Undoubtedly one of Martin Scorsese’s finest films, The Departed (2006) was a violent and volatile movie experience that followed the parallel stories of an undercover cop and a mole for an Irish gang in South Boston. The film produced fine performances from Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio and although, like most Scorsese films, it clocks in at an absurdly long two and a half hours, it is still one of the most enthralling pieces of cinema ever created. Its best aspect however, is the fact that it became an Academy Award winner for Best Picture despite using the word ‘fuck’ 237 times. What most people don't know though is that it is a remake of gritty Hong Kong crime-thriller, Mou Gaan Dou or Internal Affairs (2002).
With Star Trek (2009) director J.J. Abrams was able to breathe life into a franchise that had continuously struggled with sub-par television shows like The Next Generation (1987) and Voyager (1995). Deciding to reboot the series instead of simply remake it, Abrams found a way to have the best of both worlds, including the late great Leonard Nemoy and a little bit of time travel to create wonder for a whole new generation of fans. Despite using way too many lens flares (We get it, you are artistic, but can you seriously stop blinding us,) Abrams work was fresh and fun. Space has never looked as good as it has in the hands of Abrams.
Despite initial reservations about this reboot of the 1987 television series of the same name, (we really, really, expected it to bomb), this was without a doubt the best surprise hit of 2012. The new take focused on the classic trope of the ‘buddy movie’, bringing more comedy than mystery and delivering us some of the best one-liners in recent history. We’re still laughing over Jenko’s attempt to learn whilst on drugs; “One particle of unobtanium has a nuclear reaction with the flux capacitor – carry the two – changing its atomic isotoner into a radioactive spider. Fuck you science!” Just like the message of the movie, it’s not about how smart it is, it’s about how you connect with it and express those feelings.
We all know how awful Mark Wahlberg's Planet of The Apes (2001) was. It practically destroyed the franchise. After that atrocity we felt sure the series would not return. But our prayers were answered in the form of the reboot / sidequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes(2011). Despite the overdrawn title, the film brought a certain sophistication back to the idea of apes becoming the next step on the evolutionary ladder. What really sold the film however was the sheer beauty of WETA’s motion capture technology. No more ape suits, no more make-up and no more Mark Wahlberg, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) was pure unadulterated performance.
We’re not saying the original X-Men movies were bad. Okay the third film definitely falls into that category. But the idea of leaving the characters and universe intact while rebooting them to explore their younger versions was an ingenious proposal. Matthew Vaughn brought us the final product in X-Men: First Class (2011): a fresh, clean and clear piece. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Laurence bring a youthful and clever appeal to fan favourite characters and breathtaking visuals paved the way for a promising trilogy.
George Clooney’s nipple suit is image we will never be able to remove from our brains, but Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) sure goes a long way to overcoming this. Whilst superhero movies are too often remade and rebooted there is a clear difference with Nolan’s version, mainly that it is the cleverest attempt yet. Neglecting the camp elements of the comic book character, Welshman Christian Bale brings a much needed edge and intellectual depth to his Bruce Wayne. Moreover, Nolan has clearly thought-out his adaptations, narrowing them down to a three-film scope and invoking a thematic journey for each picture (Fear in the first film, chaos in the second, and pain in the third).
The movie that paved the way for a hundred foreign language horror remakes The Ring (2002) was one of this centuries best attempts at the horror genre. And what a remake it is, holding the box office record for such films with over $250 million in worldwide gross as of 2010. Not only that but it sold more than two million copies within its first 24 hours of release on video. The atmospheric thriller still holds audiences captivated today, resting on its ability to maintain suspense rather than offering shock value by piling on the gore. Kids today still hear stories about cursed videotapes and think twice. Those that actually know what videotapes are at least.
There is very little that the original Django (1966) and Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 remake Django Unchained (2012) have in common outside of their gun-slinging revenge spaghetti western premise. Tarantino unleashes his full genius to the benefit of audiences everywhere creating rip-roaring fun. Yes the film lacks direction at times and is sloppily arranged, but these points pale in comparison to Tarantino doing what he does best: brutality and blood. We don’t watch it for its realism; we watch it for its honesty. Sometimes greatness comes in how a film never takes itself too seriously.
In a time when vampires were all the rage, Let Me In (2010) gave us a taste of what vampirism is really like; confined to the dark, craving death and stuck in an endless world of farewells. The dark and gruesome Swedish original Let The Right One In (2008) still maintains a hold over the remake, but Matt Reeves English version certainly does the original source material justice. Following it nearly take for take it deviates just enough to develop its own style and substance. Both young leads, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz, handle their characters with maturity and intensity and help to drive the narrative along. In Let Me In (2010), Reeves managed to achieve what many directors seek but hardly ever find - the glory of producing a film that does not undermine the original, but instead works as a great alternative piece.
Before Lindsay Lohan went completely off the rails she played precocious twins Hallie and Annie Parker in a remake of the 1961 Parent Trap film. And though many of us would rather die than admit it, she was actually very good. I'm not saying it was an Oscar worthy performance or production, but The Parent Trap (1998) manages to entrance kids to this day, something the original film never did. Explaining American camps to those living outside the United States and fooling us into believing that Lindsay Lohan really did have an identical twin sister, the film is light, family fun. It’s Disney done right.
Brothers (2009), True Grit (2010), Twelve Monkeys (1995), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).
Notable Never - Mentions:
Don't even get me started on Superman Returns (2006) or Johnny Depp's creepy attempt at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), The Karate Kid (2010), The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) and Nicholas Cage's "The bees! The BEEEEEES!!!!" The Wicker Man (2006).