Some years ago, I predicted the coming bomb that was the 2008 remake of the classic 1939 comedy, The Women. I wrote at the time:
In 1939, nearly all of the major characters in The Women, even the saintly Mary Haines at the end, were the antithesis of American womanhood — aggressive, self-centered, catty, materialistic and vacuous — and therefore, profoundly unhappy. Today, they represent the aims of the average woman; at least according to Hollywood and the rest of the media. Indeed, were the 1939 group around today they would, each and every one of them, have their own talk or reality shows.
The problem being, that modern Hollywood fails to take modern mores into account when making remakes. The Women dealt with a group of gals who spend their days shopping, taking exercise classes, being pampered at health spas, seeing analysts and gossiping. In other words, the characters lampooned as rich, social-climbing harpies in 1939 are models of today’s successful female; hardly the stuff for a popular satire.
Similarly, the remakes of The Adventures of Robin Hood and True Grit failed, not only because of the impossibility of replacing iconic actors, Errol Flynn and John Wayne, but because of a lack of understanding of the values underlying the characters. Robin Hood and Rooster Cogburn, in spite of their devil-may-care attitudes, embodied a fierce loyalty to a code of honor bigger than themselves; a concept totally foreign to today’s movie makers and most of their audience.
Another problem facing those who would remake classic movies is that, in most cases, technology has replaced talent; particularly in the areas of lighting, set design, and cinematography. After all, who needs a shot of a luminous Ingrid Bergman, shimmering in white against the black doorway of Rick’s Café, when you can have two hours of gratuitous and gruesomely graphic CGI explosions?
Similarly, the art of screenwriting has been greatly diminished as common, scatological putdowns replaced witty repartee as the method of choice for plot furtherance. And, just as feminist jingoism has virtually eliminated portrayals of real women who possess that sweet combination of vulnerability and trust in the men who loved them with mind-numbingly predictable clones, so too have men of true masculine depth disappeared from the silver screen.
But perhaps the most glaring of all impediments to remaking classic movies is that Hollywood and its customers have, for one reason or another, lost all sense of history. A few years ago on Christmas Eve, I treated my nieces and nephews—most of whom were in college—to a viewing of Casablanca. Halfway through the movie, one of them asked, “But why do they all hate the Germans so much?”
Which brings me to the latest Hollywood attempt at recapturing movie magic; the upcoming release of Godzilla from Warner Bros. Now, you might think that having failed to score successful remakes of “serious” movies, making a sci-fi, special effects rehash would be a home run for modern Tinseltown. And maybe it will be. But what it won’t be is a movie that bears much, if any resemblance to the much-loved 1956 version starring Raymond Burr.
Originally titled, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the American production used most of the footage from the 1954 Japanese original. This movie went a long way in portraying the Japanese people in a sympathetic light, a scant 15 years after the Pearl Harbor attack. The destruction of Tokyo by the title monster was seen as a metaphor for the effects of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; filled with irony as Godzilla himself was said to have been created by nuclear fallout. Indeed, the whole movie was itself a cautionary tale about the dangers of nuclear proliferation in waging war.
But, unsurprisingly, this central element has been stripped from the new flick. According to an early review in Variety, “this revisionist version suggests ‘all those nuclear tests’ the U.S. conducted in the Pacific between 1946 and 1962 weren’t tests, but an effort to contain a giant amphibious dinosaur.” Nope, nothing to see here folks: no Soviet threat or any reason at all to arm and protect ourselves by beating our enemies to the nuclear punch. The only thing we have to fear is man’s inhumanity to nature.
Yet, many leftists today would agree that Godzilla was indeed the product of America’s cruel unleashing of the nuclear weapons against a peace-loving Japanese people. But not to worry; Japan soon got its revenge by unleashing its own monster on us. They called it: karaoke.