Opinion: Endless movie remakes capitalize on nostalgia, not novelty

Films from the 1980s don’t need to be reborn, and current cinema needs to find new stories to tell.



Bill Skarsgard in, “It Chapter Two.” (Warner Bros/TNS)

Emily Creery, Columnist

It’s no secret that Hollywood has run out of ideas. From sequels to remakes, a fresh, new film is rare amongst the 875th Star Wars or a Disney masterpiece gone rogue (here’s looking at you, live adaptations). But there’s something almost unholy about the recent surge in remaking films from the 1980s, where no amount of CGI or dreamy, young actors can even begin to capture the magic of that decade’s cinema.

Just this fall, we have It Chapter Two,  Rambo: Last Blood and Terminator: Dark Fate waiting for us at the theater as lackluster stand-ins for their original counterparts. While I recognize the draw of nostalgia, they’re not the same. How could they be?

If Hollywood continues to tap into the 1980s, I fear that the originals will lose their impact on pop culture. I personally don’t want the next wave of moviegoers to experience John Hughes without the station wagons and popped collars. What a world it would be to say, “Sorry, Sadman Lux, but the first Breakfast Club was far better and had less dragons.” And if that doesn’t bother you, can you even imagine a remake from that decade without Bill Murray?

The top-of-the-line special effects of 2019 are incapable of invoking the same feelings we have when Marty McFly finally reaches 88 mph by the hand of the clock tower. The industry isn’t doing them (or us) justice by putting iconic characters back on the screen out of the context of big hair, fluorescent workout gear, and puffy life vests.

Don’t get me wrong, Tom Cruise reprising his leather jacket and aviators in Top Gun: Maverick will satisfy my need for speed. But I didn’t ask for it, nor do I actually want it. There’s a difference between several Batman adaptations that are individually unique and the recreation of a singular storyline that used to be special.

Perhaps the answer is to instead look toward what select theaters are already doing: providing a cinematic experience to new generations — reclining seats in all their glory — for the original film. In fact, Marcus Theaters regularly schedules their “Retro Series” throughout the year at reduced prices. There’s also the TCM “Big Screen Classics” initiative to celebrate iconic cinema. Even our local FilmScene has their “Rooftop Series” reserved for some of our favorite films from before the turn of the century.

People just aren’t going to the theater anymore, which is one of the many reasons why mainstream Hollywood has shifted toward remakes and sequels: a guaranteed audience. But are butts in seats worth the inevitable disappointment of a 1980s remake?

Although fun to re-enter a world where goblin kings steal babies and students skip school to actually go outside, this cannot be the answer. The future of cinema stands on the padded shoulders of the 1980s, but it will not survive because of them.

Let’s work on pushing for exciting, genre-bending works of art and leave well-enough alone, shall we? Besides, if we do it right, where we’re going we don’t need roads. 

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.