This article: Why mess with perfection?Some things, like classic movies, are best left in the past-don't try to remake them
Date published: 8/5/2011
By Cathy Dyson
While I heartily agree that most of what Hollywood is producing nowadays are simply remakes and reworkings of old movies, I don't understand her basic premise. If you agree with her, lots of plays would never get produced, or taking it the step further, books would not be made into movies at all. (If the novel is perfect, why waste a movie?) Every age can reimagine old movies. Sometimes, interpretations can thoroughly separate one movie from another. I constantly watch new versions of Hamlet just to see how they interpret the "To be or not to be" speech as a soliloquy or monologue.
Sometimes, technology can drive movies to be made better and more interesting. Sometimes, actors really can make it different. Maybe better, maybe not, but different. And isn't that what a classic is all about--new interpretations? Would the world be the same if we left the original version of The Bourne Identity alone??
I would not call the 1956 Moby Dick untouchable. From what I have seen of the new Encore one so far, I have actually enjoyed most of it. The problem of the narrative of the novel appears fixed, although I do agree with her that "Capt. Ahab was nice, almost cheerful, most of the time. Even when he was at his worst, or best, as an obsessed stalker, he didn't seem nearly as extreme as Gregory Peck did in the original."
And yes, you are simply going to fail if your only purpose is to compare Donald Sutherland's Father Mapple with the version portrayed by Orson Welles. That's a given, for any actor, and Sutherland is pretty darn good. However, you must distance yourself, as a critic, to analyze what the version you are reviewing got right and wrong. There will always be some comparison with other versions, but notice one key byline, movie critic: "Based on the book by Herman Melville." It does not say, "Based on the 1956 movie." Key distinction there. You have to see what the movie under review accomplished. Anything else is not being fair.