Saturday, February 07, 2009

Taint What It Used to Be

February brings the release of The Pink Panther 2, Steve Martin's second turn in the role of Jacques Clouseau, iconically played by Peter Sellers. I recently bought at half-off Get Smart: The Complete Series. Joe Gores's Maltese Falcon prequel Spade and Archer is due in stores February 10. Ridley and Tony Scott and Joe Carnahan have become involved in the feature film adaptation of The A-Team.

All of these have me thinking about remakes and updates again. It's natural to revere originals and pan updates as cheap copies. I've done my share of wondering aloud why there isn't more original stuff out there today. I'm sure it's due in part to the economic recession. The powers-that-be prefer to risk their money on projects with track records than on concepts never seen before. Who can blame them?

But stories have been retold and updated since the beginning of history. The chief motivation may be to share with new generations some resonance of the original. Nothing wrong with that. What's behind the wicked backlash? I'd say people are afraid the remake or update will somehow taint the original's legacy. At a time when so much material is saved for reference, this fear is unfounded.

There's also the fear that new audiences who read remakes and updates will find them so wretched as to never seek out the superior original. I argue that anyone interested in a current version will probably be at least remotely interested in the original.

I'm going to read Gores's book and probably catch Steve Carell's Get Smart sometime because I love the source material and I'm curious what new people will do with it.

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