Two films opened this weekend that were based on '80s movies -- "Footloose" (a remake) and "The Thing" (a prequel) -- and because neither of them did as well as was expected there's a tendency to wonder if this "means" anything. Steven Zeitchik over at 24 Frames thinks it might suggest that '80s remakes just aren't that exciting to audiences anymore. If that's true, then Hollywood is in a ton of trouble.
Zeitchik's column argues that it's not just the so-so returns for "The Thing" and "Footloose" that back up his argument: "Arthur," "Fright Night," "Conan" and "The A-Team" were all commercial disappointments as well. But Zeitchik doesn't believe that means that moviegoers aren't interested in the decade that brought us the Walkman and Max Headroom. Instead, he believes, we want entertainment that references the '80s without necessarily being straight-up remakes from that era:
In "Drive," the well-reviewed art-house piece that has established a loyal fan base, Nicolas Winding Refn channels the spirit of "Miami Vice" and other pastel-colored entertainment. Throwback action movies such as "The Expendables' and "Fast Five," meanwhile, have turned into the biggest hits of the last couple of years. "Footloose" may have struggled, but its spiritual descendants, the "Step Up" films, has blossomed into one of the hottest teen franchises of the last few years.
And this summer J.J Abrams looked to the movies of the 1980s, like "Stand by Me" and "The Goonies," in creating his coming-of-age adventure "Super 8." The film went on to become a huge global hit.
It's an interesting point, but it's worth mentioning that there are still '80s relics that are being turned into hit movies; they just didn't start out as movies. "The Smurfs," "G.I. Joe," "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Transformers" were all inspired by '80s cartoons and toys. And while "The A-Team" wasn't the blockbuster people were perhaps expecting, it has done better than any of the other movies on Zeitchik's list -- maybe because it was based on a TV show rather than a film?
Plus, this is only a relatively recent trend. Last year, "Tron Legacy," "Clash of the Titans" and "The Karate Kid" were all very successful rethinks of '80s films that yielded smash remakes/sequels. So maybe studio executives shouldn't start hyperventilating just yet, especially since they've got new versions of "Robocop," "Lethal Weapon," "Red Dawn," "Pet Sematary," "Fletch," "Top Gun," "Caddyshack," and "Ghostbusters" in different stages of development. A few commercial misfires won't stop that train when Hollywood in general is hellbent on bringing back (either through a 3D re-release or a remake) most everything you've seen before. But take heart, America: Not everything from the '80s is coming back.