“We’re about to live through one of the worst filmmaking decades all over again,” writes Gina Piccalo in The Daily Beast today. That decade – the ‘80s – is back in full force with a flood of remakes (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Clash of the Titans, Tron Legacy, The Karate Kid, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Predators, and Red Dawn, among others) and “brand-new films with plots so stale they feel as if they’ve been unearthed from some jaundiced Reagan-era slush pile.” (Piccalo mentions The Bounty Hunter, Did You Hear About the Morgans? and Cop Out as prime examples).
“The 1980s were arguably one of the worst eras in film, when every year brought another Porky’s or Police Academy, when Look Who’s Talking was a bona fide blockbuster, when hilarity ensued with every inter-racial cop duo, every country-meets-city plot, and every fast-talking career gal brought down a peg by some manly man…. With the exception of some rare gems from the likes of John Hughes, Terry Gilliam, and yes, Steven Spielberg, it’s an entire decade of filmmaking worth forgetting.”
Ouch. Piccalo blames baby-boomer nostalgia – and easy marketing – for the recent resurgence. The movies of our formative years are simply simpler to sell. And while we can’t deny the “era of excess” left us with well-worn tropes and over-hashed stereotypes (hello campy cop thriller!), you gotta give the decade some credit: Raging Bull is a cinematic classic, just as charring today as it was the day of it’s 1980 release. Aliens transformed the way we look at women in the action genre. Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing – while a bit of a thematic overload in retrospect – was confrontational, bold and groundbreaking at the time. Caddyshack’s just hilarious.
The list goes on. As for this season’s remakes and “re-imaginings,” we won’t defend Conan or encourage Mad Max 4. However, Tron Legacy looks awesome. It’s glitzy sci-fi stunner with a hint of Ziggy Stardust and a splash of Gaga.
Piccalo casts these films as pure commercial waste, quoting critic Leonard Maltin: “They’re not born of a passion for storytelling or desire to scale new heights. They’re items of commerce.”
Items of commerce? Yes – but let’s hope Piccalo’s at least partially wrong in her assessment of the quality of these features. If not, prepare to be severely bored.