Are all these remakes really needed?
By Kian Samavati, May 26 2023—
On April 12th, HBO announced a live-action TV show adaptation of the Harry Potter book series. Similarly, Lionsgate announced around the same time a TV series adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books. This makes two popular book franchises, that already got live-action adaptations in the past, announced in the span of less than a week.
Given these and other announcements of studios remaking various nostalgic properties across several mediums, like Disney’s live-action remakes of their classic animated films, there is a common refrain amongst many asking whether or not all these remakes are necessary. When all you see around you is content you’ve seen before, but with a new coat of paint, it starts to feel like nothing original is being made anymore.
To understand whether we need all of these remakes, we first have to understand the logic of the studios involved. Because, while their decision-making is largely financially motivated, there are in fact, less corporate reasons as to why we see so many of these attempts to repackage existing material.
Audiences don’t like originality as much as they seem to say. If you ask the average person whether they want more original films and TV shows to be made, generally speaking, they’ll answer yes.
But when it comes to their actual viewing habits, most audience members tend to gravitate more towards established properties and other things they’re familiar with.
Look no further than the aforementioned Disney for proof. Many have criticized the company’s live-action remakes instead of focusing more on new ideas. However, viewership numbers paint a pretty clear picture of why this is the case.
Over the next 30 days, two competing films are set to release. The live-action remake of The Little Mermaid starring Halle Bailey, and Pixar’s new original film Elemental.
The former is one of Disney’s many classic remakes that — while far from poorly received — have had middling critical reception on average. The other is a completely original film handled by a legendary film studio that is widely adored for the quality of its original animated features.
Without context, one would assume the more original movie would be garnering more attention, especially seeing as it will be Pixar’s first original theatrical film release since 2020’s Onward. Yet Elemental is tracked to earn far less than The Little Mermaid remake, indicating a distinct lack of interest in the Pixar film.
This isn’t a blanket rule, but generally speaking existing properties with established fanbases garner more attention, and thus, more profits. Therefore it’s only reasonable for studios to place at least some emphasis on this side of their brands.
Despite this, these studios are still making high-quality original releases. Both Disney and Pixar still consistently make excellent animated films with interesting new ideas and animation styles, such as Disney Animation’s Encanto in 2021 or Pixar’s Turning Red in 2022. In the TV world, we still have plenty of high-quality shows being made and garnering success.
A reason it may appear as though the only things being made nowadays are remakes could be due to social media and advertising. Social media buzz and advertising favours properties that are already popular rather than those that are brand new. I’d argue that, so long as these studios still make original content and said content still gets a fair shot at success, the existence of these remakes is perfectly fine.
Yet the notion that rebooting old franchises is done for financial reasons is commonly known and isn’t a very satisfying answer to people who criticize their existence. The question then becomes: why would you make this when the original already exists? Or even more prudently — why should I watch this over the original?
And the answer to that is quite simple — remakes allow for changes that can improve the original and make it more accessible to modern audiences.
Controversies regarding their author aside, the Harry Potter books are still widely popular and well-liked. The film adaptations of those books, while similarly popular and beloved, have been criticized for not being able to capture the source material properly.
One common statement is that, due to the sheer length of the later Harry Potter entries, the respective films were required to cut out much of their content, which didn’t sit well with many fans.
A natural solution would be to adapt the books into a longer format, such as a serialized TV show where each book could be a season, allowing for a more faithful adaptation. Plus, with the advent of streaming services becoming more prevalent as a method to consume media, adapting a series for these services is a great way to introduce it to a modern audience. These are just a few examples of the types of improvements a remake can make to an already existing work.
That isn’t to say HBO’s version of Harry Potter will automatically be an improvement over the film series or that it will even be of any quality. But rather this points out how remakes can and often do have value beyond simply generating more profits.
Another example would be the Percy Jackson series. The books were beloved by many — myself included — and the series was more than deserving of a proper screen adaptation. While the first two books were given film adaptations, the results were less than desirable.
Between the highly inaccurate plot, odd character changes and often flat-out missing content, these adaptations were not well-regarded by fans or critics. The fact that only two of the five books were adapted also meant that the series never got the full-screen adaptation it rightfully deserved.
However, in 2020, series creator and author Rick Riordan announced that Disney would be producing a live-action TV series for Percy Jackson with his direct involvement.
This is a pretty clear example of a remake of an existing piece of media being an unequivocally good decision. Much like the HBO Harry Potter series, the longer format of TV will allow more time and space to include as much of the book’s content as possible, making for a more faithful adaptation. As well as having the original creator as an overseer of the project heightens the chance that his vision will remain intact throughout.
Even if the series comes out and doesn’t end up being perfect, it’s hard to deny that the existence of this remake is incredibly warranted.
While some of these remakes can certainly seem superfluous at times, I don’t see their existence as having much of a downside so long as original works also keep getting made. Add that with the positives these remakes can provide in potentially giving these classic and beloved stories to new generations to experience in a form they’re more accustomed to, and there’s little reason to be completely against them.
So no, we don’t need all these remakes by any stretch of the imagination. But as of right now, they’re harmless and disposable content at worst and a genuine chance to breathe new life into these classic stories at best.
This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.