We have seen multiple remakes of classic films and television over the last few years, many of which have recieved mass critical acclaim and gone onto be nominated for, and even win, various awards. But are they better than the originals?
This year we Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and co-writer, bestselling author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) came together alongside an all-star cast including Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson and Robert Duval to bring a remake on the 1983 British mini-series. With stars like those, it’s safe to say our expectations for this film adaptation were high - but it didn’t fail to deliver. It’s a heist movie like no other – a completely contrasting group of women join forces taking the criminal baton from their recently dead husbands. But the leading ladies of McQueen’s movie are anything but unrelatable – what we are presented with is a group of real women who we can all identify with, juggling everyday normal problems; debt, childcare, work, relationships. Each actress gave an equally as strong performance – no one tries to take anyone else’s shine, they allow, and aren’t afraid to let everyone have their moment, thus making it a really empowering ensemble. And it’s not just the females who shine, star of the 2017 hit ‘Get Out’, Daniel Kaluuya gives a intense performance in this role that showcases his diversity as an actor.
It isn’t McQueen’s most memorable work (but are there many films that can top 12 Years Of Slave?), however it is without a doubt, a masterpiece in itself. Unlike the previous heist thriller films that we are familiar with, McQueen has taken a unique new take on the genre, setting it in a modern world, amongst characters and circumstances that an audience can relate to. The crimes aren’t led by greed or hyper-masculinity, but rather desperation and a means of survival. At the root of this film is a group of women, liberating themselves from the shackles society has put on them and rebelling against the institutions that allow gender imbalances, and discrimination to fester with no repercussions. He has mastered the art of building tension throughout and without compromising on the visual ascetics of the film, which give it a stylistic sense we would expect from more art-house cinema
The 1980’s ITV mini-series is now deemed classic British television and it was pretty ground-breaking for its time with a female led cast telling the story of a group of relatable, working-class women whose stories were rarely authentically told on screen, particularly in a way that empowered them as opposed to victimising them. The script is fantastic, even 20 years later, as it lays out not only a complex narrative but also layered characters with identifiable motives, all portrayed beautifully by the diverse cast. Like the remake, it’s tense, it’s gritty and it challenges societal norms but in 2019, it is maybe slightly dated. Is it better than the remake? It’s definitely a close call – for a more mature demographic, the nostalgia will appeal if you didn’t watch it when it originally aired, and for those who like to watch the growth of characters and a narrative over a longer stretch, the original may be favoured.
Winner: 2018 Remake
A Star is Born
This movie from 1954 is three hours long – but don’t let the length put you off if you are a fan of the films female lead – Judy Garland. What makes this adaptation stand out to its predecessors, the 1937 and 1976 "A Star is Born" films, is undoubtably Garlands compelling performance and how she brings her previously undeveloped character to life, giving not only the greatest performance of the film, but one of her greatest performances of her career, and one of the greatest performances in the history of history. Garland's screen presence is addictive – you can’t take your eyes off of her, even when you know the story and are know what will happen. But besides from this differing factor, the screenplay feels too alike the original originals, which makes it feel somewhat repetitive if you are familiar with the previous adaptations and hoping for a fresh take on the popular story.
It’s been nominated for numerous awards including Best Picture at the prestigious Oscars and has already taken how ‘Best Film Music’ at the BAFTAs indicating the calibre of arguably the hottest film remake of the decade. Here, Lady Gaga seems to have stolen the spotlight from Judy Garland in her big screen debut in this 2018 retelling. The highlight of this adaptation, besides from the impressive soundtrack (which was inevitable) — is the electric chemistry between Gaga’s character, Ally Campana, and Cooper’s Jackson Maine. But what makes this version so different from the rest, is how human it feels - it focuses more on their love story, rather than looking at Hollywood as an institution and the often-toxic trimmings that come alongside fame. Tragically, Jackson still meets the same heart-rending end as those who played the role before him, but the film tackles mental health with a new, more sensitive take on mental health that is more inline with the growing awareness in todays society, particularly advocated for within popular culture.
Winner: 2018 Remake
Despite an a cast of much loved British talent including Dominic West, Olivia Coleman and David Oyelowo, this highly anticipated BBC series that recently concluded on BBC has had a very mixed reception. But what’s our opinion? Well, there are moments where we were completely gripped – especially during Dominic West’s scenes, who like in all of his previous credits, has great screen presence and gives a performance that has you in the palm of his hands. But outside of West, there are few memorable moments worth talking about and frankly, without him, we would haven’t got through the duration of the series. With such a strong cast and its impressive production values, the series had promise to be brilliant yet somehow didn’t manage to do so. The cast were underutilised and were unable to show off their known skillset due to the scripts limitations, which gives far too much away and allows no room for subtext, almost treating the audience as if we are stupid and in need of constant explanation when in fact, this is in part, what has left audiences dissatisfied. On a whole, the piece oozes with melodrama and becomes almost pantomime like in the over the top performances from the rest of the, usually faultless, cast. Is it worth a watch? For the visual elements and West’s performance, yes, but otherwise, I am inclined to say no.
BBCs original adaptation of Victor Hugos celebrated French revolution novel aired on the BBC in black and white in 1967 over ten episodes and although since, there have been numerous adaptations both on television and film, this is arguably still the most in depth and thorough adaptation to date. It Stars Oscar-winner Frank Finlay as Jean Valjean, and Michele Dotrice as Fantine, and both give unmissable performances and are reason enough to purchase this adaptation. For lovers of literature and those who have read the original novel, this has been described by many as the screen version most like the book. Despite being in black and white, visually this adaptation is stunning and has a real sense of nostalgia that feels very fitting the era in which the narrative is set.
Winner: 1967 Original
Murder on the orient express
There’s something endearing and hypnotic about Branagh’s 2017 adaptation of the famous whodunit novel from 1934. The hypnotic score which complements the stunning, extensive landscapes, shot on 65mm film allowing for scope and scale, richness and colour make this film an aesthetic pleasure to digest, and equally complements the impressive 1930’s set design making it charmingly nostalgic. But like Sidney Lumets adaptation, the underused supporting cast, make the film feel slightly anti-climatic. Judi Dench, Olivia Coleman, Johnny Depp and Derek Jacobi are amongst the all-star cast and all equally as talented and enjoyable to watch, which maybe acted as a detriment to the film, in our expectations from them to deliver complex, layered performances that we know they are fully capable of, but striped of the chance of giving in this film, with the limitations of the story in it staying so true to the original.
Albert Finney dominates this 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in the leading role of Hercule Poirot and his performance alone is enough to watch this film. He masters the quirks that Hercule Poirot is known for, without becoming too much of a caricature and thus allowing us, the audience, to connect with him. The film features a large cast of well-known names including Vanessa Redgrave and Sean Connery, giving it an inevitable charm and sense of class who give as strong performances as the script allows them too, but they feel somewhat under-utilised with the supporting casts roles feeling underdeveloped. The stand-out feature of the film however is the set and costume design by Tony Walton which gives the film a visual flair that genuinely makes us feel as though we have stepped into the 1930.
Winner: 1974 Original
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