Movies that Should be Remade [Think Tank]

Movies that Should be Remade [Think Tank]

Because it didn’t quite make the cut the first time around.

Lee, The Birth of a Nation

A remake should probably have a slightly different poster.

A remake should probably have a slightly different poster.

I know what you’re thinking. “Not cool, Lee, not cool. Not even as a joke.”

Well, first, this isn’t a joke. (My monster ballad Think Tank entry from a while back was at least partly in jest, but this is not.) I do actually think The Birth of a Nation should be remade, not as a joke, but as a straight-up retelling of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, or fell asleep during an American History college class screening, the plot centers around two families, one Northern, one Southern, and their relationships before and after the Civil War. Long story short, the Northerners become carpetbaggers, and the Southerners rise up in the form of the KKK to defend their land against Republicans and former slaves. The Klan lynches a black man for preying on a white woman, disperses a riot of “crazed negroes,” dispatches federal troops, and all is right with the world.

So how would a remake possibly stay close to these story elements without, you know, glorifying the Klan and racism? It’s not that much of a leap, actually. The movie gets a lot of mileage out of its portrayal of former slaves as evil womanizing barbarians. That’s basically how most white Southerners saw African American males well into the 20th century, and since we now know that wasn’t exactly accurate, a remake would simply show these former slaves as they actually were: mostly innocent victims of racist vigilante justice.

That’s not what would make the remake interesting, though. When it comes to the Klansmen, and more generally, Southerners, a remake should resist the easy route of demonizing them as bloodthirsty evil rednecks. Doing so would only repeat the mistakes of the original movie: using cheap stereotypes of a particular group to rally an audience against that group. Instead, there’s a far more interesting story to be told, that of the seemingly decent, ordinary family men who turn to extraordinary acts of depravity.

I’d imagine this would be a tough movie to sell and get people to watch. But what better time than now to tell this story? We all saw the latent racism of America come out during Obama’s presidential campaign. America can’t get through this by pretending like movies like Birth of a Nation were never made and aren’t part of our past. Bring it back out, I say, and keep the title: a nation was truly born after the Civil War, and though it’s on its last legs after a long life, it’s still not dead.

9 Comments on “Movies that Should be Remade [Think Tank]”

  1. Sean from Aus #

    Dr. Zhivago had a really good remake in 2002. It’s definitely worth a look.

    My vote is with Dave. However, given the three options:
    1. A real farce would be “Harold and Kumar take over the White House”
    2. Making it more fish out of water-ier would make it too reminiscent of King Ralph
    3. Making it a real satire would work. However, rather than basing it in 2001, base it in 1997 and make it so that Bill “did not have sex with that woman” – Dave did.


  2. UK_Wanderer #

    I love the quote from Dave whilst he’s messing with the Robot Arms…..

    “once I caught a fish………..this big”

    Some films it would be impossible to remake. Certain classics like “the searchers” without John Wayne would just not work.


  3. Saint #

    Desperately Seeking Susan should be remade.

    As awesome as it is to watch Madonna wander around pre-Giuliani Greenwich Village in what is probably the only part she was ever qualified to play, she was never charismatic enough to justify the premise. Rosanna Arquette was cooler as a Jersey housewife than Madonna as a proto-club kid.

    Jackie Stacey’s essay “Desperately Seeking Difference” outlines a feminist psychoanalytic interpretation of Arquette’s homoerotic female spectatorship that turns the film into a lesbian version of The Talented Mr. Ripley.

    On that note, Single White Female should be remade, too, but with two good actresses instead of a good actress and Bridget Fonda.


  4. Mark #

    I wonder if there’s a measurable spike in bittorrent downloads of old, relatively-obscure movies you mention when you post one of these.


  5. Jonathan #

    On Dave’s darker remake premise:

    Why do 2001 when it can be 2009? Same things apply right? Charisma over expertise?


  6. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Jonathan: To be fair (and depressing), you could probably set Dave any time in the past 50 years and get across the same theme.


  7. Equinspire #

    I voted Starfighter. Partly because it would be awesome, and partly because I’ve been wondering what that movie was called for aaages! I’ve only ever seen the start of it because the videotape died back in the day…

    Speaking of remakes, I’m still astonished that the ad I saw for Pink Panther 2 on the side of a bus wasn’t an April Fools’ Day prank!


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