‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ – the first words that come to mind for many of us after watching a bad remake of a film or series we once loved and cherished. Now, just to clarify, I’m not here to bash the concept of remakes. A remake can breathe new life into a story, reviving the old sense of wonderment from the original for an entirely new generation when executed well. However, too often, remakes are used as a nostalgia cash cow, resulting in a poorly made piece of media that is a mere shadow of its former self. Here are a few that we think fall under that category.
This one remains a relatively fresh sore spot for Disney fans. Following the success of the Beauty And The Beast remake in 2017, I think it’s safe to say that Disney got a little overexcited, suddenly commissioning several renaissance era classics to be remade in live-action. Among these was the 1998 fan-favourite, Mulan. The decision to remove the musical elements from the film was enough to raise eyebrows, although fans were nevertheless willing to give it a go. However, when the film was released, what they got was such a major departure from the source material that it was barely recognisable. Not only was it riddled with plot holes but culturally inaccurate to absurdity, twisting Chinese mythology to suit the tenuous narrative, as well as interweaving Western mythology and trying to pass it off as Asian. Rife with continuity and its initial message disintegrated, the Mulan remake became one of many Disney churn-outs to be soon swept under the rug.
Remaking classics is always a risky business, and here’s an example of why. The original Italian Job, directed by Peter Collinson, was a smash hit during its release in 1969 and has since gone on to gain legendary status. Not only was it ahead of its time in terms of cinematic quality but also memorable for its nail-biting storyline, punctuated with slapstick humour and wit. An action-packed heist comedy, notorious for its quotable catchphrases and ‘edge of the seat’ ending, what’s not to like? As such, fans of the original were understandably sceptical when a remake was announced in the early 2000s. What made this remake bad wasn’t that it was an objectively ‘bad’ film but that it failed to capture the spirit of the original, instead of attempting to turn the humour-filled heist into a gritty, ‘to be taken seriously’ drama. This change in tone turned a unique classic into just another generic, action-heavy blockbuster. It’s so much not that the movie was offensively poor, but just entirely unnecessary.
This movie was such a far departure from its source material that it really falls under the category of being inspired by the original as opposed to being a remake. The original 1984 focuses on Daniel Larusso, a teenage boy from Resita who is forced to move to California for his mother’s work. Suffering from terrible homesickness on top of all the struggles of adolescence, things only get worse when he finds himself targeted by an aggressive group of high school thugs, resulting in regular violent beatings. However, the tides start to turn when Daniel’s kindly Okinawan neighbour picks up on the abuse, realising that the lonely youngster next door is in desperate need of a friend. The 2010 remake, however, goes an entirely different route, moving the film’s location to China and having it centre around Kung Fu instead of Karate. The 2010 version also ages Daniel (or Dre, as he’s called in the 2010 version) and the bullies down to young middle schoolers. With considerably lower stakes yet a far less loving and more serious atmosphere, the overall tone of the remake just felt off. Also, side note: we get that cashing in on the nostalgia factor was probably a huge reason for this films’ production, but naming a movie ‘The Karate Kid’ and then having it focus on Kung Fu, an entirely different martial art from an entirely different culture, probably wasn’t the most well thought out move?
When it comes to cinematic royalty, Alfred Hitchcock is top tier! So remaking one of the most classic among Hitchcock’s classics is one heck of a tall order – perhaps too tall. And sure enough, when the remake of Hitchcock’s 1960 horror film, Psycho, released in 1998, it sent a collective groan of despair across the cinematic world. While the remake’s cast is made up of some exceptionally talented actors, they are nevertheless miscast when it comes to filling the shoes of the original Psycho characters. This is particularly present in the reimaging of the infamous psycho himself, Norman Bates, who went from an unassuming, clean-cut ‘boy next door’ to a blatant creep who exuberates serial killer vibes right from the get-go, eradicating both the films’ surprise factor and the eerie, true-to-life message that anyone could be a killer, regardless of how sweet and polite they might appear. Such is the case with the majority of characters, with Norman Bates only being one primary example. It seemed as if the remake was relying entirely on its audience being familiar with the 1960s classic, making the whole thing feel like a pointless attempt at a cash grab.
Known for its highly detailed plot, nail-biting atmosphere and thought-provoking philosophy on human nature, fans of the original 2006 Death Note anime series weren’t feeling too optimistic when Netflix announced a live-action movie adaptation. And upon its release, expectations were definitely met – that is to say, it sucked. Not only was the movie stripped of its Japanese setting and moved to America, thus throwing the story into the generic category of ‘edgy’ high school horror, but the rewriting of the characters themselves was jaw-droppingly poor. Not only did it pail in comparison to the depth and atmosphere of the original, but the movie was also crawling with continuity, containing plotholes that suspended disbelief just couldn’t patch. Live-action anime adaptations aren’t often known for their quality, but this one really couldn’t have been more of a misfire.
While this movie has the potential to be sporadically entertaining when watched independently, the truth is, it just doesn’t stand up to the original. Based on the 1973 cult classic folklore horror film of the same name, The Wickerman remake just doesn’t compare in terms of plot, atmosphere, script, or performance. While Nicolas Cage is known for being a highly talented actor, his performance in The Wickerman remake, in the iconic role of Sergeant Howie, is widely regarded for its ham acting and unnecessary melodrama. And while he’s a prime example of poor performance in this film, he’s certainly not alone. Put simply; it was another remake of a classic that didn’t even come close to capturing the atmospheric draw of its predecessor, which ultimately begs the question – what was the point?
In terms of bad remakes, this one 100% takes the crown. Now twelve years since its release, this movie is still a sore point with fans of the original. And it’s not even that this was just a lousy adaptation – this movie is objectively bad. Whether you’re a fan of the original or not, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender is nigh unwatchable – knowing the source material merely adds an extra layer of pain to the experience. From the disastrous whitewashing to its clunky narrative, this film genuinely has little to no redeeming qualities. With the painfully deadpan performances, there’s not a single moment of intentional humour, contrary to the original, that could have its viewers in stitches one moment and sobbing the next. This paired with the laughably poor cinematography, Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender is the sort of film that viewers tune into solely so they can laugh at it – and not for the right reasons. Originally planned as a trilogy, the following two films were immediately cancelled after the first film’s release, leaving fans across the board to breathe a collective sigh of relief. As stated by Screenrant, the movie makes frequent appearances on ‘worst movies of all time’ lists – and rightfully so.
Do you agree with our list? Are there any remakes on here that you enjoyed? Or did we miss a terrible one that you feel ought to be named? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!