58 thoughts on “Remakes and Reboots but No Risks

  1. Whether we like it or not, Hollywood wants safe bets, and that means remakes seem to get green lit frequently, particularly in the historical genre. For instance, we seem to get a new Pride and Prejudice remake every 10 years or so, while the rest of Jane Austen’s back catalog is generally ignored or relegated to the occasional public television miniseries

    Actually . . . if you think about it, it’s really the British film and television industry who tend to adapt a good number of literary classics over and over again. Especially if they are written by Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters or Charles Dickens.

  2. is Anne with an E the new Canadian reboot?
    But yes, I’m so tired of all these pointless remakes. Although I would live another Persuasion with age appropriate cast .

    But Chevalier d’Eon sounds marvelous, but what I really would pay money to see are biopics on Chevalier St Georges & Pushkin. Both were POC and brilliant.

      1. I remember reading the article, but I thought I would reiterate it as an example of other ppl from history.

  3. I understand your point. However, I really loved Anne with an E, and don’t remember the last time I related to a character this much. I cried out of sadness and happiness as her story progressed. It’s been a long time since I read the books, so I can’t say if it was true to the books or not, but I really loved it. I get that a lot of people loved the earlier version with Meghan, but there were versions before and after it. I think as you do regarding Pride and Prejudice, the version with Colin Firth was perfect and I don’t want to see the new film because it’s too modernized from what I hear. I haven’t seen the series with Meghan, so maybe that’s why I like Anne with an E so much, but as it is, I can’t change the fact that Anne with an E means a lot to me. (I’ve had psychosis). I think your point about exploring other historical periods is totally valid, and I wish to see more of that.

    1. I am planning on properly reviewing “Anne with an E” at some point, but I will say that I really, really liked Amybeth McNulty’s Anne. My biggest gripe is that she was capable enough as an actor to convey the character’s PTSD baggage without the gruesome flashbacks. Those scenes really did nothing for me except ratchet up my anxiety every 10-15 minutes.

      But like I said, I grew up with the Megan Follows Anne and that series was capable of creating a build up of drama without making my stomach lurch in horror. Maybe that makes it “Anne for five-year-olds” but it worked really well. It’s worth a watch, if you have a few hours to spare!

      1. My AoGG friends are divided on whether AwaE is a great exploration of stuff LMM couldn’t have gotten into in her era or a betrayal of Anne’s nature and the characters. The one thing we agree on is that the casting is excellent. (We also agree that the other new Anne from Thanksgiving with Martin Sheen was The Worst.) I think the CBC version remains the best. I am only 2 eps in and not sure if I will watch more. The first I felt went too far in the flashbacks, but was overall good. The second had almost no relation to the book at all, and felt like a soap for all the crazy things that kept befalling everyone. I’ve seen more about what happens and am not sure I want to witness it.

        I think you’re spot on about the lack of originality AND the idea that we have to make things “gritty” for them to be meaningful and relevant. I appreciate that updates can help new generations to get into a story, but I also wonder if it doesn’t impoverish us and atrophy our imaginations if they are never challenged to stretch to understand another era from its own perspective. And I think the success of stories set in other worlds testifies to the fact that we don’t need to have things be situationally relatable to relate to them. I’ve never gone on a quest to destroy a magical object of a great evil, but that hasn’t made me feel like Tolkien’s world is inaccessible or unrelatable (nor has his relative paucity of female characters). I think history can be approached in a similar way through being faithful to it: it’s a chance to enter into a world that is familiar but also strange. I think some films have done a great job of showing this powerfully. I understood in the abstract that unjust systems lead to competition among the lowly, but nothing brought it home like seeing the slave master’s wife’s cruelty to Patsy in 12 Years a Slave. A more modern take might have tried to rationalize or explain it, to lessen her cruelty or highlight her sufferings, but by simply presenting it, I could see: she had no power over her husband, so she took it out on his victim.

        I might be rambling but I hope it’s clear. I’m skeptical that AwaE does this; Anne’s little shouts about equality impoverish our understanding about what she was up against. And wasn’t she impressive anyway—she went to uni when a lot of people didn’t, and fewer still women. Instead we have charming actors with child abuse porn. I may watch the rest just to get through it but it will take a while.

        1. My take is that Anne with an E wasn’t so much “darker” as it was less subtle than the books. Which in a way is justifiable, because a modern audience isn’t going to jump from “drunken husband” to “violent, abusive alcoholic” the way a 19th century audience would.
          On the other hand, making subtext into text doesn’t mean ramping up the drama to 11, and there were parts that seemed a bit much.
          But, on balance, I like Anne with an E a great deal, and hope that as the series goes on, it’ll calm down. And hopefully give the other books their proper due, unlike the horrible, cramming 3 books together that was the Anne of Avonlea tv series.

      2. I appreciate your take on Anne with an E. I didn’t mind the flashbacks and child abuse. I believe that it was something Montgomery would have been more explicit about had she been able to, and it’s not a stretch to think Anne would’ve dealt with those issues. What IS a stretch is that Anne would chew Matthew after he’d ridden all over the country to bring her back. What I hated about the series is how far it descended into melodrama, introducing silly plot elements that detract from the cast’s wonderful performances and the story’s relatable characters. Why did Anne have to save the Gillis’ house from burning down in order to win the town’s trust? That’s just a stupid, ramped up version of Minnie May’s croup episode, and THAT didn’t have the impact it should have because it was minor compared to the other, made-up incident. And don’t get me started on Matthew’s character assassination in the last episode! Not pleased with how Gilbert was written either.

        1. I’d actually argue that L.M. Montgomery very deliberately did not explore the abuse in Anne’s past—there’s a lot of autobiographical shades of her own life in Anne (and even moreso in the Emily books) and although Montgomery was very aware of what emotional abuse looked like for a child, I think that her own artistic preferences were for happy endings and an emphasis on beauty. In one of the Emily books, she pretty much defends her own preference here through her character decisions and dialogue—a writing teacher character defends the heroine’s decision to write romantically, because “pine trees are as real as pigsties, and a darn sight prettier.”

          Montgomery was also subject to a lot of literary criticism in her day because she eschewed the post-WWI emphasis on realism (grittiness, essentially), and continued to write like she did quite deliberately. Even her one book written explicitly for adults, The Blue Castle, which features an unwed mother and even more substantial emotional abuse, still ends happily (albeit a bit unrealistically, even for her) with a lot of emphasis on finding beauty and love where it might not be expected. So the focus on “telling the real story of Anne” that the AwaE seems to be publicizing actually really bugs me, because it seems to work against LMM’s original artistic vision. The creators can do what they want, but I think that Montgomery chose the more subtle exploration of pain with very real purpose.

          1. THIS. You basically captured what I see as a fundamental error with AwaE — Montgomery was, like Jane Austen before her, trying to paint a pretty picture of an idealized life. OBVIOUSLY, reality sucked. People suffered unfairly in horrible ways. But the Anne books were escapist literature — they were never intended to be realistic.

  4. I loved the comment Bill made in a recent Dr. Who episode, something to the effect of:

    “There are a lot more brown people in Regency England than I supposed.”

    I thought Belle was a step in the right direction. I’d like to see more stories of people of color in 18th and 19th century. We all know there are plenty of awesome actors who can do justice to the roles.

  5. I agree completely — it seems like the same stuff is done over and over. WHY does anyone think it’s a good idea to remake Murder on the Orient Express? The 1974 version is pretty much perfect and there are dozens of other Agatha Christie novels you could adapt. And as much as I love Elizabeth Bennet, I’m sick to death of P&P sequels, prequels, and retellings. I really don’t want to know what happens after they get married. (The same goes for books). And I will be avoiding Anne with an E like the plague, I don’t need to see a child with PTSD.
    However I am enjoying the heck out of Poldark and I did go back and watch the earlier PBS version which I’d never seen. I think the new one is actually better.

  6. I love the new Anne. We watched it as it aired on CBC and waited with baited breath for each new episode; Marilla in particular has a deeper, richer more nuanced emotional journey than ever before. But I agree, it is dark. And some of it is unnecessary. But it’s also quite rich in its own emotional intensity. I think I’ll watch the older version for humor, the newer one for drama.

    Alas, when we ask for period pieces about lesser known figures … we get hot messes like The White Princess. I waited all this time for Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on screen and I get… this? :P

    1. I feel you I’ve been into Mary queen of scots since I was a child and I was so excited to hear about reign and five minutes into the first episode I was stunned and pissed…haven’t watched it since

      1. Reign is… such a mess. It’s tragic there’s never been a truly DECENT full-length take on Mary QoS on television. :P

  7. I would love to see a movie about the Chevalier d’Eon. And a spy thriller about Aphra Behn. There are So Many amazing historical people and stories just waiting for their chance at the big screen!

    1. There is an episode in NIcholas le Floch (a French TV series about a police inspector in mid-to-late 18th century Paris) that features the Chevalier d’Eon — in a gown, wig, make-up and breeches under the dress. I appreciated the effort.

  8. Maybe unpopular opinion: I love the 2008 Sense and Sensibility. Not as much as Emma Thompson’s version, but I thought it was charming.

    1. I love the 2008 S&S version! It’s my favorite yet I still find the 1995 version delightful to watch.

    2. I liked both of them. 2008 had some good “corrections” to the novel in making Colonel Brandon a fuller character worthy of Marianne.

      1. Alan Rickman was almost grotesquely too old in the Ang Lee S&S, but I have to say that, although the Brandon from the 2008 adaptation is suitably younger, his characterization is even worse. For the record:

        1) There is a disturbing “taming” motif in the 2008 version. Marianne is compared (by her sister) to a wild horse who will learn to “follow” her tamer, and later likened (through a montage) to a trained falcon returning to its master’s hand.

        2) In the book, the Dashwood family doesn’t actively try to “match” Marianne with Brandon until close to the end of the book. Early on, they merely defend Brandon against Marianne’s assertions that he is “infirm” and too old for love — significantly, they do NOT try to persuade her to think of him as a marriage prospect. Elinor, in Chapter 8, even says to Marianne that she thinks “…thirty-five and seventeen had better not have any thing to do with matrimony together. But if there should by any chance happen to be a woman who is single at seven and twenty, I should not think Colonel Brandon’s being thirty-five any objection to his marrying HER.” (Granted, by the end of the book, Marianne’s family have made a near-complete reversal and have formed “a confederacy against her” and see her as Brandon’s “reward” [Ch. 50], which is VERY disturbing, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

        In the 2008 S&S, however, Marianne’s family explicitly “match” her with Brandon almost from the beginning. Elinor points out that Marianne likes Brandon, and Mrs. Dashwood says to Marianne, “No one is forcing him upon you, my dear, but men of thirty-five have married girls of seventeen before, I believe.” True, they may not be “forcing” Marianne into anything, but they seldom miss an opportunity to promote Brandon as a suitor to Marianne (Elinor, in particular, has a habit of reminding Marianne of Brandon’s “great regard”) and this is all after Marianne has made it clear that she finds such a prospect “mortifying.”

        3) Brandon inserts himself into things that are none of his business. In the second episode, he takes Willoughby aside at Sir John’s party and demands to know what his intentions are towards Marianne. Yes, Willoughby is a really bad guy, but Brandon shouldn’t know that yet, and his confrontation here just makes him look controlling and patriarchal.

        4) Brandon starts to remove Marianne’s clothing, stopping himself only when he sees Marianne’s somewhat concerned look. Yes, I realize that, in the film, he was not trying to strip her for sexual reasons, but I think it’s obvious that Andrew Davies wanted the audience to be titillated. IMO, the fact that Marianne is dangerously ill at the time and apparently unable to voice any objection to what Brandon is doing makes this scene neither cute nor sexy. It isn’t at all the same thing as 1995’s version of Mr. Darcy voluntarily diving into his pond, sans coat, waistcoat, and cravat, and accidentally meeting Elizabeth in this state of undress. That isn’t to say that I find the “wet shirt Darcy” scene to be sexy — I actually think it’s gratuitous and silly, but at least it doesn’t annoy me in the way that the aforementioned Brandon scene does.

        5) In addition to nearly undressing Marianne, Brandon later shuts himself in the room with her (evidently at her request, to be fair), sits on her bed without being asked, and places his hand on hers (again, without being asked to do so), which happens to be resting on her abdomen at the time. This seems inappropriate.

  9. <3 My sentiments exactly! i understand that there are people who really like the new series, but I am sick to death of the modern penchant for “gritty.” Yes, the world is a terrible place, but it’s also a beautiful, wonderful place. I don’t need to see all the terrors in detail for entertainment; that’s what the news is for.

    There were two things in Anne with an E that turned me off quickly. First was the amount of paint peeling at Green Gables. Second was the fact that the Cuthberts ate dinner without saying grace. I’m not religious, but it seemed like the wrong path for these particular characters.

    1. Oops. Director’s error as grace was definitely said before meals at that time.

  10. Another egregious offender of the “update the classic story that is already feminist with anachronistic and ham-fisted dreck that has no respect for history or actual women” variety.

    Also Marilla has a steampunk belt.

  11. I really like Anne with an E. I do NOT like the P&P reboot with Keira Knightley. I must admit that I never say the previous Anne of Green Gables.

  12. I have very strong feelings about the Three Musketeers. As in, every movie made out of it was a pile of crap.
    There, I said it.
    Those were my favorite books as a child, and nothing I ever saw quite made the cut for me… especially not the drivel shown above!

    And as a Frenchwoman I want to say this to Hollywood: Not all kings of France were named Louis XIV, and not all queens Marie Antoinette… Just sayin’
    And while I can understand the fascination for the sun king, the one focusing on the “Autrichienne” completely escapes me.
    We did not have female monarchs, because Salique Law, but we had a few BAMF queen mothers (Catherine de Médicis sort of springs to mind…)
    And yes, a movie about the Chevalier d’Eon would be great!

    1. Have you seen the Russian miniseries? I thought it was much better. Still not particularly faithful to the book, but enjoyable.

    2. I thought only Madame Du Berry and misinformed peasants called Marie Antoinette the “Austrian Bitch.” She was, after all, a scapegoat for all the country’s problems, even though it was a messed up system that was there long before she ever showed up. It’s one of History’s Bigger Fibs, just like our American poem of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” and “Rome Burned while Nero Fiddled.” As a person, Marie Antoinette was actually very sweet, but ignorant of her adopted country’s problems. History painted her in a very ugly light until people like Antonia Frasier did a more in-depth bunch of research and revealed the real person behind the old media smears. Some things don’t change, right?

      1. Okay. First, I’m neither Madame du Barry or an uninformed peasant, thankyouverymuch.
        Second, I don’t dislike Marie Antoinette per se, I just don’t understand why, out of all the French queens people are fixated on that one.
        It never was easy to be queen, uprooted from your country to wed a stranger, sometimes not even speaking the language, mostly isolated, and on top of that asked to forego all your previous loyalties.
        But she was not alone in this. Some queens were good at it, most struggled, some never got it… And the French court was not a very forgiving place.
        However, the sweet ignorance excuse only goes so far. MA arrived in France in 1770, so that leaves 19 years before the Revolution to learn about your adoptive country, something she didn’t bother doing.
        I admire her sense of style, but it wasn’t enough… If anything, it was even a weakness at the time that some people were prompt to take advantage of.
        But then, I was never a good customer for the “poor little princess” story, be it MA, lady Di or whomever.

    1. Ninon de L’Enclos would be a Fab choice, Lynne. Forever Amber also. I don’t think there’s been a version since the original Linda Darnell film in the 1940-1950s. Just so long as they cast an appropriate actress and use hair pins. And of course accurate clothes.

  13. I would love to see great screen versions of the Bronte novels Agnes Grey, Shirley or Villette….instead of yet another adaptation of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

  14. Remaking movies and television productions – especially if they’re adaptation of novels, plays, etc. – is pretty common in entertainment industries all around the world. It has been going on since the advent of motion pictures or probably before. If remakes, reboots and sequels have been common for such a long time, why complain about it?

  15. I’m confused. Why does Sarah prefer one slate breaking scene over the other? They both end in destroyed school supplies.

    1. The quite is literally “…and cracked it: slate, not head, clean across!”.

      Even in the books Anne hits him with the slate so hard it breaks. How is this scene any different?

        1. AnnE the younger comes across as more of a sudden triggered victim reflex than Ann the elder. The body language of one conveys more lashing out fear and the other more defiant sick of your shit rage.

  16. There have certainly been highly positive reviews of remakes (e.g.,
    https://frockflicks.com/18th-century-costume-beauty-beast-2017/) on this site. Furthermore, classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility (among others) have been adapted multiple times for different generations and will undoubtedly continue to be revisited. P&P had been adapted several times before the 1995 miniseries was filmed (just Google the 1980 version to see how many avid fans it has), and S&S had been adapted at least twice (in 1971 and 1981, by the BBC) before Ang Lee got his hands on it.

    1. “I relatively enjoyed the movie” & an analysis of the 18th-c. inspirations of the costumes in the recent Beauty & the Beast remake doesn’t negate this article. For one thing, we have 3 different writers here who are allowed to have their own opinions. For another thing, “A remake should add something to the original” so a live-action version with more distinctly historical costumes of an animated film does bring something to the original.

      If you’re going to nitpick US, be forewarned, we will nitpick right back.

  17. Oliver Reed played Athos in the 1973 adaptation, twenty years later Oliver Platt played Porthos (Kiefer Sutherland was Athos). I really love the 1993 Three Musketeers, incidentally. It only vaguely resembles the book, and as an adult I now know that the costumes aren’t great, but I just love watching it. It’s a lighthearted swashbuckler, doesn’t ever take itself too seriously, and most of the cast are a lot of fun to watch. The 1973 version is great, but it just doesn’t have a hold on my heart the way the silly 1993 iteration does.
    That said, I agree about being frustrated with Hollywood’s reliance on reboots and remakes (especially the gritty ones), even more so because the tendency is only getting worse. There are so many great stories, and great characters in history; if Hollywood would just be brave enought to take a chance on less familiar material they’d never want for inspiration again.
    I’d love to see Anne Bonney, or Julie D’Aubingy depicted; a movie about Cleopatra that didn’t reduce her to her romantic history; Empress Cixi’s ruthless climb to power; Aphra Behn’s story instead of another Will Shakespeare, real guy projects…I could go on and on.
    I haven’t seen Anne With an E, and I’m not really interested in doing so. The CBC version is perfect, and I have had more than enough of Moira Walley-Beckett’s grim and gritty BS. She lost me forever with this TERRIBLE series she did for STARZ called Flesh and Bone. This woman will try to put edge on every surface a story allows, even if the end result is something so over-the-top it’s ridiculous.

  18. High on my list of historical faves who should be on screen are Empress Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine as well as Isabella of France.

    Or a movie focusing on Isabella of Parma and Marie Christina of Austria, who were so intimate with each other that historians argue that there was some romantic attraction.
    Julie d’Aubigny would also be on my list (which is probably titled “Guess what, LGBT people existed in history”). Literally anyone mentioned by the Rejected Princesses project should be on screen.

    Along those lines, I would also like a non-romantised Richard Lionheart.

  19. There are so many great historical stories that could be told and I would just love it if they didn’t try to “sex” it up when they tell the stories. History is plenty interesting enough, we don’t need to make it more dramatic.

  20. My recommendation for this whole remake cirque du freak mess is, pick the movie you love most, and stick with that. If you find a better remake, keep that too, and quit torturing yourselves with the lousy remakes. Some of those films/tv movies sound like an experiment where you watch them once and never again. My dad and brother did that just recently with that awful kill-fest called “Alien: Covenant.”

    I actually did a rant on book-to-movie and movie remake duds in one of my DeviantArt journal entries. It seems almost criminal in this day and age, especially with awesome movie special-effects, costume, makeup, and camera technology, that they still come out with horrendously lame remakes or screen adaptations. I call them “Hollywood Bitch-Slaps.” Based on what you’ve said here, they’ve been doing that in the classical literature field too, those lousy, showbiz creeps.

  21. hey! love the article but I feel like I should point out that ‘transgendered’ is a bit of an iffy term, id recommend simply ‘transgender’. though I’m not myself transgender so if any trans folk want to correct anything please feel free.
    – a queer frock flick lover

  22. Lots of shitty things are done over & over again — doesn’t mean we have to like it.

    Yes, but not all remakes, reboots or sequels/prequels are shitty. Some are just as good or even better. Really, it depends upon the movie or television production. Neither the 1995 versions of both “Pride and Prejudice” or “Sense and Sensibility” are original adaptations. And yet, both are highly regarded. And I have been watching the two versionsn of “Poldark” simultaneously. To be honest, one is not better than the other. Well . . . I take that back. I think the current version mght be slightly better, despite its flaws. Needless to say, I have been enjoying both versions and found it interesting to compare the different styles of the two adaptations.

  23. I have both enjoyed and rolled my eyes at Anne with an E, but I have a costuming question. There is a scene (not from the book) that shows a headstone for a recently deceased character, and the date is (I think) 1885. However, when Matthew has a dress (with puffed sleeves!) made for Anne, the dressmaker says it is “au courant,” however the style strikes me much more as post-1900. Does anyone know enough about girls’ clothes (not women’s styles) to comment on whether there’d be that much of a difference across approximately 20 years? The timeline of the Anne books is screwy, but I always pictured her at the turn of the century, not 15 years before it.

    1. The general consensus for the Anne timeline is just that it’s screwy, I think—my impression was that Montgomery was working off her own memories of being a young girl in the mid-1880’s, but wrote the book in the early 1900’s. I’ve seen folks try to unravel the timeline according to the clothes and end up throwing their hands in the air.

    2. This is a very useful link for the sleeve styles around that time period: http://historicalsewing.com/sleeve-shifts-of-the-1890s

      As a huge fan of the Anne books, I’m pretty sure that the original book was set in the mid-1890s– I say that based on the sleeves in the first book, and the fact that in Anne of the Island, set in Anne’s college years, there’s a specific description of a dress of hers that consists of “a simple little slip of cream silk with a chiffon overdress.” Under the original timeline, Anne was eleven in, say, 1895, sixteen and a half at the beginning of Anne of Avonlea, which made her eighteen and a half at the beginning of Anne of the Island in the fall of 1902. While a slip with a chiffon overdress may be a little fashion-forward for the early 1900s (seems more appropriate for the 1910s), it makes a lot more sense than using the ret-conned timeline that Montgomery adopts with the later books, with Anne’s children coming of age during WWI.

      Under the alternate timeline, since Anne’s eldest son, Jem, is described as being 21 at the start of the war in 1914, then he was born in 1893, about two years after Anne and Gilbert married (because he was born after Joyce, who died at birth). Anne and Gilbert were married three years after graduating from college, which means they were in college from 1884-1888. I just can’t picture any dress consisting of a slip with a chiffon overdress being remotely appropriate for the mid-1880s.

      Similarly (and this is the end, I promise!), in Anne of Windy Poplars Anne wears a collarless dress during the day, which fashion she says is “coming in.” Under the first timeline, she wears this around 1906-1907– again, perhaps a little early, but much more reasonable than assuming that collarless dresses were in fashion in 1889-1890.

      Can you tell I’ve thought about this a lot? ;)

  24. Sooooo tired of the endless remakes of the King Arthur story and the Robin Hood story. I believe that there is one in production at all times, whether on tv or the movies. Just… there’s nothing new you can squeeze out of it. Just stop. We’ve all seen it a bazillion times. Let it go.

  25. Do you have plans to review both the Netflix and 1985 versions of Anne of Green Gables at some stage? I’d love to read your extended take on them and their costumes!

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