BreakPoint: Beauty and the Beast and Our Obsession with Remakes

Tale as Old as Time

“Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.” And we just keep retelling and re-singing it. I’m talking about the year’s biggest movie.

In a segment on NPR last Wednesday, Bob Mondello documented the bizarre entertainment phenomenon known as “movie twins.” Hollywood has long puzzled the public by releasing films with nearly identical premises and plots within months or even weeks of one another. “Mission to Mars” and “Red Planet,” “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact,” “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life,” and “Happy Feet” and “Surf’s Up” are just a few of the uncannily similar flicks to hit theaters at or around the same time.

“Hollywood is a small town,” says Mondello, and directors, producers, and screen-writers often swap ideas. But the trend has recently intensified and commingled with a growing preference for remakes. “Interstellar” and “Arrival” tell strikingly similar stories, as do “Life,” and “Alien: Covenant,” both slated for release this spring.

Spiderman has starred in no less than half a dozen movies in the last fifteen years, as have Batman and Superman. And next year Warner Brothers’ take on “The Jungle Book” will follow last year’s live-action remake from Disney, and “not two, but seven Robin Hood movies are currently in development,” because, as Mondello quips, “the over 100 previous ones listed in IMDB just weren’t enough.”

As I said last year on BreakPoint, the new “Star Wars” sequels also retread familiar ground, with what some called a “beat-by-beat” recycling of George Lucas’ original.

Trailers and posters for a “Power Rangers” movie will greet theatergoers this month, as will previews for the um-teenth installment of “Transformers,” a series that’s gone on so long, most of the original cast has quit.

Of course, Disney just achieved its biggest opening ever with a “re-skin” of its award-winning 1991 “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s the latest in a series of live-action remakes of classics from the Disney vault, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. And Allison Wilmore at Buzzfeed wasn’t wrong when she described it as “the mouse-house’s strange, sad ode to itself.”

Fans of the original and deservedly beloved “Beauty and the Beast” will likely enjoy this new version because, other than the live actors, a longer run time, and some not-so-subtle politicking, it’s the same movie! As my BreakPoint colleague, Shane Morris, put it, “this was a special edition of the original with eight times the budget.”

But if the quarter-century-old cartoon was so perfect, why did we need a scene-by-scene remake? Putting aside the obvious answer, which is money, the observation I made last year about “Star Wars” still rings true. Hollywood has run out of ideas.

And even movies that shine—and make no mistake, this new and high-budget “Beauty and the Beast” shines—are borrowing their glory from decades past. If asked to name recent films with truly original plots and characters other than dusted off, fifty-year-old comic book heroes, many of us would have a tough time. And that’s not cool!

By the way, the much-ballyhooed “exclusively gay moment” which “Beauty and the Beast” director Bill Condon referred to turned out to be two or three suggestive moments, plus an “in-your-face” transgender moment involving a man dressed in drag and loving it. As a Christian dad, that bugged me. But as a fan of good stories, I found it far sadder that LGBT propaganda was the most original thing about the new “Beauty and the Beast.”

Folks, we need fresh stories! And judging by the recent fare from Disney, Mickey Mouse is fresh out. The familiar can feel good—especially with so much uncertainty when we turn on the news. But it doesn’t uplift us, challenge us, or inspire anew as truly original work can. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I think Christians are the ones to write, produce, and direct these exciting, new stories and break the spell of non-stop nostalgia.

(Photo credit: Disney)

 

Further Reading and Information

Beauty and the Beast and Our Obsession with Remakes: Tale as Old as Time

Take the opportunity to encourage Christians you know who are interested in the arts. As Eric says, efforts to provide original material that tells great stories need to be encouraged and promoted. After all, creativity is a gift from God.

 

Find a BreakPoint radio station in your area–Click here.

Resources

The Trouble With Disney’s Remake Machine
  • Alison Willmore | BuzzFeed News | March 10, 2017
Death Stars and Déjà vu: Hollywood Is Out of Ideas
  • Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint.org | January 14, 2016
Tolkien, Eliot, and the Power of Story: Don’t Lecture, Inspire
  • John Stonestreet | BreakPoint.org | January 3, 2017
Many Beautiful Things: The Gift of Sight
  • Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint.org | March 9, 2016

  • Zarm

    Please, don’t hold back- tell us how you really feel. 🙂

    I can’t disagree, though. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and reading through the old 90s EU (to reevaluate the books I grew up with from adult eyes) while trying a few of the new novels, the new films, and the Rebels series (and I do certainly enjoy the latter), it’s striking how expansive and world-building and unique the older works feel… and how generic and predictable and stale the newer fare is.

    Every movie for the last 5 years seems to be using the exact same trailer beats, and the last movie that I can remember that did something surprising (well, Star Trek Beyond actually pleasantly surprised me by choosing to be an ensemble piece about character development, after the last two installments, but the last time that a PLOT surprised me or felt original) was probably 2014.

    We live in a visually sumptuous era that seems to be forgetting that there need to be more than visuals to carry a movie.

  • Wendy

    I want to know why so many remakes and whyvthey are in theaters so long but there are some good movies out there that are only shown “one day only” like the movie Facing the Darkness. I think there are some great movies out there that are just over looked and not shown long enough in theaters! How do we get that to change?

  • MM

    Though-provoking read. Thank you. As someone who works in the industry, however, I think a bigger part of the problem than running out of good ideas is that Hollywood has no appetite for financial risk. When it costs so much money to make and market a movie these days, they have no interest in taking a risk on original material. They know they can remake Beauty and the Beast, for example, and make lots of money off it. So why not? There are actually lots of highly original scripts out there these days, but few studios are willing to take a risk on new material sadly. This risk is compounded by the fact that consumer spend on theater tickets tends to now be very “top heavy,” with most ticket sales going to the big budget blockbusters and fewer people buying tickets to the small or indie movies unless they’re a breakout success. The good news is that there are more platforms than ever for non-traditional routes to release (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, even YouTube etc), which are creating a new economy for affordably-produced low-budget films that reach smaller audiences but do so profitably.

  • Ron Mattson

    I, for one, am not surprised that Hollywood is running out of ideas. And I don’t neccessarily think that is a bad thing. It seems to me that there really are only a handful of stories that *can* be told, and that any story anybody tells is a remake of one sort or another. Good person vs bad person, separation and reconciliation, the weak vs the strong, or some combination of the three.

    As has been noted by Breakpoint hosts in the past, all good stories include some element of redemption. My fellow Christians seem to be focused almost exclusively on redemption of character when assessing movies. And that is very important. But all redemption is wonderful and beautiful. Redemption is a God-created idea. And for me, any story of redemption has the power to move me to empathize with the redeemed character. That’s called connection (i.e., relationship), and that, too, is a creation of God.

    I would like to point to some of the eternal truths demonstrated in Beauty and the Beast. Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, all evident in the Handsome Young Prince prior to his being accursed, turned him first into a caricature of a real person, then into a beast. That is exactly the condition of unredeemed man. And it required a longing within, an outside motivator, and a supernatural savior to restore the Beast to a beautiful state. Again, the story of our redemption from sin and death. I love stories that metaphorically demonstrate the truths of the Bible. It is up to us as Christians to point out that metaphor to our unbelieving friends, and to help them see just what part of the human heart they come from.

  • Steve Kirkeby

    So the question that is rolling around in my head is. Is the church guilty of the same thing? Are we out of fresh ideas that tell the gospel message? I look at the abundance of “Christian” movies that have come out in the last few years and am either appalled or bored to death. What can we be doing to present the greatest story of all time in a way that will capture people’s hearts and mind and draw them to Christ.

  • Rob Newton

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A 3 part film on King David’s life done Lord of the Rings style would be epic in the box office. Come on, who would disagree?

  • “I think Christians are the ones to write, produce…”. Yes, but PLEASE make sure they are real writers. If Christian film producers would be willing to hire true artists–writers who are Christians rather than Christians who write–we’d finally eliminate the CHEESE and have something in theaters to be proud of.

    • Joel Stucki

      Thank you. A lot of the trouble with Church music stems from this. The Church seems to only value art if it’s created by a Christian, isn’t too original, and doesn’t make them uncomfortable. So they end up with bad art most of the time.

  • Brenda Beigle

    If they want a great book to make a movie out of, The Devil in Pew Number Seven, by Becky Alonzo is it–mystery, action, suspense, murder, and surprise ending. It is the best Christian novel based on true events that I have ever read!