Thursday, 5 March 2009

Update my heritage, Hollywood!

Night falls on Halifax.

I've been returned some DVDs that I loaned to a friend last fall, and decide to shelve them. The new Morrissey record, which I received in the mail this midafternoon, spins on my turntable. There is no thunder or lightning. This, dear reader, is the atmosphere of the setup for this particular blog.

As I proceed to alphabetize my movies (which is something all passionate people do, but only those at my level of commitment alphabetize them by their directors' last names), I notice that something is off.

My films no longer all fit on the shelves.

The time had come to weed out my VHS. This task surprised me. Why the hell do I still have 122 VHS tapes of movies that I haven't replaced on DVD or Blu-ray?

But more importantly, 122?!

I guess I never found the inclination in the DVD years to upgrade my copy of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. But there's no excuse not to have Face/Off or the first Austin Powers on DVD yet.

With my shelves given their long-needed VHS enema, I still have a vulgar amount of movies on them. I calculate the dough spent on these discs and feel some pride and some upset. That's money I could really use.

But at the same time, it's in my wiring to keep them. These movies are my heritage. They're integral to the fabric of my being. If I display my guts on the wall next to my television like this, that's worthy of respect. I'm just the most honest person in the universe like that.

What this is getting at is the notion of Pop Heritage. It's the reason people are so protective of their favourite movies being remade, and the comic book properties they love getting turned into movies.

I'm not completely against remakes. And I think literal comic book adaptations miss the point of comic books and of movies. But I understand the protectiveness.

Watchmen is a perfect example. It's not a book I've lived with for 20 years. I only first read it 2 months ago. So when I hear people saying, "They better not fuck this up," I think, yeah, that would be a shame. Because, of course, I hope it's good.

But I hope all movies are good.

And who knows, I explained, maybe we'll all be surprised and the great movie this spring will be something like Race to Witch Mountain. A great movie is a great movie. What does it matter which one it is?

I have conflicted feelings about Zack Snyder's Watchmen, enjoying it to some degree. It's faithful to the graphic novel to a fault where the faithful indulgence (yes, I know the specifics of the ending are different) makes the last hour a drag. And Snyder doesn't figure out how to make the comic heroes not appear silly in this medium. A lot of what's interesting about the movie was already interesting about the comic.

For a basically faithful adaptation, it sometimes has a sense of film style, establishing some interesting elements as a movie.

So what do the comic fans want from this?

The problem with a Watchmen movie is this: The only way the film won't be an artistic letdown is if it isolates some purists and finds its own footing. It has to blow minds the way the comic apparently did for all these people 20 years ago. That won't occur just by replicating the comic. It has to happen a whole other time, in another way, as a movie.

At the end we get something sort of all right. It shouldn't dignify anybody's 20-year obsessions. But it's better than it likely could have been.

So the best way to approach movies like Watchmen is not to invest in the hype. If it ends up sucking, it doesn't really matter beyond the time and money the consumer spent on it. The comic everyone loved is still around. Warner Bros. isn't sending a hit squad to take the graphic novel out of peoples' houses.

But, in another way, it does matter!

It matters because we all care too much about what other people think.

If the Last House on the Left remake is watered down ultra-slick baloney, the title is tarnished by the Friday night date crowd. They'll be going around for the rest of their lives saying " Last House on the Left was soo gay!," but they won't have seen the more hardcore other movie with that name that came first, and which looked like it was made by sociopathic junior high students.

That's the fear of remakes reselling one's heritage in "updated" versions that are BASED ON A TRUE STORY even when they didn't used to be.

The bottom line with remake-distaste is simply how they're titled. If Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes were called Showdown on Planet Monkey it would have a better reputation. It would be a ripoff rather than a remake, which is the acceptable way to go. Most movies that aren't acknowledged as remakes are remakes in disguise. There's not really that many stories left to tell in Hollywood, without getting weirder than Hollywood allows.

With the recent Friday the 13th, nobody much cared to protest on message boards, because the original wasn't that great anyway. It was heritage that not that many film geeks really geek out about. That movie's problem isn't inherent to remakes. It's the same problem that all sorts of films have right now. It has no personality. It doesn't feel like it was written by real people.

The established-property trend is lazy, but let's be open-minded.

It doesn't matter where movies come from. An adaptation might find its own way to be interesting. A remake can still be creative. And Fired Up! might really just be American Pie 9: Keep Bringin' It On.