Throwback Thursday: Four great remakes

Charles Liu

Most film remakes are inferior to their original counterparts and end up reminding us why we love the first versions more. However, a few remakes surpass the originals by reinterpreting them in fascinating ways or by adding newfound depth to their simpler stories. The Daily Texan compiled a list of four of those remakes.

“The Thing” (1982)
John Carpenter’s update of 1951’s “The Thing from Another World” is startlingly sinister and grotesque. More faithful to John W. Campbell Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?” than the original film, “The Thing” is about a group of scientists in Antarctica who encounter an alien that can take over and imitate other life forms. The scientists must defeat the creature before it can reach and consume human civilization.

“The Thing” preys on viewers’ paranoia as the characters attempt to weed out the alien from their own ranks, and, when the time comes, unleash it with stomach-churning animatronic effects. Kurt Russell and Keith David play likable heroes in a movie that leaves viewers unsure of whom to trust, and when “The Thing” questions whether either character has been infected, it pulls us closer to the edge of our seats.

“The Thing” is one of the most compelling horror films ever crafted, a classic that has long since overshadowed the 1951 original.

“The Fly” (1986)
The 1986 version of “The Fly” and the 1958 original deal with a scientist’s transformation into a fly after their atoms are mixed during a teleportation experiment. Whereas the scientist’s transformation was sudden in the original, David Cronenberg’s remake draws out the process, chronicling scientist Seth Brundle’s (Jeff Goldblum) gradual descent into madness as the fly’s instincts and body parts consume him.

Goldblum’s demented performance is supported by Oscar-winning makeup and horrifying special effects, and the story is a rich character study and a grim exploration of the dangers of unrestrained ambition. Cronenberg makes us feel sorry for Brundle, and over the course of the picture, we grow to like him for his talent and drive. But as “The Fly” progresses, it becomes apparent that Brundle won’t ever return to normal.

“King Kong” (2005)
The original “King Kong,” a technical marvel when it was released in 1933, finds itself outclassed compared to Peter Jackson’s epic 2005 remake. While the three-hour running time is excessive, Jackson’s take on the Skull Island adventure is spectacular, complete with imaginative world building and an expansive scope.

The film’s centerpiece is its convincingly animated monster gorilla, with its movements and expressions performed by motion-capture extraordinaire Andy Serkis. Unlike his original counterpart, who was a brute merely infatuated with damsel-in-distress Ann Darrow, 2005’s Kong develops a friendship with her (Naomi Watts), adding emotional dimension and tragedy to the final showdown atop the Empire State Building. Beauty kills the beast in both versions. Jackson makes us wish she didn’t. 

“The Departed” (2006)
Martin Scorsese brings 2002 Hong Kong crime drama “Infernal Affairs” stateside with “The Departed,” trading the triad for Boston gangsters. The plot remains mostly the same, balancing the stories of an undercover cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrating the network of a crime boss (Jack Nicholson) and the crime boss’s mole (Matt Damon) in the Boston police. 

DiCaprio, Nicholson and Damon are just three members of a talented ensemble featuring Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg. These fine performers elevate “The Departed” above other pictures of its kind, and they get to do it while cutting loose with countless F-bombs.

“The Departed” is steeped in working class Irish-American Catholic culture and explores the masculine desire for the approval of father figures. The film also offers engrossing insight into deception of the self and of others, and as the characters find themselves drawn into an increasingly dangerous clash of cunning, the game of moles and rats becomes a true white knuckle affair indeed.