Geek Culture, Writing and Other Junk from Writer C. A. Wilke
Why I’m Not Bothered by Remakes and Sequels (Usually)

Why I’m Not Bothered by Remakes and Sequels (Usually)

Anna Quindlen

In 1999, novelist/journalist Anna Quindlen said, “Every story has already been told. Once you’ve read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had.”

The point of this quote is that the main thrust of every story has already been told, hundreds if not thousands of times over. (In the case of romance books I might say millions.) So, as storytellers, our job is to do it differently or better. The main story is the same, but the way in which we tell it, the details we include, the different twists and plot devices we implement, make it something new.

As an example, the story of the Scarlet Angel, is not really new. Person with no memory of their past is sucked into intrigue and mystery while being hunted by bad guys. Alias, Nikita, Jason Bourne, hell, even Wolverine fits that mould. But Scarlett is a little bit different. Dealing with her need for revenge and protecting her friends and family, her interactions with those people, and, of course, my own style of writing, all come together to make this story it’s own unique tale.

So what about movies, as my headline suggests?

Face it, Slimer rules!

Let’s take the recent Ghostbusters movie as an example. Why might the studios have chosen to remake/sequelize one of my favorite, yet campy, childhood fandoms? The first reason might be that if they made ANY comedy movie that dealt with capturing or getting rid of ghosts, it would automatically be compared to the original Ghostbusters. It would have been quickly labeled as a a Ghostbusters knock-off.

Why not just skip that and become a part of that great story-verse rather than have to compete against it?

The fact is, it’s all the little (and some not so little) differences that makes the new movie something new.

Of course, to some extent, this logic (if it can be called that) applies to specific instances. Ghostbusters is a very specific kind of story. Conan, on the other hand is a little more broad. The remake of Conan probably could have done fairly well without the trappings and image to live up to from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original.

In the name of CROM!

Other instances, like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street are just specific instance of a broader genre that is so swamped with knock-offs copycats and plenty of other cheap drivel, that trying to retell the original can actually be more effective. And still others like Star Trek and Star Wars have spawned such massive storyverses, that there will almost always be room for more stories. In these cases, it can even work to retell a specific story within that storyverse. (I’m thinking of the very flawed execution of Into Darkness that was somewhat fun, but still very flawed.)

Not to mention, people can say that studios are just milking a franchise like Pirates of the Caribbean when they are working on the fifth movie, or like Michael Bay’s Transformers, but the fact is, if people are paying to see the movies and products keep selling, there is clearly a demand and the fans think the story is not over. (Even if said vehicle-morphing-robot movies destroy the childhoods of those who grew up with them.)

Either way, stories get retold and continued. In fact, I would argue that there are only two ways that a story ever really comes to an end: When the creator(s) think the story is over, and when the fans do.

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