Well, the day that I wrote this article, I ended up thinking about the subject of remakes after seeing a trailer for the then-upcoming remake of a classic 1990s horror videogame called “Resident Evil 2”. Although the game itself looked far too modern to actually run on the computer I was using, even just seeing footage of it evoked lots of nostalgia… and made me think about the subject of remakes.
But, since I’m going through more of a reading than a gaming phase at the moment, I started to wonder why books don’t really get remakes. After all, there are plenty of compelling vintage classics which could probably be spruced up with more readable and/or fast-paced modern narration etc… So, why doesn’t this happen? Here are a few of the reasons.
1) There’s no need: As I sort of mentioned a couple of days ago, the “technology” behind literature is pretty much the same as it has been for quite a few years.
In other words, most English-language books use 26 letters and standard systems of spelling, grammar and punctuation. None of this has really changed too much during at least the past century or two.
In purely technical terms, old books are still as readable as new books. Unlike with film or games, where the technology is still constantly changing and growing, the written word has pretty much been perfected these days. As such, a new remake of an old book would still look like… well… a book. It would still contain 26 letters and the usual spelling, grammar and punctuation.
In other words, remakes of films and games allow people to add modern graphics, special effects etc.. to older works. With books, there’s less of a need for this. Sure, you could update the wording or the settings slightly, but the original would still be pretty much the same thing as the remake.
2) Authorship: Unlike films and games, which are large collaborative projects, books usually have just one author. As such, books will often have more personality and uniqueness to them than films or games do.
Yes, you should always view a novel on it’s own merits, but there’s no denying that part of what makes a good novel so compelling is the unique way that the author describes, sees, thinks about etc.. the story they are telling and the world they are describing.
And, without getting into questions of copyright, moral rights etc…., this is a major practical reason why slightly older books don’t usually get remakes in the same way that films or games do. After all, the author is an integral part of what makes a novel so interesting. By changing the author, you change the story itself in a fairly major way.
In other words, another author’s remake of a classic novel wouldn’t be a remake… it would be a different novel altogether. After all, novels aren’t usually collaborative projects in the way that films and games are.
3) They get adapted instead: Sad as it is to say, books are no longer a popular entertainment medium in the way that they apparently were a few decades ago.
As such, if there’s a really compelling older story that someone wants to bring up to date so that modern audiences can really enjoy it, then they’re probably not going to reach a large audience with a rewritten book.
As such, instead of remakes, interesting older novels usually tend to get adapted to more popular mediums like film and television instead. Yes, these adaptations will sometimes do all of the things that a remake would do (eg: updating the settings etc..) – but they will still be adaptations rather than remakes.
So, yes, because the largest popular audience is more likely to be found in front of a screen than a book these days, interesting older books usually tend to get adapted rather than remade.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂