Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Western Remake

The Western Remake

In a world where the Hollywood execs have very little imagination and very big thirst for money is common to get remakes often, and almost all of the time the remakes are much worse than the original and generally don't work by themselves. Yesterday I watched the original True Grit for the first time, and, oddly, I thought the remake was better. But this is not the same time I think a new version is better than the original, as a couple of months ag I saw the original 3:10 to Yuma back to back with the 2007 version and I liked once again the remake. What got me thinking, how is it that most of the time the remakes suck but with Westerns they seem to work better than your common remake, many times even better than the original. I don't know, maybe it is a coincidence, but I think this have been the only two remakes which I have enjoyed better than the original film.

I'll offer short reviews for this four films, some facts I have found on the internet and then I'll draw my own conclusions:

True Grit (1969/2010)

The original True Grit was released in 1969 and starred John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, Kim Darby as Mattie Ross and Glen Campbell as LaBoeuf. The 2010 version was directed by the Coen Brothers and starred Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross and Matt Damon as LaBoeuf. And while the first one was quite good and entertaining, I think, and I know I'm probably risking my neck here, that the remake was better. John Wayne is one of my favorite actors and True Grit gave him his only Academy Award, but I think Jeff Bridges was better as U.S Marshall Rooster Cogburn. Wayne's performance was more likeable and less rude, but that isn't how Marshall Cogburn is supposed to be. He's supposed to be loud, rough and probably detestable. Also, I prefer Mattie Ross than Kim Darby. Kim Darby's performance I found rather poor, while she doesn't fit to play the strong and brave Mattie Ross, not to mention that she was 22 while playing a 14 year old. Aside of that, the original cast was as good or better than the remake. I prefer Robert Duvall than Barry Pepper, but I prefer Josh Brolin over Jeff Cohey, while Matt Damon and Glen Campbell might be tied in my book.
I've heard people call the remake an exact copy of the original. While not entirely truth, I think that the remake followed the original way to closely. It follows the same structure, almost all the same dialogue, only a few events were changed but nothing really big. However, with many of the events depicted in both films some were better shot in the remake than the original.
The music and cinematogaphy of the remake were superior to the original, but the original still has many dialogues better than the remake. ('Quincey: His lower lip? What were you aiming at?; Cogburn: His upper lip', one of my favorite lines in the movie).

3:10 to Yuma (1957/2007)

Unlike True Grit, here which film is superior is pretty clear: the 2007 remake. The original had decent performances but nothing memorable, while the remake the performances were outstanding all around, especially fom both leads Christian Bale and Russel Crowe. The characters in the remake have more depth and development, and many situations that happen in the remake are much more exciting and interesting than the original.
The original was good, only the remake was better.

Other Remakes

I have been investigating a little about this, and as it turns out there have been other Western Remakes that -apparently- beat the original:
-Ned Kelly (2003), remake of the 1970 film.
-El Dorado (1967), a remake of Rio Bravo, though not exactly better it still did very good justice to the film according to the critics and fans.
-The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), remake of Paleface.
To tell the truth, I haven't seen any of this remakes, but according to what I have found out, they are equally good or even better than the first ones. And the list doesn't end here, there are a few other remakes which, while not better than the first one, still were good enough to ride by themselves:
-Stagecoach (1966), a remake of the 1939 John Wayne film
-High Noon (2000), a TV version of the 1962 film starring Gary Cooper
-Destry Rises Again (1939), a spoof on the 1932 film of the samme name
So it seems that there is something with remaking Westerns that the new versions seem to escape the Remake curse. Now, don't get me wrong, I still don't like Remakes and would completely hate if I heard we would be having remakes of The Searchers, Winchester 73, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or (God forbid) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. What I am trying to say is that many of the western remakes aren't as bad as other remakes are. These are just thoughts I've been having that I wanted to share with you, I am not trying to prove or test anything. So what do you think?

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