Hollywood’s movie industry has developed slick and new techniques over the years in order to keep audiences captivated and continuously going to theaters. One of the newest trends that has risen notably since the 2000s are remakes; the newer versions of films created and released in the past, usually including different actors and concepts that relate to our modern day values. As of recent, production companies seemed to double down on producing these kinds of movies with the releases of remakes such as Jungle Book, It, Halloween, The Lion King and more. While proving to be very profitable, entertaining, and successful, I believe that the rise in advocacy for remakes will prove to be detrimental to the future of creativity in Hollywood. To promote more movies being created in this manner will allow for production companies to dull our standards, and settle for making movies that will accomplish a base level of entertainment instead of making content that could push the audience, the art, and future filmmakers forward. The plight of the new Lion King movie is an evident example of this.
One reason the trend of remakes has been appealing and beneficial to companies that produce them is because it reduces financial risk when released. A remake already comes with name value and a brand for them to build upon, there is less of a risk that people won’t revisit it as opposed to a story that is new, unique, experimental, or controversial. According to an article by Bjorn Bohnenkamp there was a study conducted in which “Using a dataset of 207 remakes released in North American theaters between 1999 and 2011 and a matched sample of other movies, the authors find that, on average, remakes do not increase revenues but do reduce financial risk”. The problem that arises with this for the creative industry is the value of financial gain versus allowing artists to make what’s true to them instead of focusing on what’s trending or has been done before. This encourages a culture that is more for the sake of money as opposed to actual creativity. The intent is aimed at reaching a criteria that will allow for not the most profit, but for a decreased chance at less profit, because they know they can gain with minimum effort. It is a choice to sacrifice the greatest possible outcome, just because there is a chance of a lesser outcome, even if it could be impactful, progressive and honest for the advancement of the medium and art. The standard this sets for future generations of young creators is very discouraging because their value is based on what they can do with other stories instead of their own.
Many elements must align for the success of a remake. Among these elements, familiarity and sensation are focal points that keep the attention of viewers whether they are conscious of it or not. But even while relying on nostalgic and reminiscent emotion, there’s still many more factors that could be taken for granted in the process. “However, their [Remakes’] potential to offer sensations in the form of using novel story elements, introducing new characters, or adding new sensory dimensions is systematically limited, which should reduce their hedonic attractiveness for consumers and imply an economic disadvantage compared to unbranded films as well as other types of movie brand extensions.”
The use of CGI and the voices casted in the new Lion King movie is an example of sensations appealing to the different sensory types that attempt to make up for the lack of new characters, story elements, and originality in this same story. The CGI was used as a technical skill that allowed the animations to make it appear realistic and lifelike, but without adding to the actual story or concept, it was just CGI for the sake of it. While it is an impressive feat to accomplish that throughout the movie, there was no gain besides a different visual that was marketed as better due to its newness. The marketing could advertise this as if it is seemingly an improvement, due to the contemporary nature of it being associated with the classic tale, but in actuality it’s just an alternative that attempts to capture the spirit of the original cartoon.
The actors casted to perform the voices of the characters also added to this campaign and furthered the promotion of new sensations and familiarity that could be promoted. The addition of the voices of well known and admired celebrities encouraged more to be susceptible to the experience being promoted. Star actors like Beyonce and Donald Glover, playing the important roles of Simba and Nala, drew an audience because of their name value from previous works but weren’t used to contribute anything toward the development of the plot, concept, or characters in this rendition, it was only their voices attached to the new CGI avatars. Beyonce’s soundtrack about the movie also encouraged intrigue with her talent for making music but was a separate project that promoted the movie. The use of these familiar and intriguing voices was very beneficial for marketing, but it was a smarter move more than a creative one, contributing to that precedent of relying on nostalgia, big names, and technology instead of the nuance of storytelling.
Other adaptations of The Lion King film include the very successful Broadway play that has been running since it’s premiere in 1997. Although the story remains the same, it is filled with other elements such as humanoid figures performing as the Lions and engaging in interpretive dance. The cast is surrounded by unique stage design and is also clothed in culturally detailed costumes. The small differences that were embraced in translation from the animated film to the broadway stage utilized the strengths of each medium and offered perspective on the story on a deeper level in the story. The elements of the stage acting, direction, and presentation developed more layers as these actors embraced the spirit of the tale and what lay underneath it for themselves, the audience and the art. The newest remake relied on the name value and the aesthetic as opposed to the medium they engaged with, which is why the CGI wasn’t an improvement upon the story and why it felt as if the actors were not utilized to the full potential their talents could have spanned. I believe it’s disrespectful to not be in foregoing in production when redoing a classic.
An example of what a continuation down the path of reduced financial risk over authentic creativity could possibly lead to is demonstrated in an episode of Black Mirror titled “Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too” in season 5. In this episode, a pop star by the name of Ashely O goes into a coma and is incapable of making music. Her managing team, still seeking to profit, gathers a team of scientists, music engineers, and technologically adept workers to go through old recordings of her voice, read her brain waves for melodies, and construct the sounds of her music into a formulaic version that they believe will be favorably consumed by her audience, what they want to hear from her as opposed to what she might actually want to say. They also constructed a hologram in her likeness, to tour in her place when the new music is released, all while the real Ashley O remains in a coma reaping zero benefits. While this may not be a literal reality yet, the technology and intent for this execution is very close to our current times. There have been holographic performers such as the late Tupac Shakur’s appearance in Coachella 2012. There are also many posthumous albums that have been and are currently being produced using the unfinished songs and recordings of deceased artists. The new Lion King movie’s use of the voices of stars is part of a similar algorithm of getting monetary gain off of star power through technology and formula instead of creativity divulged from the story, medium, or creators. I believe this is a reason why certain spin offs and sequels fail as well.
We must continue to encourage future filmmakers to be themselves unapologetically for the future of creativity, entertainment, and art to evolve, instead of adapting to what they believe other people want to see or what the major production companies think will make the most money. Supporting a remake for profit or reduced risk allows for the standards of viewers to be taken for granted and watered down, and for the entertainment industry to cease trying in giving us the content and attention to detail we are worthy of. Remakes may always have monetary success due to their nature, but it’s always important to consider how powerful of a tool media and entertainment is for our days and age. It’s impact and progression cannot be neglected. More original and truthful content will feed the minds of those who wish to grow honestly in the eras that are to come.
Bohnenkamp, Björn, et al. “When Does It Make Sense to Do It Again? An Empirical Investigation of Contingency Factors of Movie Remakes.” Journal of Cultural Economics, vol. 39, no. 1, 2015, pp. 15–41. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44289556. Accessed 1 Apr. 2020.