Please, no more live-action remakes

April 9, 2024, 10:31 p.m. | By Angelina Cao | 1 month, 1 week ago

Like seriously though, enough is enough

Live Action Remakes Photo courtesy of Alisha Wu.

Whispered around campfires, penned in books, acted on stage—there are so many ways to tell a story. Each medium has their own special charm, yet live-action media is always crowned as the undying default. 

Everything is getting a live-action remake nowadays, which brings up the question: Why? Do the remakes hold an inherent artistic value worthy of million dollar budgets and the audience’s attention just on virtue of being live-action? 

Spoiler alert! No, not even close. 

How redundant. 

Stories are retold all the time. Books are translated into films, films are translated into musicals, and musicals are translated back into books. In any case, retellings need to be additive. Unfortunately, that is often not the case with live-action remakes. 

Take the 2017 film Beauty and the Beast, it is the same story as the 1991 classic but rebooted with Emma Watson and CGI. It was a faithful recreation of a tale as old as time, but that also means that the remake added nothing new. Many scenes followed the animation exactly, beat for beat.

No one can argue that the 2017 film was bad, but was retelling the same story at a similar quality really worth the 300 million dollar budget? Disney would argue yes, as the film made over a billion dollars worldwide, but gross earnings shouldn’t be the only consideration.

Film teacher Douglas Wilson agrees. “Any kind of decision that's made with money in mind to me is not great, especially when you're talking about an artistic endeavor,” he explains.

It is a true shame that money has blinded these studios to disregard the quality of their films. Disney no longer has to innovate for box office successes—they have the bank account and brand recognition to succeed with even the most mediocre of movies. So no matter how low the ratings go, the same tired movies still get pumped out each year like cheap plastic on a factory line. 

And reductive!

There is so much charm that is inevitably lost in translation when going from animation to live-action.

For example in the Lion King, both colors and emotions are erased in the remake. The characters’ facial expressions are subdued as real-life animals do not emote like their animated counterparts. The remake is not only unnecessary but also inferior to the original in every way.

In comparison, Animation allows for creativity with the only bounds being one’s imagination, but that is not true for live-action recreations. Now, the film is bound by uncomfortable CGI and ultra realism that is not fit for fantastical worlds.

Of course, the live-action medium has its positives. Wilson points out that real-life actors make it easier for audiences to relate to the story. “[With live-action], it's easier for people to identify with the characters if you're telling a human-interest story. When people are looking at actual people, they'll be able to buy the story more, you know…suspension of disbelief,” Wilson says.

However, the Lion King is not a human-centered story—it is a lion-centered one. Animals talk, dance, and sing “Hakuna Matata.” There is not a single reason why the story needs to be realistic or relatable.

Anime club member Claudio Lowick-Zucca critiques the apparent lack of effort within the 2019 Lion King. “I think [the remake] is just phenomenally lazy because there's this really nice charm with the animation from the original, [but] the live-action offers absolutely nothing new,” he describes. 

If anything, the live-action remake takes away from the original as the ultra rendered realism removes the layer of fantastical escapism that was within the 1994 classic. Blair Network Communications member Xavier Ohnona enjoys animation for that very reason. “[Sometimes] when you watch something, you want to go for escapism like you want to be somewhere else in the moment and I think if it just looks the exact same [as real life] kind of just defeats some of the purpose,” he explains. 

It’s not just Disney either, Netflix live action remakes of fantasy worlds are not any better. The most recent live-action reboot, Avatar: The Last Airbender, was a disappointment as all personality from the original cartoon was wiped clean and the show was transformed into a hollow shell of its former glory. 

The original cartoon is about a group of preteens saving the world—the characters are going to be immature and easily-distracted. Ironically, there is nothing realistic about removing characters flaws and turning the main characters into mission-driven robots. 

The original cartoon told the story of the Avatar best because of its colorful visuals and humorous exaggerations. Animation was the best medium for that story just like it was for a dozen other live-action remakes (Lion King, Dumbo, Pinnochio to name a few.)

Yet relentless?

Every live-action remake has an insane budget.  Astonishingly, Disney has 10 live-action remakes in the works right now.  Hundreds of millions of dollars down the drain each year all to create lackluster movies that can barely hold a candle to the original. This is not even mentioning the artistic talent that is wasted on retelling a story that has already been perfected.

Once the pioneer of 2D animation, Disney is now a cheap scoundrel remaking the same stories over and over again. This fall from grace is truly one for the history books.

All of this is to say, Hollywood needs to learn how to take some risks. Let writers and artists create new stories instead of retelling the same ones as their predecessors. Art is meant to evolve with time, reflecting new ideas and beliefs. So please Hollywood, let animation be. 

Last updated: April 9, 2024, 10:38 p.m.

Angelina Cao. Hi, my name is Angelina and I am a writer! I like animation and crocheting :) More »

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