Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Father Christmas for grown ups



One of the most harrowing ordeals that we experience in life is that gut wrenching moment when as a child, we are told that Father Christmas does not actually exist. It is precisely at this point that most of us are introduced to the nature of fraud and dishonesty and so begins the steady moral decline towards adulthood.

In my case, I was first informed of this most heinous of lies by a schoolyard chum at the age of 7. I'll call him John, to protect his identity (his name was actually Lee). I can still picture the scene now.....

It was a frosty morning in early December 1988. I was in my Yr4 primary school class getting ready to decorate my hand made Christmas Cards, a tube of red glitter in one hand, my trusty Pritt-Stick in the other. The atmosphere in the room was cheery. My fellow classmates were all busying themselves in similar tasks as my teacher looked on with a reassuring smile. But then a shadow was cast over my shoulder.

John was standing behind me, his gaze firmly fixed on my thirteen fingered representation of the world's jolliest philanthropist. And then he muttered those unforgettable words;

"Father Christmas isn't real you know. It's your Dad".

Naturally, I met this outburst with contempt and denial.

"Err, yes he is real. Anyway, my Dad hasn't even got a white beard!" I replied furiously – struggling to make sense of this revelation.

John went on to explain the situation in more specific detail. He made several salient points that were difficult to contradict upon contemplation. Namely, these were that:

  • One man could not possibly deliver presents to the entire world in one evening.
  • Reindeer cannot fly.
  • Consuming over 6 billion mince pies in the space of several hours would result in death.
  • Elves do not exist, and even if they did, they probably wouldn't want to work on a production line in the Arctic Circle.

My heart sank as the truth resonated with me. Then came the realisation that I had been the victim of a serious fraud. I realised that my Mom had never really posted any of my 'Dear Santa' letters to the North Pole. I realised that I should never have worried about the accessibility limitations of our gas fire place. Most disturbingly, I realised that the chap dressed as Santa in my local shopping centre, to whom I had divulged my desire for a Sinclair Spectrum 128k and the 1988 Beano annual, had actually been a stooge and a phony.

Who knows though, if John, had never shared his precious secret with me, my parents may never have found it in them to tell me the truth, and I might well still be living under the assumption that an overweight, bearded pensioner in a red suit was solely responsible for delivering Christmas presents to me via the use of gravity defying reindeer and a magic sleigh.

This got me thinking. Unlike with children, as an adult, for any lie to be taken as the truth it must be able withstand a good degree of interrogation. Should there be any weakness in the story, or any hole to be picked at; the lie will fold faster than Superman on laundry day. It can be achieved though – and on a massive scale.

Our Government lies to us all the time. Tony Blair once told us that the Iraqis could blow us all to kingdom come within the space of 45 minutes with their scary sounding 'weapons of mass destruction', and for a while at least, many of us believed him.

We have been told a lot of pretty amazing things in recent history that have stretched our belief to the furthest extremes. Even the most hardened believers of the status quo must at least admit that the following events have been akin to something out of a movie script:

Kennedy Assassination (1963) – An illicit affair with a Hollywood superstar and an insane gunman acting alone, all set against a backdrop of communist infiltration and the threat of nuclear apocalypse.

The Moon Landing (1969) – A protracted cold war with a merciless enemy and a race to technological superiority involving Nazi Scientists and space travelling chimpanzees.

Princess Di’s Demise (1997) – A secret Mediterranean romance, a drunken chauffeur, a high speed car chase through the streets of Paris and a beautiful Princess in distress.

9/11 (2001) – Two feuding families with mutual oil interests, an evil terrorist network operating out of a hidden mountain base, the world’s greatest superpower bought to it knees and a decade of war in distant lands.

So given, that it is clearly possible to construct elaborate stories in order to mislead the population, how could the myth of Father Christmas have been suitably detailed in order to make an adult human being believe it's true?

Like this.....

The Man

Nicholas Klaus XXIII

Born:
December 2nd 1934 (age 76)

Nationality:
Norweigan

Occupation:
World renowned philanthropist

Positions Held:
Chairman - Klaus Corp. Industries (1954-PRESENT)
CEO - Xmas Inc. (1954-PRESENT)

Spouse:
Mary Klaus (1952-2003)
Adrianna Katzapova (2003-Present)
Children:
Nicholas Klaus XXIV
Roger Elvis Klaus
Net Worth:
$54,000,000,000 (^2011)

The current Father Christmas' real name is Nicholas Klaus XXIII. He was born in Oslo, Norway in 1934 to Nicholas Klaus XXII and Gertrude Klaus and is a member of the incredibly wealthy Klaus dynasty, who originally made their vast fortune from international shipping in the mid 1400s. He is the direct descendant of Nicholas Klaus I, who was known to people as Saint Nick because of his renowned generosity.

This streak of selflessness has been the defining characteristic of all of Nicholas' descendants, and Nicholas XXIII certainly lives up to this reputation. In 2011 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his services to international charity, and his philanthropic endeavours have earned him the love and respect of people the world over.

As is customary in the Klaus family, Nicholas inherited the Klaus business empire in 1954 upon the passing of his father, Nicholas XXII.

Nicholas is extremely proud of his family heritage and he ensures that he wears the traditional Norwegian red suit that has been the uniform of his ancestors in the great majority of his public appearances. Like many members of his family, a genetic trait resulted in Nicholas' hair turning white upon reaching adolescence, which merely serves to add to his distinctive appearance.

Nicholas, his 2nd wife Adrianna Klaus (nee Katzapova), 28, and their two sons, Nicholas XXIV, 7, and Roger, 4, reside in Lapland, Finland in a custom built fifteen bedroom Alpine Chalet style mansion on the grounds of the Xmas Inc. office complex. The mansion is situated near Nicholas' own runway and hangar, where his private jet, Rudolph 1, is kept on 24 hour standby.


Nicholas had been previously married to the first Mrs Klaus (Mary) for many years. They had no children together. Nicholas had always blamed this on his weak libido and work stresses.

Their marriage broke down unexpectedly in 2003, around the time that Nicholas was first asked to be a corporate sponsor for Ultimo, where he would meet Adrianna Katzapova, a former Miss Russia. The pair promptly married and his first son, Nicholas XXIV was born later that year.

Nicholas is staunchly Liberal and makes regular and sizable donations to many left wing political parties, including the US Democratic Party and the UK Labour Party. Nicholas regularly meets with Presidents and Prime Ministers from across the globe, who all consider him to be highly knowledgeable and a good source of advice about issues regarding the global economy.

The Klaus Corporation

The monetary resources at the disposal of the Klaus family are extensive. Nicholas Klaus I's successful shipping industry was followed by centuries of developing other successful business interests ranging from North Sea oil production and investment banking to pharmaceutical development and automotive design.

Klaus Corp. is the overarching business entity in which all subsidiaries are contained. Nicholas Klaus XXIII is the Chairman of the Board. The company was floated on the New York Stock Exchange in 1976 for $1.17 per share, netting the company over $100 billion overnight. Shares rose considerably during the dot com boom of the late 1990s and have been considered to be an extremely wise investment ever since. The recent global financial crisis has seen Klaus Corp. profits plateau, but nevertheless, in 2011, total revenue was estimated at $361.54 billion, making it the world's 2nd largest Corporation, above Exxon Mobil, and just behind Wal-Mart. In GDP terms, this makes Klaus Corp a more powerful economic entity than Thailand.

Much of the day to day running of Klaus Corp has been directed by an executive management team for many years, which has left Nicholas free to focus his attentions on the family’s most cherished business concern, Christmas Incorporated (Xmas Inc.).

Xmas Inc.

Xmas Inc. is a social enterprise with the primary goal of ensuring that every 'nice' child in the world receives a present at Christmas time. This is an ambition that has never been fully realised, as due to poor infrastructure in many developing nations, Xmas Inc. has only ever managed to hit a 43% distribution target worldwide. Nicholas Klaus has made it his personal quest to ensure that this figure is at 60% before he passes the reins on to his son, Nicholas XXIV.

The Xmas Inc. head office is situated in Lapland, Finland. Finnish tax laws relating to industries of a largely philanthropic nature coupled with a low rate of Corporate Tax make Lapland a financially viable location for the business to be based.

The Xmas Inc. main offices are staffed by a 5,000 person administrative workforce, whose duties relate generally to finance, human resources, communication, and logistical oversight. Xmas Inc. prides itself on having a very transparent system of equal rights employment, which for reasons unclear, has led to a large percentage of people with dwarfism working in the Lapland based offices.

Revenue Streams

As the nature of Xmas Inc. business is to distribute free Christmas presents on a global scale, their colossal expenditure needs to be balanced with sufficient revenue. Much of the funding for Xmas Inc. is generated from donations made by Klaus Corp. shareholders. These donations equate to a percentage of the annual dividend and are an accepted part of buying Klaus Corp stocks.

The other major source of revenue comes from advertising tie ins. Xmas Inc owns several copyrights, patents and image rights which are made available to other companies in return for annual royalties. In particular, Nicholas' own image is a highly profitable source of income, with many major companies choosing to use the image to market their own products.

John Bauble of the Chartered Institute of Taxation stated: "It is quite common for celebrities and other key public figures to put various capital items – such as image rights – into a company. That allows income to flow to the company and be taxed there at corporation tax rates".

To date, the Coca-Cola Company has been the biggest purchaser of Xmas Inc image rights and has paid several billion dollars annually for the privilege.

Despite being offered considerable sums, Xmas Inc. has refused to grant exclusivity of these rights to any individual business - stating that Father Christmas "should belong to the world".

Operations

Incoming Communications

Key to the successful operation of Xmas Inc. is their Incoming Communications department. Managed by Kevin Pinecone (4ft 4"), the department handles the large volume of 'Dear Santa' notifications sent directly to the Lapland Offices. The majority of these still come by post and are sorted in the mail room before being sent to a large data processing team to be entered into the company database. In recent times though, Kevin's department has been managing an increasingly large amount of e-mail, tweets and requests submitted to the Xmas Inc. Facebook page.

In a recent interview for Short People Magazine, Kevin stated that "The introduction of social media has really created a whole new industry at Xmas Inc. We have had to adapt to changes in technology very quickly, but we feel confident that our system for screening and processing 'Dear Santa' requests is as efficient and effective as it could possibly be.

NORN Enforcement Team

The 'Naughty or Nice' enforcement team are employed to ensure that only the good children are eligible to receive presents from Xmas Inc. In order to be able to accurately assess this, Xmas Inc has access to education reports and criminal records for many nations across the world. It has been able to do this thanks to a clause in the UN backed International Freedom of Information Act, section 7, subsection 2 - which states that 'Xmas Inc have legitimate authority to make a list, and check it twice, so they can find out who's naughty or nice'.

To ensure compliance with the Xmas Inc. 'nice' criteria - children worldwide are encouraged to:

  • Watch out
  • Not cry
  • Not pout
  • Be good for goodness sake

'Naughty or Nice' Enforcement Team Manager, Emma Tinsel (4ft 2"), said "despite the nature of our work, my team does not attempt to be punitive in regards to assessing key behavioural information - and we try to see the good in everyone. Unfortunately though, in recent times the naughty/nice ratio has been tipped heavily towards the naughty side, suggesting a temporary breakdown in the fabric of society".

Purchasing

Contrary to popular myth, Xmas Inc. does not produce the majority of the presents that it distributes, but instead employs the world's largest purchasing department which is responsible for placing large volume orders from major consumer brands on an annual basis. Xmas Inc buyers are notorious for their ruthlessly competitive approach when it comes to getting the best deals for the company.

Chief purchaser John Cranberry (4ft 1") said "I will literally prostitute myself to a sales team to ensure that I get maximum value for the company’s money. Literally".

Distribution

It is a quirky legend, somewhat encouraged by Xmas Inc, that Nicholas Klaus delivers all of the presents himself. In reality, this is obviously quite ludicrous, so instead, Xmas Inc. oversees the world's largest and most complex distribution network. One of Klaus Corps subsidiary companies, Reindeer Logistics is contracted to work solely for Xmas Inc during the Holiday season.

The process starts in a giant underground Goods-In warehouse located in Svalbard, Norway where several thousand people are employed to take receipt of incoming deliveries and sort them into their respective deployment blocks ready to be moved and loaded on to a designated aircraft.

Reindeer Logistics owns has a fleet of 702 cargo planes - making it the largest cargo airline in the world – both in terms of fleet and freight tons flown. Each plane is given one of eight deployment names which relate to their connection to specific parts the globe:

  • Donner/Asia
  • Blitzen /Australasia
  • Comet/Northern Europe
  • Cupid/Southern Europe
  • Prancer/North America
  • Dancer/South America
  • Vixen/North Africa & The Middle East
  • Dasher/Southern & Western Africa

All are emblazoned with the Reindeer Logistics logo and due to their colossal workloads, are a common sight in the skies above us during late November - December.

Upon delivery to their country of residence, all presents are transported via a fleet of Reindeer Logistic trucks to a designated Xmas Inc Warehouse. From here local couriers take them to their final holding destinations which will be located in the town or city that they have been labelled for.

This is where the Father Christmas Operatives (FCOs) take over. Wearing a replica of the famous Klaus family uniform, these employees of Xmas Inc, who number in the thousands, deliver presents within a specific area. Typically, there is one FCO in every town on the Xmas Inc deployment register. Large Cities are broken down into smaller suburbs, again with one FCO per designated area.

Take for instance Bob Bethlehem, of Lewiston, Idaho. Bob has been operating as the local Father Christmas for 25 years. He earns a good salary for his seasonal work and receives a sizable bonus for hitting a 100% delivery target.

Bob was recently nominated for the North American Outstanding FCO Award. Speaking to the Lewiston Herald in an interview following the nomination, Bob said; "Being a FCO for Xmas Inc is a privilege and an honour. It's given me an opportunity to give something back to the community and it also provides me with a competitive pension scheme".

If Bob wins, he will receive an all expenses paid family holiday to Lapland where he will meet up with the winners from other continents and will compete for the highly prestigious Xmas Inc. FCO of the Year Award. Should he make it to this finish line, he will have the unparalleled honour of being invited to dinner with his idol and hero, Nicholas Klaus XXIII. Asked about this, Bob said;

"To think that I could be sitting enjoying a fine meal with the great man himself is almost too much to take in. He means so much to so many...." Bob broke down at this moment and had to be helped to his feet.

Contrary to popular belief, FCOs operate during the entire of December rather than just on 24th-25th. This ensures that they have ample time in which to reach their 100% delivery target. FCOs are given legal precedent to enter a person's house without their consent, and a key skill of a good FCO is lock-picking.

Unfortunately for the reputation of Xmas Inc., several FCOs have been dismissed for violating the trust placed in them, and while in the process of delivering presents, have been known to steal other items from the owner's property. Most notorious was the case of FCO 513448, aka Christopher Cringle (aged 64) from Middlesboro, England.

In the act of delivering a 'my little pony' stable set to Stacey, aged 8, Mr Cringle stole two Television sets, a Anthony Worrall Thompson Blender and £400 pounds worth of gold jewellery. Cringle was arrested, sacked by Xmas Inc. and subsequently prosecuted by Middlesboro Crown Court for burglary. For Xmas Inc. though, the damage was already done and it was a PR catastrophe which took years to recover from.

Despite these occasional problems, most FCOs are honest, upstanding individuals who pride themselves on being a local Father Christmas. There are over 220'000 FCOs currently working world wide.

The Credit Crisis

The global financial crisis of 2008 hit Xmas Inc hard. Increasing energy costs and global inflation caused a sharp spike in ordering and distribution costs and the company was forced to make cuts in its workforce.

Once again though, Xmas Inc's parent corporation Klaus Corp was able to shield it from the worst effects, and shareholder donations and royalty payments on image rights have continued to be sufficient for Xmas Inc to maintain a 40% annual distribution target.

Thankful for this good fortune, Nicholas Klaus has vowed to do everything in his power to help bring an end to the world's financial woes. Despite being a staunch anti imperialist, he is now working closely with the IMF and the World Bank to try and help them to get the global economy moving again. He was recently quoted as saying:

"Despite the fact that some of these people wouldn't know the meaning of Christmas Spirit if it fell on them, as a humanitarian, I feel that it is my duty to use my 50 years of experience in world trade to try and help them to find a solution to our troubles"

This intervention has been heralded by commentators as the potential turning point in the economic crisis and rallies honouring Mr Klaus have been held worldwide.

So now do you believe?

Perhaps as you were reading this, you started to forget that it was just a tall story. Perhaps.

What is certainly true is that if I can create such an elaborate tale with little more than a keyboard, access to the internet and a working knowledge of Google, then what the hell else have we been made to believe?

Anyhow, I hope I've stirred up a bit of Christmas spirit in anyone reading this. In the words of the great Nicholas Klaus XXIII, "Merry Christmas, one and all".

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sequels & Remakes



One of the more common criticisms that has been levelled at Hollywood recently is the one about the creative minds being unable to think of anything new and interesting to write about, and as such, choosing to cash in on established movie franchises through the production of an endless stream of sequels and remakes.

Personally, I don't entirely agree with this criticism, as I believe that it is our love of famous stories and their respective characters that drives a need for such replications. Throughout history, this has been the case in many mediums. For instance, there have been so many versions of the Bible, written in so many different languages, that no one has ever been able precisely agree on which is the most authentic, but what they have in common is that all were written to satisfy demand.

So well loved and so ingrained in the fabric of popular literature are the works of Shakespeare and Dickens, that they have been remade, rebooted, chopped and changed more times than my old Nan's had meals on wheels.

Quite simply, in many cases, the failure to update popular works can result in them disappearing from the public consciousness altogether. In this regard, and given the apparent downturn of Christianity in the UK it may indeed be time for a 21st Century bible. I mean, let’s face it, who doesn't want to see J.Christ taking out the money lenders in the temple with an Uzi 9mm and a rocket launcher?



For me it is simply a matter of pandering to the preferences of an audience, and if that audience wants to see 'more of the same' then if anything, the creative minds are duty bound to continue to serve up tried and tested products.

Don't get me wrong though, whilst I have little issue with the concept of replicating successful formula, it is also quite obvious that in many cases, it is greed and laziness that becomes the prime motivating factor.

On that note, it is time to turn the focus back to Hollywood. It certainly does seem like there have been a raft of sequels and remakes in recent times, some of them brilliant and some of them awful. Let's take a closer look.....

Sequels


video

Put simply, a sequel is a movie that in terms of events, characters and other general happenings, follows on from its predecessor.

Sequels are the bread and butter of the Hollywood machine. They are also the films that are most readily identified as being guilty of the 'cashing in' concept that I mentioned. When a film does well at the box office, as well as lining the pockets of the executive producers, it is an iron-clad indication that there is demand for more of the same, and the proverbial green light is switched on for the production of further movies in the series.

The trouble is, that quite often, the film studios just don't know when enough is enough. They'll squeeze every last drop of cash out the franchise. Much like an obsessive-compulsive person will drain the dregs out of a HP sauce bottle, they just can't help themselves.



A perfect example in recent years have been the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The first of these was an instant classic, an honest to goodness family entertainment film which captivated the imagination of children and adults alike. It was a good old yarn about heroes, villains and buried treasure. But then came the sequels.....

In the case of Pirates, there have been three sequels so far and they've all been garbage. The third one was especially pants, with certain parts of the film being borderline unwatchable and incomprehensible in regards to the plot.


"At my wit's end more like"

Pirates supports a well held opinion that the good majority of sequels are much poorer in overall quality than their predecessors and that each additional follow-up film gets progressively more shite.

This phenomenon applies to any number of films, but for some reason seems most prevalent in the Horror genre. The life of a horror film franchise is generally as follows:

  • 1st Film - Imaginative, blood curling tale of terror
  • 1st Sequel/Prequel - Watchable - but seen it all before
  • 2nd Sequel/Prequel - Shite
  • 3rd Sequel/Prequel - Laughably shite
  • Further sequels - Straight to DVD. Uber-Shite

The general trait of sequels being worse than their predecessors does have some benefits though. You can generally assume with a near guaranteed certainty that if the original film was garbage, then the sequel will be spectacularly crap, thus saving yourself the ordeal of watching them. A good case in point is Big Momma's House 2 (2006) - the cinematic equivalent of Gonorrhoea.


"less appreciated than a Sexually Transmitted Disease"

On the flip-side though, if the original film was excellent there is a very good chance that despite not being quite as good, the immediate sequel at least, will still be brilliant too. The best example of this is probably Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991).



The first Terminator movie is one of my personal favourites and many would even argue that the sequel is slightly better. I would disagree - as whilst also brilliant, the film lacked something of the raw intensity of the original (as well as the cheap sounding but hugely effective techno soundtrack).

However, assuming that a sequel with a remarkably good predecessor is also guaranteed to be decent is a mistake too. One of the best examples of this is with the 'Jaws' films. You see, the first Jaws wasn't just good, it was exceptional. It set a standard for the summer blockbuster which has rarely been surpassed. Of course, the absence of the masterful Steven Spielberg at the directorial helm didn't help, but nevertheless, the sequels were dross - especially the one with Michael Caine.


"You were only supposed to bite my bloody legs off"

The real Holy Grails of sequels are the ones that are unquestionably better than their originals. These however, are a rare find indeed. Some people would quote Empire Strikes Back (1980) or the Godfather Part 2 (1974) at this point, and they would have a solid reason for doing so, but I would struggle to definitively argue the case for their superiority in either case.

Empire introduced a darker side (mind the pun) to the Star Wars story but the initial 'punch' that propelled Star Wars: A New Hope into the stratosphere was impossible to fully replicate. In the case of the Godfather Part 2 (1974), it was a rich, multi layered epic that spanned two generations of the Corleone family, but the absence of the stage stealing Marlon Brando was certainly felt - despite Robert De Niro putting in a fine shift as the young Vito Corleone.


"Are you talkin' to me?.....Hang on, wrong film"

Finally on the subject of sequels, sometimes they form part of a trilogy or a longer film collection and because of this, they can be more easily forgiven for existing. Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily they're always good.

Usually, the best trilogies/series are the ones that are pre-planned - as in that it was always intended that the whole plot would span the course of several films before it could properly conclude. This is often because the films in question are based on existing works of literature, but can also be the result of good direction and planning. A noteworthy point here is that trilogies and series tend to buck the trend of the increasingly shit sequels phenomenon, as while there may be a crap iteration along the way, the collection can only really be judged on an overall basis.

The Godfather trilogy helps to support this point as most people would agree that the third film was vastly inferior to the preceeding two, but that as a whole the trilogy is one of the best around.

To ensure the success of multi film series', the movie studios will go as far as to sign deals to ensure that the director and cast members will commit to the lot. The best example of this was probably the stupendously ambitious, but ultimately brilliant Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which the cast and crew were all present and accounted for from the first shot to the last. This consistency helped to ensure the success of this masterful trilogy.



The other kinds of trilogies/series are those which can simply occur because of the success of the original.

To start on a high note, Star Wars sort of falls into this category. The great bearded one, Mr George Lucas nearly bankrupted himself making the first film, and while he claims to have initially planned for a trilogy, there can be no doubt that if Star Wars: Episode 4 (1977) had been badly received, the others would have never seen the light of day. Of course it just happened to become one of the most successful and lucrative films of all time, so the remaining two films were given the go ahead and what resulted was one of the best loved trilogies in film history.



Unfortunately though, for every yin there is a yang, and in the world of unplanned trilogies, that yang is The Matrix (1999). The first Matrix came out of nowhere. Released in the same year as the highly anticipated Star Wars Episode 1 (1999), it was not thought that it would stand up against big George's latest installment of Intergalactic high jinx...but then people saw it.

The Matrix was a triumph in modern cinematic science fiction. While Star Wars eventually proved to be the biggest disappointment since England got knocked out of Euro 96, the Matrix was lauded as being one of the best films of the decade. Its brilliantly original and highly philosophical storyline coupled with its high octane, mind blowing action sequences made for a near perfect popcorn flick. But once again, then came the sequels......



It seemed as if the masterminds behind the Matrix, the Wachowski Brothers, became so drunk on their own success that they had decided that any old guff would be welcomed with open arms. It wasn't. The rest of the trilogy was naff. The sequels were so vastly inferior to the original that at times, despite having the same cast and characters, they barely seemed to have anything in common with the original at all.

Remakes



Remakes are completely unlike sequels. They are, as you would rightly guess, an attempt to recreate a film that is already in existence, using the same characters and a very similar story line.

They reinforce my early point that sometimes a particular story is so well loved, that people clamor to see new and different interpretations of it - and for this reason the existence of many remakes is totally justified.

In recent times, technological advancements have led to the emergence of a great number of remakes, as modern special effects and cinematography has allowed certain films to be re imagined in a style that is more fitting for the subject and could not have been previously achieved. Once again though, this hasn't always been a good thing.

A prime target for criticism is War of the Worlds (2005). The original film was a remake of kinds in itself, following the wildly successful and controversial radio broadcast of the same name. The original movie of War of the Worlds (1953) was a sci fi classic and regardless of its dated effects still held up as a damn good film in its own right. The 2005 remake was not entirely crap and the special effects were certainly impressive, but somewhere along the line it lost its soul to the Hollywood machine and was left looking a bit flat in comparison.

Occupying a significantly higher place in the all time worst remakes ever list , was the 2001 rehash of one of the most cherished sci fi classics of all time, Planet of the Apes (1968). This was a shining example of when something should just be left alone. The reinvention reins were handed over to the legendary director, Tim Burton, who rather uncharacteristically, proceeded to butcher it. For starters, the casting was appalling, with Marky-Mark Wahlberg stepping into the shoes of the great Charlton Heston - and then dragging said shoes through a great big pile of Gorilla shit. The script was brutalised and seemed to completely lose any resemblance to the original the longer it went on. The ending, which I reluctantly won't 'spoil' was outright guff, and pissed on the memory of the best closing twists in modern film.



The 'best left alone' tag applies to a vast swathe of remakes. In some instances it beggars belief that anyone would try to reinvent something that was almost perfect. For although, it is often audience demand that drives the studios to re-imagine existing films, there are also cases where there can be no added benefit from new technology and where the collective audience would just prefer the tinkering fools to let things be. Chief among the examples of these was the 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).

video

I'm pretty sure that the grand master of the suspense drama would be rolling in his grave if he knew that Anthony Perkins' chilling rendition of Norman Bates would be reinvented using an actor (Vince Vaughn) best known for his energetic comedy turns.



At present, there are two particular remakes in the pipeline that also fit this bill; Robocop and The Thing. I can stone-wall guarantee that at least one, if not both of these will be hugely disappointing.

Robocop (1987), with its memorable lead character, ultra-violence and sardonically dystopian view of a Corporate led future world, really stood out as a 80s classic. Arguably, it could benefit from some of the recent advancements in Special Effects technology, but then again, can any amount of computer based wizardry really top the moment in the original when a toxic waste drenched henchmen explodes into messy goop after being run down by a high speed vehicle?



The Thing (1982) was a remake itself, but one that really did benefit from an update. It was a genuinely terrifying film that relied as much on atmosphere at it did on grotesque make up effects. Personally, I can't imagine that new tech is going to improve on the previous version in any discernable way. In any case, it was primarily the masterful direction of horror maestro John Carpenter that made the 1982 film a classic.



Fortunately, there are some fantastic examples out there too. In 2010, the remake of the John Wayne western classic True Grit (1969) was released. For many western fans, this was tantamount to sacrilege - but they shouldn't have been concerned. True Grit was a real testament to the original. The script was re-enacted nearly word for word and the plot was identical - which while earmarking it for criticism, proved to be a good call. The remake paid its dues to the original, while simultaneously reinvigorating it thanks to some outstanding performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hayley Steinfeld and of course from top class direction courtesy of the legendary Coen Brothers.



Another kind of remake is the cross cultural reinvention. This is when foreign films are reimagined for a more 'western' audience. This can prove to be very successful as it can bring a whole new set of viewers to a story that would otherwise pass them by. Perhaps the best example of this is the Magnificent Seven (1960), which was a cross cultural remake of the Seven Samurai; a tale of legendary heroes riding across the land to save innocent villagers from villainous bandits. In the case of the Magnificent Seven, just substitute Feudal Japan with the Old West and you've got an excellent new take on a classic story of good and evil.




Sadly, cross cultural remakes are mainly garbage when compared to their originals. Some of the things that make the originals good seem to get lost in translation. Take the Japanese cult classic, Battle Royale (2000) - a story about malevolent school children who are sent to a remote island to fight to the death.



The concept itself could only have been borne in Japanese culture, so naturally when Hollywood adopted it, they pandered to what they understood to be western sensibilities and turned it into a 'gung-ho' action flick starring Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones. Needless to say, it was terrible!


"Otherwise known as 90 minutes of running about and grunting"

The last kind of remake is known as 'the reboot'. Reboots mainly apply to film franchises and series' rather than specific films. Unlike normal remakes, the period of time that elapses between the original and the reboot doesn't have to be too long. A reboot also allows a complete change in cast, direction, style and story (although key plot-lines and characters must remain) - so it is a perfect way to reinvigorate a dying franchise - and of course, to make more $$$.



A good example of a reboot in the making is the upcoming Amazing Spiderman (2012). It's only been just under ten years since the first Spiderman film was released - which itself was a welcome reboot of the Marvel franchise and followed the awfully camp series of films that screened in the 1970s-80s. Columbia Pictures produced three of these films, of which the first and second were decent, while in typical sequel style, the third was garbage.

The relative failure of Spiderman 3 (2007) helped the studio to reach the conclusion that rather than continue to produce further sequels, the would opt for a reboot. There will now be a brand new cast, a new interpretation of the comic book story and of course they'll be hoping that with this comes a bumper payday.

video
"Ooh it's gone all dark and brooding. I wonder where in Gotham City they got THAT idea from?"

Comic book films such as Spiderman are ripe for the occasional reboot, as they are highly lucrative franchises and can generate all sorts of lovely new revenue streams (Anyone for a Burger King?). But to reiterate the main point of this piece, we shouldn't knock them for it, because these are the stories that most of us want to hear retold in new and different ways - and yes, we'll pay for the privilege. Also, they sometimes manage to bag a winner.

Take for instance the story of Batman. From the campy Adam West Batman TV series of the 1960s, to the horrendously bad Batman and Robin (1997), there have been many attempts at rebooting the franchise. However the most recent reimagining of this classic comic book tale absolutely wipes the floor with all of its predecessors. Helped once again by a brilliantly assembled cast and directed by one of the best film makers of this century, Christopher Nolan, it has helped to make the entire genre more respected in the film world.



Like with everything else though, not all reboots are successful or necessary. One of the prime targets for criticism was the A-Team. The casting was terrible (Liam Neeson replacing George Peppard, seriously?) and it just couldn't seem to decide whether it wanted to parody the original series or be a more serious take on the concept. At any rate, the moment they chose to turn BA Baracus into a pacifist was the moment I had to ring my insurance company to claim accidental damage to my flat screen TV. What were they thinking?



Thus concludes my guide to sequels and remakes. Sorry if it's felt a bit of a long one, but this is a subject that I truly love and even at this length I still feel I've skipped a lot of important details. Anyhow, if you managed to stick with it, I hope you enjoyed the read!

Here are my lists of the best and worst of the sequel and remake types that I've talked about, in no particular order. These are my choices, so you may not agree, but please do use the comments box to share your views on the matter.

5 Great Sequels

1. Empire Strikes Back (1980)
2. The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
3. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
4. Aliens (1986)
5. Back to the Future Pt 3 (1990) - I love westerns and sci fi, what can I say!

5 terrible sequels of good films

1. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (2007)
2. Jaws: the Revenge (1987)
3. Robocop 3 (1993)
4. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
5. The Matrix Reloaded (2003) /Revolutions (2003)- can't decide which one was the worst

5 most needless sequels (given that the originals were shite)

1. Big Momma's House 2 (2006)
2. Beethoven's 2nd (1993)
3. Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005)
4. Into the Blue 2: The Reef (2009) - straight to video I might add
5. Scary Movie 2,3,4,5.........

5 Great Trilogies/series

1. Star Wars Trilogy
2. The Godfather Trilogy
3. The Bourne Trilogy
4. The Rocky Collection
5. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

5 excellent remakes

1. True Grit (2010)
2. The Fly (1986)
3. The Thing (1982)
4. Scarface (1983)
5. Cape Fear (1991)

5 piss poor remakes

1. Planet of the Apes (2001)
2. Psycho (1998)
3. Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
4. The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
5. The Pink Panther (2006)- Shameful, shameful, shameful!

5 bad examples of cross cultural remakes

1. Battle Royale (Jpn)- The Condemned (USA)
2. The Ring (Jpn) - The Ring (USA)
3. Get Carter (UK) - Get Carter (USA)
4. The Italian Job (UK) - The Italian Job (USA)
5. Taxi (France) - Taxi (USA)

5 noteworthy reboots

1. Batman Begins (2005)
2. Superman (1978)
3. Spiderman (2002)
4. Starsky and Hutch (2004)
5. Casino Royale (2006)