Wednesday, January 14, 2009

L.A.M.Blog-a-thon: Chapter 3 REMAKES

This post is part of the L.A.M.Blog-thon Chapter 3 regarding remakes.

There are lots of movies that have sequels that are really remakes (Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008)) and movies that are updated versions of previous movies (The Women (1939) and The Women (2008)). And successful or not (The Women 2008), sometimes stories do benefit from updating, and others are just such good stories that everyone should have a chance to see the actors from their generation recreate the vision. However, that requires holding up all the standards that the original used to make its mark. The version that bothers me most and actually prevents me watching the remake more than 3-4 minutes at a time is Pride and Prejudice. The BBC mini-series version is the gold standard for all costume dramas. Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy have chemistry, charisma and created a believable tension that was actually resolved before they fall in love. The sets and costumes are impeccable, the characters traveling around England that looks like they're in Jane Austen's time. The pace of the film mirrors the writing and the details are perfect, with Mr. Collins moving from the pages into the slimy, sycophantic character we all know him to be. However, in remaking this into a feature film with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen in the lead roles. They're fine, though Macfadyen is so good at being the brooding Mr. Darcy that you never find a reason Elizabeth falls in love with him. The dialogue is trimmed from the original Austen texted, and occasionally diverging from her words to create new ones (less good ones!). But what bothers me are the details, the costumes are inconsistent, inappropriate and Keira Knightly always appears windblown and frumpy when all women of the period did was make sure they looked good. The movie exaggerates all the character traits - Elizabeth doesn't care about what people think of her, Mr. Darcy is super pompous, and Mrs. Bennett perfectly shrill. However, the people of Austen's time were more about understatement than exaggeration. It just doesn't represent the original work well, nor does it represent a good remake of the BBC version.

Here's a link to the best scene in the BBC version. They have it on YouTube, but won't let you embed it. And below is a scene from the Keira Knightly version. Just look at how different the costumes are put together.


Anonymous said...

The 2005 version is not a remake at all.
Do you think the 1995 version is a remake of the 1980 one? Or the old film from the 40s?

No. They're all different adaptations of the same novel.

Anonymous said...

Also, you cannot possibly mean that the Mrs. Bennet in the 2005 is more shrill than the Monty Python like caricature from the 1995 mini series. Seriously!

Jess said...

Anon - please at least give a name, so I can respond in kind. Since they're all based on single source of material (Jane Austen's novel), I think it's fair to say they're remaking the novel in many different ways. I haven't seen the 1940s version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, but now I will definitely try. IMDB also lists 6 other TV series/movies that have been remade with the same title.

I do think the producers each thought they could remake the written story into a better or different film, and I think the 2005 version was much less successful than the 1995 miniseries. Obviously there are differences in what can be accomplished between a 2 hour film and a 6+ hour miniseries in terms of being true to the book and including everything, but yes, I believe the 1995 version is far superior to the recent film.

Rachel said...

OMG, Jess! I agree with you 100%. I was beginning to wonder if anyone else had their wits about them, treasuring the BBC version and scoffing at the '05 blunder. I've only seen it once, but that was enough for me. I found myself quite bored with a love story that I've come to adore through the novel and BBC miniseries. And the filmmakers seem to have forgotten that Lizzy was still a lady and not the mud-slopping tomboy Ms. Knightley depicted her as.

Wendymoon said...

While I would call the 2005 version of P&P another adaptation (instead of a remake) I do agree that the 1995 version is way better.

The first time I saw the newer movie I thought it was not bad for being so condensed. But the more I see of it, the less I like it, and I think Keira Knightly is a big part of the problem.

She just seems far too modern in the role. Maybe they were trying to make things more accessible for a younger audience, but it seems that at any moment she will roll her eyes and say "whatever!" to someone. I much prefer Jennifer Ehle's more subtle take on Lizzy.

Jess said...

Rachel, you put it perfectly, she's a lady not a tomboy! EVER, yes, she walks through the woods and forests, but always with her hat, gloves and hair properly done.

Anonymous said...

I have the exact opposite opinion of you on the 2005 version. I adore it! Although, the BBC series with Firth is great too. Even though I disagree with you on the latest version, I really like the way you have described what you find are its shortcomings. It's interesting, even though you represent an opposing view. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog.

Thomas Pluck said...

I stayed awake through 95% of the 1995 version (girlfriend made me; she still needs to watch 2 Godfather movies to make it even). It's quite good, and I see why it has such a following (other than the obvious Colin Firth fangirl club). It also had the benefit of not having to be trimmed to a theatrical length.