Hollywood remakes…fans cringe at the thought. Someone toying with a film that has reached an iconic status over time is often unwelcome and seems perverse (certainly a hot button topic right now with Nightmare On Elm Street in theaters.) However in the video game world, remakes are longed for by the fans. Fans even go as far as demanding and petitioning for them (Final Fantasy VII anyone?) How can two mediums that have grown to have so much in common over the years be so far apart in terms what fans have come to want or expect?
Movie remakes have been around since 1904 when the movie “The Great Train Robbery” hit theaters and started the tradition of shitty Hollywood remakes. It featured what was pretty much a scene-for scene remake of the original, only adding in more violence (sound familiar?) Popular opinion at the time sided with the original movie (it didn’t help causes that the original “Great Train Robbery” had only come out in theaters the year before…I guess Hollywood has got better in that sense.) A hundred years later and Hollywood still hedges bets on remakes being sure-fire hits. Blame it on shitty studio management or lack of overall originality but when it comes down to it…movies cost a shit load of money to make and market.
Present day games have nearly become movie-like themselves with many having production values and budgets that put some films to shame. Herein lies the problem for video game publishers and the inherent risk of producing new IPs (intellectual properties.) Much like movies, there is a lot at stake. A title the general public has never heard of before could flop and lose millions. In the world of video games, the remake already has an established (and often rabid) fan base hungry for more. Lower risk = higher probability of return.
Hollywood remakes range from shot-for-shot remakes (1998’s “Psycho” in which director Gus Van Sant even copied Hitchcock’s camera movements and editing) to the re-imagining (Rob Zombie’s 2007 “Halloween.”) Video game remakes tend to lean more often toward the “re-imagining” remake due to the leaps in technology and the realms of possibility these jumps have opened. The advent of XBOX Live Arcade and the Playstation Network has brought about a slew of old-school titles (ie; Bionic Commando, TMNT) with level design virtually unchanged from the original, just redone with updated, HD graphics (and a lower cost than your average retail game.)
The other Hollywood remake is the foreign film redux. “Ringu” brought us “The Ring.” “Ju-On” brought us “The Grudge.” “Let the Right One In” is about to bring us “Let Me In” (ugh.) What is striking is that in the videogame world, there are no such remakes. Foreign games are either localized (either dubbed in English or given subtitles) or they remain foreign releases only. A studio never takes a successful game and re-makes it from the ground up (maybe you should take a hint, Hollywood?) A very “if it ain’t broke, why fix it” approach. “Pan’s Labyrinth” was box office gold here in the States and remained in its native lanuage proving Hollywood doesn’t have to Americanize everything for it to be met with success.
So, why the difference in views between movie fans and video game fans? Why does the true movie fan despise the thought of having their favorite movie remade while the video game fan dreams of it? Despite advancements in technology over the years, the general principals of filmmaking remain the same. Sure technology has changed and shifted the film industry, but the core elements of making a movie haven’t. CG may be capable of making certain movies look better, but at what cost? How much charm is lost from the original when stop animation or costumes are replaced by shiny computer models? Nothing is added to the experience since the viewer is a passive participant. What is subtracted from the equation is the sense of nostalgia one achieves that comes with watching the original and being transported back to a younger age when it was experienced for the first time.
Video games being a technology based medium tend to show their age easier and don’t hold up as well over time as movies. What may have worked ten years ago and seemed progressive then may now seem archaic in principal. Nostalgia can easily be ruined when a game doesn’t stand the test of time. In videogames, immersion and active participation is key to the overall experience. Any advancements in technology that can help immerse the player and aid in suspending disbelief only add to the game’s appeal. Better graphics, better sound, better controls- when handled correctly, these can make an already classic game even better.
When it comes down to it, low risk is what drives all of these remakes. Movie fans see it as “unnecessary” (and most of the time rightfully so.) Video game fans on the other hand, see it as a way to experience a beloved franchise in a whole new way. As long as there are movies and videogames, we are guaranteed to be subjected to remakes. It’s up to us as consumers to vote with our wallets to let studios and publishers know which ones we support.