Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Shall We Compare Notes?
Posted by Courtney Small
A few months back I found myself in a rather interesting conversation about the film X-Men: First Class. I was at one of our local Toronto Blogger pub nights and conversation was flowing about numerous film related topics. Somehow I ended up defending the latest X-Men film. Now while I enjoyed X-Men: First Class, it is not necessarily a film I would usually go out of my way to defend. However, I found myself championing the film nonetheless. Like all good discussions about film, the conversation evolved into an even greater debate in regards to objectivity in film. This raised several interesting questions such as should a film like X-Men: First Class be praised for succeeding where the last two X-Men related films failed? Or should it be judged on its own unique merits? Can it truly be judge on its own merits if the film is consciously trying to link itself with what came before it?
I started thinking about that discussion again recently while watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes for the first time. Similar to many of the recent remakes, prequels, reboots, and reimagining that studios are producing these days, Rise of the Planet of the Apes wants to be viewed on its own terms. However, it also wants to align itself to the films that came before. While I really enjoyed the film, I could not help but wonder if my reaction was based on my previous experiences with the franchise or the fact that it was simply an entertaining film. I would like to believe it was solely the latter, but I cannot deny the fact that I had several “I caught that reference” moments. Although made forty-three years after the original, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is only ten years removed from the Tim Burton remake. So I guess it was inevitable that both versions would be in the back of my mind.
The problem I have with new franchises trying to tie into the old franchises is that studios create an unbalanced safety net for themselves. If the film is a success, like Rise of the Planet of the Apes was, then studios can pat themselves on the back for finding a middle ground between pleasing the existing fans while creating something to bring in new ones. However, if the film is a flop, such as the latest edition of The Thing, then studios complain that audiences did not see their vision in striving for something new. While I know I will get around to seeing The Thing reboot at some point, everything I have heard about the film leads me to believe it will be exactly like what John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of the 1951 original had to offer. Similar to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Thing reboot tried to skate by on the fact that is a prequel to Carpenter’s film, but audiences did not seem to buy in as the similarities between the two films were too great.
Of course comparison is a common thing for all cinema lovers to engage in. It does not only apply to franchise films, but to all aspects of filmmaking really. Where the comparison is often most apparent is when film lovers discuss their favourite directors. If you follow any blogs, or film message boards, then you will know that dissecting a director’s filmography is a heated topic. It is obvious that a new film from a director like Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino will be compared to many the films that the director has made in the past. However, at the end of the day, films like Hugo or Jackie Brown will be dissect on their own merits.
It will be interesting to read the reviews on The Amazing Spider-Man when it is released next summer. Unlike X-Men: First Class, this film is clearly trying to break any ties to the films that came before it. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the studio rebooting the series so soon, the fact that they are starting from scratch is good. Sure it will undoubtedly be compared to the Sam Raimi films, but at least it gives itself a fighting chance by being its own entity. When franchise reboots/remakes try so hard to align themselves with the films that came before they only set themselves up for comparisons that may not always work in their favour.