Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve seen something before? Perhaps its déjà vu or perhaps it’s yet another remake? From albums to movies and games to technology, remakes and remasters are increasingly popular.
Why might it be that such a noticeable trend has appeared? How should we as viewers and players respond?
In search of comfort
Is it a search for comfort? Do we yearn for the familiar? A common experience for many is the uncomfortable feeling when faced with something new. Perhaps a feeling of familiarity puts us at ease when we revisit a favourite game from our childhood? Perhaps it is this phenomenon that draws so much interest into creating updated versions of artifacts we experienced in decades past?
But clearly this can be a double edged sword. Numerous movie reboots have failed to revitalise their fan base or even make back their production budgets. The recent Ghost in the Shell movie might perhaps be a prime example. Fans of the series have found it to be somewhat alien to their memories of the original animes.
In contrast the recent Beauty and the Beast film has been met with much praise. From this it seems strange that companies would place success on such dangerous ground as comfort from familiarity, as it clearly can so often turn against a production.
Easy to make
Is it easier to make something when you already have an blueprint of what it’s meant to be? Considering the above examples it would appear the answer is no. Not only are there challenges of living up to expectations, there are questions of craft.
Imitation is one of the greatest ways to learn. The ability to craft a pastiche of a work shows a high level of mastery so while not easy to make as such there is benefit to the creators of remakes and remasters. Unfortunately this is not a very clear answer for our purposes, but it perhaps explains why so many commercial remakes are being made.
Perhaps we are the reason for the increase in remakes, reboots and remastered works?
Fuelled with the excitement of fresh attention being paid to something we valued in our past, we cannot help but talk about a remade version. Perhaps it is this word of mouth which companies are now counting on to take their productions to not only the existing audience but to new audiences beyond the established fan base?
Perhaps with social media being a prominent form of communication, the amplitude of the conversations we have is great enough that it becomes a significant force from the perspective of marketing?
Creators are passionate
It certainly isn’t always the case but sometimes the skills to create and a passion for a fandom overlap. Often this overlap can be seen in the world of video games where passionate community projects take on the task of recreating their favourite games or creating homages to them.
Unfortunately, largely due to copyright law, companies must send cease and desist notices to these groups so as to protect their rights to the content. Recently a notable example of this was the fan remake of Metroid 2. While situations like this are rather unfortunate it only underscores how dedicated some fans can be to seeing and reliving moments from past experience.
Will we look back on this decade as the peak of interest in remakes or will it simply be the rise of the phenomenon? Some conceptions such as it is easy to make a remake certainly seem naively false.
However situations where fan remakes are suppressed certainly underscore a strongly commercial interest in furthering the viability of intellectual property. Has the shake up of social interactions set us up to be the ideal vessels for marketing and as such anything which will makes us talk is exceptionally valued?
Personally I think it is important to consider the environment within which we consume our entertainment. While it is important to consider why you don’t like something, it is even more valuable to consider why you like something.
There is little to learn in saying you like it because it captures the vibe of the original. But there is much to learn in asking why something fails to capture such a vibe.
Through this analysis you can develop an independence of thought and taste, which can support you in finding new favourite artefacts in our entertainment world. You can also look forward to seeing a remake of them in another decade.
Sam Gillespie is a composer, programmer and PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales.Sam Gillespie's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-gillespie.html