of the remake is that since it takes place in Miami, the culture of the time is present in practically all scenes. 

Finally, although it has nothing to do with the filming, we should also mention the differences between the two movie posters. Typographics are totally different. The original one uses sans serif, a thick font with movement between each character. The one used for the remake is more classic and gives a sense of sophistication and elegance.

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (2005)

Remake: Willy

We cannot deny that the usage of color in these two films is impressive. Although more than 30 years separate one from the other, both have left an indelible mark. 

*Furthermore, the 1971 version has impacted our generation for more than its plot. Does that image sound familiar?*

Even though both films are bursting with color, the original version has a warmer tonality. In addition, thanks to the lighting, all the elements have a special glow that makes you think of candy.

In fact, lightning is key in certain scenes like this one:

The interesting thing about the original version is that everything was made analogically (without the aid of computers) and this is what gave the film a special feeling.

The use of superimposing images with transparencies is remarkable, as you can appreciate in the previous scene. Nowadays it’s so easy to create that effect, but in this film, it was made analogically. That makes us appreciate even more the cinematography of past decades.

As per the remake, although some aspects are intended to be maintained, it’s impossible not to appreciate the style of Tim Burton, one of the most special film directors when talking about the strange worlds he develops (if you want to know more about other great directors, we recommend this article).

In terms of color, this version is much cooler than the original one. In fact, the balance between the colors and shadows generates an interesting and gloomy atmosphere at times.

On the contrary, we appreciate more brightness in the costumes of the characters, mostly when we compare the Oompa Loompas’ clothes.

While in the original version scenarios or lighting effects were manually created, in the remake, the use of CGI allowed Tim Burton to create incredible locations, like the one we can see in this Oompa Loompas’ choreography:

Ghostbusters (1984 / 2016)

Remake: Ghostbusters

We know we said that we weren’t going to take plot and performances into account when analyzing the films, but we need to say that the remake of this 80s classic justifies why so many people are against this trend.

Let’s put that controversy behind us and focus on the new version of the film created by Paul Freig. This version also has some points in favor for any fan of the original trilogy. In the remake, we can see generally fresher and renewed visuals: cars, even weapons, and well, Slimer.

If we analyze in detail the aesthetic of both films, we can conclude that the first one uses a more desaturated color, especially in the outdoor shots, while the indoor shots were darker and the glows played an important role, for example, in the gun rays and ghosts apparitions.

Regarding special effects, transparencies were fundamental. Unlike other older films, the filmmakers made the transparencies “interact” in the scenes, as we can see in the following video in which the ghost is eating and throwing plates on the floor.

The analogue nature of the special effects is something that we must rescue from classic films like Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Although at that time we could appreciate some influences and retouching thanks to the computers, most of these special effects were made manually. As we can see in this iconic scene:

There are also some points in the 2016 film that we need to highlight. Like the correction and post-production of colors:

In the previous scene, we can see how retouching is used to emphasize a bright color palette. Each spectrum has a different tonality that contrasts perfectly with the dark backgrounds and the other glows.

Another point we must highlight is the level of detail in the animations and CGI throughout the whole film. We can appreciate it, for example, in the backgrounds and the giant monster in this scene:

As we can see, there are thousands of remakes within the seventh art. We have only selected a few because of the graphic difference between the original and the remake. However, each of them brings something special to the table.

We know that the remake world is huge and a trend in expansion in different areas. That’s what we will talk about in the next articles.

Do you know another special example we should talk about? Tell us in the comments.

By Nico