It is said that decades cycle back through our daily lives, reappearing in our style, our beliefs, and our media. My question is: does that include the incredible proliferation of "old" movies remade, supposedly "revamped," into newer but otherwise unaltered versions of themselves? Strange times indeed.
Beauty and the Beast, A Star is Born, The Jungle Book, Pete's Dragon, Cinderella, Ocean's 927 or whatever number we are on at the moment, just to name a few. Upon examining this list it is clear that Disney is the primary culprit, and therefore most of what we see are aesthetically edgier versions of classic, beloved children's stories that have already been immortalized by—surprise—Disney.
What, exactly, is the goal of all these projects? In every trailer, an incredibly dark, cold color palette, an off-putting one-note piano that transitions into epic slamming drums, and attractive lead actresses or scrappy lead actors or disturbingly quasi-realistic computer-generated animals work together to create the appearance of a revamp. But is anything new really introduced? Cinderella is still Cinderella—wickedly outlandish proportions and all—when played by Lily James, who ate only soup in order to fit in her corset. Belle is still Belle—albeit it a lot more British—when played by Emma Watson. Except these new versions have real cleavage, real corsets, and they aren't classically trained vocalists! Sign me up?
Years into this particular, faux-gritty round of remake madness and critical viewers may still struggle to discover the point. Is it a casting game? Emma Watson certainly attracted huge audiences, making 2017's Beauty and the Beast the thirteenth biggest worldwide opening ever, and pushing it past the lifetime total revenue of the original film in under a week. Profits from these movies indicate that there is an undeniable, undying draw toward the new and shiny, or that nostalgia is alive and strong. Is the point to apply the old to the new, to remind ourselves of long-lost and longed-for artistic qualities and standards? Or to breathe new life into these classics, to allow viewers to see Cinderella and Belle in a breathtaking new (British!) light?
But for this argument to be valid, then probably something about the remake (other than a general, half-baked, darker aesthetic that contradicts the fact that it is based on a work for young children) would have to make it different from the original. It would have to be able to exist as a separate movie, or as an independent tributary story. In this manner, we have to give the Star Wars stories their just due. But 2017's The Jungle Book is the same movie, save for the frightening CGI animals and Christopher Walken sudden and terrifying break into speak-song—jarring and frightening in its own special way. The Beauty and the Beast YouTube teaser's description calls it a "live-action retelling." These are the very same stories with altered formats.
This is a problem, this idea that the story is better or "revamped" now that it has been applied to shiny new faces, styles, and technology. That people will consume this story at higher rates now that it's been dusted off and made up. To create this way, and to consume art this way, is to dismiss the value of the original works as if because something is over ten years old, it has lost value and could use a renovation. Old does not mean ugly or cheapened. It is possible to leave and appreciate things as they are.
But then, of course, there would be no income. And we all know companies like Disney need more income. What we are seeing is not harmless nostalgia or invocation of sweeter times—these remakes aren't meant to serve as sweet, innocent experiences for children, or else the trailers and CGI wouldn't be scary as hell, trying to appeal to some weird quasi-edgy subpopulation of viewers that may or may not exist. What we are seeing is the shameless perversion of artistic works that already exist. What we are seeing is shameless redundancy and therefore irrelevance. There is no aesthetic or artist thesis. The goal seems quite simply to be cash, and as long as movies like Beauty in the Beast keep rebuilding the same movie with different blocks and profiting off of a company's lack of artistic ingenuity, we will keep seeing childhood films yanked out of the comfort of their place, time, and medium and renovated for the sake of steady income.
All I can say is that when they recreate and probably destroy the charm of flying elephants and mermaid tales, don't mind if I don't—not that they care what I think. It's my wallet they're after. Why don't they just spare us all a lot of trouble and pick our pockets?