The notion of rebooting, remaking, reimagining, or continuing a beloved property or franchise is nothing new in Hollywood. In fact, in recent years it seems to be not just their bread and butter, but their main cash crop. There’s proven money in reboots, they are low risk, high reward endeavors. The biggest movie in the world right now is a continuation of the “Star Wars” saga. Coming down the pipe is another “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie, a “Ghostbusters” movie, yet another beginning for “Spider-Man,” “Transformers” is still going strong. Netflix recently announced they’ll be bringing back “Ducktales,” they even recently released a trailer for another “Pee-wee Herman” flick.
In short, at this point it comes as a shock to no one when major studios announce we’ll be getting a new film or television series with obvious nostalgia factor. Recently however, I came across two announcements that for some reason, rubbed me the wrong way. Sony has announced that they will be remaking both “Jumanji” and “Labyrinth.” While the “Jumanji” announcement is a few months old, the decision to bring us a reimagining of “Labyrinth” was reported by The Hollywood Reporter just two days ago.
I’ve been sitting on this announcement for a couple of days. Normally I’d be pretty quick to at least post to my personal social media pages about this type of thing but something didn’t feel right and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I’m usually excited when something I enjoy so much gets another turn at bat, but not this time. This felt wrong, but why? As I’ve already pointed out, this is far from the first time a beloved title has been remade, it isn’t even the first time something has been remade when the star of the original has passed away, so that can’t be it.
Then it hit me, what bothers me is how soon after the star’s respective deaths the announcements were made. “Jumanji” was announced last year, less than one full turn around the sun after the late Robin Williams left us. The “Labyrinth” announcement didn’t even have that much tact, people are still freshly mourning, not the least of which, his family, though I don’t speak for them. People are still fighting colds they contracted before they found out Bowie had died.
These announcements are in bad taste because they are obvious cash grabs from Sony hoping to cash in on the heartache of fans mourning the loss of beloved public figures. Certainly these titles aren’t off limits, but you don’t hit on the girl who just broke up with your friend, and you don’t announce a remake of a movie while the star of the original’s body is still warm.
It’s entirely possible that these projects were in the works prior to the deaths of Williams and Bowie, but the timing of these announcements doesn’t sit well with me, or with many other fans. I suspect it was a measured gamble on the part of the studio, counting on the bad taste to have washed out of our mouths by the time they hit theaters, to be in the sweet spot between when we’ll be outraged and when this increased level of post mortem fandom wears off.
I can’t even truthfully say that I won’t go see them. I probably will. I almost certainly will, because I do love those movies, and I want to see what might be done with them. I think that's what bothers me about this the most, they know that we'll see them anyway, that we'll line up and walk down the shoot like sheep to the slaughter tongue wagging and doe eyed because we're hard wired for things we liked as kids. I just don’t like being manipulated and I don’t like the deaths of human beings being used to make a quick and easy buck. Sony ought to be ashamed, but they almost certainly are not.
I'd be happier if instead they had decided to give both films another theatrical run. Fans of Williams and Bowie would definitely hit the theater, paying full ticket price to see these movies on the big screen again. That would cost them nothing, would make them a boatload of money, which is clearly their main concern, and would honor Williams and Bowie at the same time. Hell, give me "Jumanji" in 3D, I'd go watch that right now. But what do I know?
Anyway, “Jumanji” and “Labyrinth” are getting remakes. Hooray I guess.