Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Remake, Remodel

Over the weekend (whatever happened to my regular 'Weekend Views' slots? Answer: I got a life), I saw Casino Royale - Daniel Craig's first foray as our favourite vodka martini drinker - for the very first time. Only three years too late, I know. But it set the grey cells a-whirling on the subject of meta-movies. I'd be interested to know if many others have posted on this. But essentially what we're talking about is a film belonging to a long-established franchise that assumes such a level of knowledge from the audience that they can effectively 're-invent' the whole series and start again for a new market.
Casino Royale may not have been the first movie to do this but it certainly was the most notable (and I'm not counting the Star Wars franchise here, as Lucas just went back and filled in details rather than re-starting the whole thing). Here we're quickly introduced to a black and white Bond and his first two pre-'00 status' kills (the requisite number to complete before you become designated as such). From this point the directors can play fast and loose. There's M (Dame Judy) as always, but as we progress through the (frankly quite believable compared to other Bond movies) plot we discern a darker edge. The hero is borderline psychotic. He's vulnerable. He doesn't crack wise at every opportunity, making it twice as incongruous when he does ('That last hand nearly killed me'). He passes on the easy shag for WORK (following a terrorist to Miami) and he doesn't CARE if his martini's shaken or stirred. It thrills because it flouts convention for those millions who think they know what to expect from the film while still making reference to what's missing. And thankfully they've removed the first quarter irritation of Q and his gadgets. We see them when they're being USED only.
But on another level it's a fantastically visceral action movie that stands on its own for anyone either born on another planet or two young to remember what a Bond movie is 'supposed' to do. Voila: meta movie. So post modern that it spits at its own conventions while pumping new life into something that was existing by rote.
JJ Abrams, of course, also did this in 2009 with Star Trek. Using some dodgy time travel guff and a cast that were all excellent impersonators of the originals, Abrams reset the clock at zero and reinvented the franchise for the new millenium.
Any more examples out there?

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