As Hollywood movie studios get further and further away from producing original content and instead rely on remakes and reboots of familiar franchises, Sony has apparently floated the idea of remaking “The Princess Bride.”
This would, of course, be a terrible idea. That also may be why Sony quickly backed away, saying that it wasn’t planning to remake the movie after all.
What’s amazing is the backlash that the simple thought of it generated across the internet. That is, it’s “INCONCEIVABLE!”
No Replacing the Original
“The Princess Bride” was released in September 1987. The film starred Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, and had a supporting cast that included the great character actor Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, and even famed wrestler Andre the Giant.
It was one of the early films from Rob Reiner, whose career has since tanked while his notoriety as a left-wing lunatic has only grown.
“The Princess Bride” is hailed as an outstanding, time-tested, wonderfully entertaining film. It has the virtue of being one of the more memorable films of an already memorable decade in Hollywood.
Interestingly, the film only grossed about $31 million domestically. It is not even close to being one of the top-grossing films of all time and is actually ranked 2,674thin all-time domestic box office.
It didn’t even crack the top 10 for box office in 1987, coming in at No. 41.
Even the Academy Awards overlooked it, awarding it a single nomination for original song.
It remains a fond memory for many moviegoers of that generation.
At the time, it took a clever conceit of spinning bedtime story bookend into a comedic and self-referential exercise in the fantasy genre. To this day, memes float around the internet that are derived directly from the movie.
More than anything else, it’s just a crackling good story with wonderful comedic actors and is often hilariously funny.
How to Botch a Remake
A remake would never fly today, not even on Netflix.
One of the reasons is because the original film is very much a product of its day. The film is playful and sweet-natured. It could have even been released by Disney.
The entire concept would be ruined by making it “edgy” and filling it with language inappropriate for what its target audience should be.
Another important element is that it was one of the first films to poke fun at the genre and consequently itself. This kind of self-reflexiveness has since been used countless times. “Shrek” was a fresh new take on such an approach, which has subsequently been done to death.
It’s one thing to remake Disney animated films into live-action/CGI contemporary entertainment. While the animated films, even the contemporary ones, have mostly become instant classics, the live-action remakes are practically carbon copies.
In fact, they barely classify as remakes, which may be why we haven’t seen such a backlash against Disney.
Yet when it comes to remakes, it has proven to be nearly impossible for any new work to both pay homage to the original while standing firmly on its own two feet.
A perfect example is the all-female “Ghostbusters.”
Once again, this was an ill-fated attempt to recreate a film that was very much of its time. The movie came out on the front half of the 1980s and like “The Princess Bride” showed audiences a world they’d never seen before.
“Ghostbusters” somehow managed to mash together comedy and ghostly shenanigans in present-day New York. Despite the comedy and Bill Murray’s singular performance, the film took itself and its world seriously.
The film had internal rules that it followed. The characters were both highly specific and hilarious. The screenplay was elegantly structured and directed with great skill by the late Ivan Reitman.
At the time, “Ghostbusters” was a completely original concoction.
The remake was a complete disaster. Everything I just listed that was good about the original film was entirely botched in the remake. The film was poorly written and poorly directed, with characters and situations that were unfunny, and presented a scenario that was 35 years old.
Remake Done Right
If a studio insists on doing a remake or reboot, then they should look to “Battlestar Galactica,” which showed up on the SyFy Network more than 10 years ago.
The original series, which premiered in the late 1970s, took itself seriously at the time but in the ensuing years of higher-quality television and special effects, it is now seen as camp.
The remake, however, was a triumph on every level.
It took the initial concept and tossed out 95% of the original series. Creator Ronald Moore beautifully and elegantly transformed the series into a tale of the human race in diaspora and the challenges it faced while being pursued by robots that wanted to obliterate them. Like all good science fiction, present-day conflicts from the political to the metaphysical were played out over the course of the series.
Which takes us back to “The Princess Bride.”
The only way a remake could ever work would be to take the original concept and completely rework the entire story. It wouldn’t have to deliver the same emotional beats, but it would have to stand entirely on its own accord. That would effectively not even make it a remake but rather a “remake in name only.”
Otherwise, just leave it alone. Even Cary Elwes agrees.