When Hollywood Recycles

This week’s release of “The Mechanic,” a remake of the 1972 thriller starring Charles Bronson, will mark the beginning of an onslaught of film remakes and reboots in 2011.

By year’s end, remakes of “Footloose” and “Red Dawn,” as well as reboots of franchises like “Conan the Barbarian” will have been in a theater near you.

Also, announcements of a “Lethal Weapon” series reboot and a remake of “Annie,” that will feature Willow Smith, littered industry news just last week.

Hollywood studios are making it clear that they are alright with sorting through their recycling bins. However, remakes and reboots are not all bad.

Here we present examples of when recycling old ideas produces successes at the Oscars and the box office, as well as when it produces films that fail miserably.

The Great

The Departed (2006)

Screenwriter William Monahan cleverly reworked the popular Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs” with his Oscar-winning screenplay for 2007’s “The Departed.”

The Boston crime drama also signaled a new chapter in director Martin Scorsese’s career after criticism that he had lost the edge that made his early work so strong.

The film was met with critical praise and enthusiasm from the general public. It went on to win Best Picture at the 2007 Academy Awards, as well as a long overdue Oscar for Scorsese’s directing.

“Star Trek” (2009)

“Lost” creator J.J. Abrams wasted little time presenting his vision of the “Star Trek” universe, a franchise with over 40 years of history and fan adoration, to a new generation. “Star Trek: Nemesis,” the 9th film in the “Star Trek” series, was practically ignored upon its release in 2002, and Paramount Pictures took notice. What had once been a popular film and television series was now viewed solely as the entertainment of a lonesome science fiction geek.

Abrams’ “Star Trek” delivered on a story that was compelling enough to ensure it could both stand as its own film, as well as make well-known characters like Kirk and Spock new again. The film pleased not only critics and the average moviegoers, but also die-hard Trekkies.

The Mediocre

“The Karate Kid” (2010)

The actual quality of the 2010 “Karate Kid” remake is not much better than what you will see on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. The original story is intact, and the directing and writing are all pretty standard.

It is Jayden Smith, as Dre Parker, whose performance makes it worth watching.

“The Karate Kid” also sports action legend Jackie Chan as Mr. Han, a character who is essentially Mr. Miyagi from the original film. While Chan does not live up to actor Pat Morita’s Miyagi, it is his best performance in years.

“The Incredible Hulk”(2008)

“The Incredible Hulk” is perhaps the quickest turnaround for a reboot with the exception of the upcoming “Spider-Man” series.

Only four years after director Ang Lee’s “Hulk” was released, a new team announced that the entire franchise would be rebooted. Edward Norton was cast as the angry green scientist and “Transporter 2” director Louis Leterrier took the filmmaking reigns from Lee.

Besides mind-numbing action sequences, and a terrible story, “The Incredible Hulk” featured some fun performances from Norton and actor William Hurt, as well as some excellent stunt work. Other than that, “The Incredible Hulk” was a mediocre mess.

The Awful

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010)

Director Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes has made a fortune churning out remakes of older horror films. Within the past decade they have released remakes of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Friday the 13th” and “The Amityville Horror.”

Crafted only the way a former music video director can, the new “Nightmare” was complete with visual flair and eye-catching set design created by director Samuel Bayer. However, he loses track of just what made the original so terrifying to begin with: its supernatural elements.

The infamous Freddy Krueger is now simply a product of sleeping pills, and the whole town is in on some sort of cover-up. Basically, 2010’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” tries to do its own thing, but fails on almost every level.

“Clash of the Titans” (2010)

There may be no better way to protest the remakes and reboots Hollywood is churning out than to slip a copy of last year’s “Clash of the Titans” into a studio executive’s DVD player.

While the film made a decent amount of revenue, both critics and audiences alike panned the film for its lack of an engaging story, characters or action.

Director Louis Leterrier (“The Incredible Hulk”) claims that Warner Brothers made him cut scenes that would improve upon the film’s narrative, but it is difficult to believe he could have built upon something that was so weak to begin with. A sequel, “Wrath of Titans,” is already in production without the involvement of Letterier and promises to be far better than “Clash.”