C’mon, Hollywood: Why exactly did Oldboy bomb?

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Remakes are always controversial no matter who’s attached to the project, the number of years it’s been since the original was released, how good the first one was, etc. With directors ranging from Justin Lin to Steven Spielberg, the OLDBOY remake eventually became Spike Lee’s responsibility and after playing a very long waiting game, the film has finally come and hit theaters with a resounding “eh.” The film tanked at the box office, prompting one to wonder, “What exactly went wrong?” 

Maybe it was bad timing as the film was pushed to the day before Thanksgiving. With all the brutal violence and graphic sexual content, this may not have been a movie people necessarily wanted to take Grandma to. It could be that fans of the original weren’t interested in seeing a remake of Chan-wook Park’s cult classic. Competition like FROZEN, THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE and HOMEFRONT could also have been a factor in the film’s underperformance. Or maybe, the public as a whole simply didn’t give two shits. 

Or perhaps director Spike Lee didn’t ask himself whether or not a remake was warranted. Sure, the material is fantastic and it really is a shame that more American audiences haven’t experienced the powerful original, but does that mean that a remake is necessary or something that audiences even really want? The numbers appear to speak for themselves as the movie hasn’t even made $2 million at the box office yet. Anyone can argue that it’s only been released in 583 theaters, but with THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG being released this Friday, this movie has no chance of garnering enough cash for a wider release, much less advancing up the box office chart. To put it simply, OLDBOY is an absolute and unnecessary failure. 

The caliber of actors and look of the film were impressive, but just because a movie is well made doesn’t make it a good film. This example just reminds me of another expendable remake that crept up on me this year: CARRIE. While director Kimberly Peirce has given us good films in the past (BOYS DON’T CRY, STOP-LOSS) and the film was made competently enough, a remake was completely unneeded. Why are we getting these remakes now? Is there anything new to say or any deeper insight that needs to be explored? Not really and even if there was, both remakes didn’t examine these themes or take any legitimate chances while going along. While I wouldn’t say either remakes were as momma-slappingly bad or pointless as say, Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO, they’re all similarly unneeded pieces of cinema that didn’t offer anything new or do anything to change the way many of us feel about the originals. 

If filmmakers absolutely need to remake a film, they should take some notes from this year’s EVIL DEAD. While the film wasn’t perfect, that’s how you do a remake (or reboot or re-imagining or whatever the hell people like to call it) correctly. The film was surrounded in a ridiculous amount of positive hype after some hard-hitting trailers, was released 30 years after the original (giving a perfect amount of time for newcomers to hop on board while simultaneously exciting original fans of THE EVIL DEAD), had some new, legitimate talent attached to it AND was made by those who actually wanted the best possible final product. It gave audiences something new while paying respectful homage to the original, which is something that unfortunately rarely happens. 

Another remake that comes to mind that did it right is THE DEPARTED. When we could have easily been given another shot-for-shot remake, we were given a deeper, more elaborate thriller. While it’s original, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, was great, Martin Scorsese brought his signature style and intensity to the story and delved deeper into the characters and gave us something different while still keeping the twist-filled story of the original (while earning a few Oscars, too). Last year’s DREDD is another great example. Taking everything that was wrong with the original JUDGE DREDD and fixing it, DREDD gave us awesome action set pieces and presented a more faithful adaptation from the comics it was based on. Sure, it wasn’t trying to bring home any Oscars and wasn’t exactly a box-office success, but it’s since become very popular on home video and was an overall great action movie (especially for a remake). Now, we can only hope that ROBOCOP was paying attention and gives us something equally as badass next year. 

So, C’mon, Hollywood! Perhaps it’s time for directors to start asking themselves how necessary their remake is in the first place. If a remake is something that absolutely has to be made, consider the factors of what goes into something successful and what goes into something that’s ultimately forgotten by everyone. While there are a myriad of factors that went into the overall failure of OLDBOY, it would appear that there was a general disinterest in the movie from the get-go. If filmmakers are investing their time and energy into remaking something just because it has a “built in audience” then they’ve failed. Movie-goers are catching on and it’s going to take more than a second look at a bloody hammer to put butts in seats anymore.  

Source: Joblo

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