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80s film remakes entertain but serve no purpose in furthering creativity

It’s hardly a well-kept secret that Hollywood relies on recycling old ideas. Remakes and sequels abound while genuinely original ideas are pushed into the art house or tossed out completely. In 2011, this is as true as ever. By the end of the year, 27 sequels will have been released into theaters, which is the most in cinematic history.

This year has also seen more remakes than usual, and it’s interesting that Hollywood has chosen a specific era to revisit time and again when it comes to the stealing of material: the ’80s. Just last week, not one but two remakes of ’80s films (“The Thing” and “Footloose”) got their release. In August, a remake of “Fright Night” was released along with a reboot of “Conan the Barbarian.” One of the most universally hated came back in April with the remake of “Arthur.”

Why are all these old (but not that old) properties getting the quick re-do by modern studios? It’s all about the audiences that movies intend to target.

For the most part, new movies are attended by young people on the weekends. Hollywood’s definition of “young people” includes customers that were born in the late ’80s and early ’90s. That means they either weren’t alive or were too young to experience a film like “Footloose” or “Fright Night” the first time around.

Therefore, this material is seen as fair game. Hollywood doesn’t care about ruining the memories of older moviegoers. Those are the people who are waiting for the movie to show up on Netflix. By and large, the kids are the ones paying for the tickets. The original ’80s movies don’t mean anything to the modern kids, so why not repackage it in a shiny, modern new box?

The studios aren’t entirely misguided. To a child of the ’90s, the original “Footloose” seems incredibly dated. The combination of Kenny Loggins music and over-the-top ’80s attire isn’t the most attractive way to spend your time. Yet as stupid as the film’s story is (a small town bans underage dancing?), there is a lot of fun to be had if the material is done well. The new “Footloose” accomplishes just that, and thus it works for modern youngsters more than the original Kevin Bacon vehicle ever could.

As business, going back to the ’80s is a pretty smart strategy. Creatively, it’s incredibly irritating. Students of film are always looking for movies that present new stories and ideas that haven’t been seen before, so when they see a needless remake of a 30-year-old “classic,” it’s often disheartening. It’s not that these remakes are all bad; it’s just that they aren’t truly contributing much in the way of creativity. Do we want our era to be remembered as one when the boundaries of the medium were pushed, or shall we just be known as the ’80s thieves? These films may be rather entertaining, but they still have no reason to exist.

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