October 18th, 2006

The Second Time Around

Well do I remember the fit I pitched when I discovered “they” had remade “The Time Machine.”

 

Why remake a classic film? Just because you can? It makes me think of No Doubt covering “It’s My Life” and adding not one new thing to it except a whinier singing voice. What’s the point, then? Why not just sing it in the shower like I do?

 

I have to admit, though, I don’t have a consistent anti-remake stance. Nor do I have a consistent stance on the novel vs. filming-of-said-novel controversy. (It seems to me I generally prefer whichever one I encounter first. I far prefer the movie “Silence of the Lambs” to the book. And I enjoyed “Red Dragon” about as much as a person can enjoy a serial killer movie, whereas the original filming, “Manhunter,” I just couldn’t get into. I mean, it didn’t have Anthony Hopkins or Ralph Fiennes in it—so there was really nothing there for me.) And “Hum Tum,” the Bollywood remake of “When Harry Met Sally,” didn’t pose any philosophical challenges for me. (Actually, I think “Hum Tum” may come out ahead, despite the fact that Saif Ali Khan is in it, for two reasons: Meg Ryan isn’t in it, and it has an outstanding soundtrack. Which I own. So there.)

 

And, in fact, I have an extreme fondness for retellings. (Perhaps I mentioned that “The Knights’ Cavern,” the first short story Cricket has bought from me, is a retelling of a Welsh legend [please note my optimism! This is merely the first of what will surely be many short stories by Elisabeth Deffner published in the pages of this outstanding magazine].) The first novel draft I ever wrote was a sort of fairy-tale retelling, which will shortly be undergoing renovation and revision. I enjoy reading fairy-tale retellings even when they’re horrible (because that makes me feel so much better about my own! In fact, maybe I especially enjoy reading them when they’re horrible!).

 

I’m not very big on Bible verses (although I will always remember the shortest verse, “Jesus wept,” because in one of the “Little House” books the narrator mentions that it’s the shortest. How’s that for educational fiction?), but I find myself often muttering, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” The tone in which I mutter it varies.

 

If I’m working, and I can’t come up with an original simile, I mutter it in disgust. Why wasn’t I born centuries earlier (into a place where people didn’t hunt wild animals with spears, I mean), so I could have been the one to come up with similes so original and fascinating that now, these many years later, they are but dusty clichés?

 

If I’m struggling with life issues (blech), I find it reassuring to think that for millennia before me and for millennia after, people will be dealing with the same issues: balancing responsibilities with fun, balancing friends’ needs with their own, learning how to interact peacefully with family, trying to figure out what other people could possibly be thinking that makes them act the way they do! 

 

But back to “The Time Machine.”

 

So I watched the original this weekend, and maybe it was the depression lingering from my visit to Foxfire that made it seemed interminably boring and pointless—but maybe it wasn’t.

 

Then I watched the remake, and I couldn’t believe how soon it was over. (For the record, the original is about seven minutes longer than the remake.) It’s not perfect; I mean, how did he decide after going back in time just once that every time he goes back he will watch the girl he loves die a different death? I should think he would have needed at least a couple of attempts to verify that theory. But the rest of the movie was so much fun, I’m willing to let that slide.

 

So now I feel a little bad about the fit I pitched. I guess that the lesson here is that—just as you should with people—you have to get to know a movie or a book before you can decide that you hate it. And if you give it a chance, maybe you’ll make a new friend. Or at least have an incredibly fun afternoon making fun of Nicolas Cage {“Wicker Man” flashback).

 

So what’s your favorite remake/ cover/ retelling? Or least favorite? Name names, please!