It’s an old and tired cliche that Hollywood producers are greedy, clueless, and artistically bankrupt, eager to cash in on something without really understanding it. But apparently it’s not enough of a cliche that there’s a standout example, at least there’s not one I can think of. When you think of gimmicky plot twists, you mention The Sixth Sense or The Crying Game. When you think of TV shows declining in quality, you mention “Happy Days” and jumping the shark. But unless I’m missing something obvious, there hasn’t been an obvious one for doing a movie remake that completely and totally misses the point of the original.
Which is why we should all thank Mandalay Pictures for dicking around with The Birds. For a while it was looking like Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake would’ve been a great candidate (Halloween: coming August 31, 2007!), but re-imagining John Carpenter isn’t quite as a remarkable as completely failing to understand Hitchcock.
The quote from this Variety article is Mandalay president Cathy Schulman talking about their exciting line-up:
A highlight of the Mandalay Pictures’ slate at Universal is the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” scheduled to be in production by early fall.
“We think we have a very contemporary take,” Schulman said. “In the original, the birds just showed up, and it was kind of like, why are the birds here? This time, there’s a reason why they’re here and (people) have had something to do with it. There’s an environmental slant to what could create nature fighting back.”
No, Ms. Schulman, it wasn’t “kind of like,” why are the birds here? It was exactly like, why are the birds here?
Cause you know The Birds is fine and all, but what was the whole point? They had this romantic comedy going, and all of a sudden out of nowhere these damn birds start attacking for no reason. If Hitchcock hadn’t been such a hack, he would’ve put some effort into explaining why the attacks started and how they could be stopped. As it is, it’s almost like he’s saying our hold on civilization is tenuous and that we have no real control over our own fate, and at any moment our entire existence could be threatened by the most seemingly innocuous thing, for no reason and through no fault of our own. Yawn.
While they’re at it, I hope they remember to add in some good music. Hitchcock didn’t even bother adding any music to his version. It was boring and downright creepy.
So far, this stands as the most boneheaded movie remake I’ve ever heard of. (Gus Van Sant’s Psycho was completely useless, and every minor change made was the completely wrong thing to do, but at least it didn’t mess with the original too much). So that’s an exercise for the readers: leave your own awful, completely-miss-the-point movie remake ideas in the comments! Casablanca with an improved ending so that Rick and Ilsa get together! Memento in chronological order! A re-imagining of Planet of the Apes where it’s not set on Earth!