Best And Worst Movie And TV Reboots, Adaptations, And Remakes Of 2018
For better or worse, Hollywood is not very interested in entirely original movies. For decades, the big studios have played it safe by using existing, popular properties on which to base their movies and TV shows, whether it's sequels, remakes, reboots, or adaptations. And while it's a shame that more original product isn’t made--after all, even Star Wars and Ghostbusters were new once--you can understand Hollywood's reluctance. With theater attendances falling over the past two decades and increasing competition from the big streaming services, a recognisable pre-existing franchise or property that has previously proven popular with audiences is a lot safer if you're spending millions of dollars to get it to the screen.
As with every year, 2018 has offered plenty of remakes, reboots, and adaptations of varying quality. This year saw some long-running but dormant classic movie franchises return to the big screen. After decades of mediocre sequels and divisive remakes, the Halloween series was brought back to life with incredible success, which will inevitably lead to more sequels. Unfortunately the same could not be said of The Predator, which flopped at the box office, left most fans distinctly unimpressed, and probably killed the franchise for some time.
There were a variety of book adaptations too, from classics such as The Haunting of Hill House to modern favourites like Annihilation and Mortal Engines. Plus some older and foreign-language TV shows were reworked for modern American audiences. Of course, there were plenty of average remakes as well--movies and TV shows that, while entertaining, added little new to the existing material. So as entertaining as Lost in Space and A Star is Born were, they're not included here. But there were some undisputed stand-outs and others that really are best avoided--let's looks at the best and worst adaptations, reboots, and remakes of 2018...
Crime writer Lynda La Plante is known for Prime Suspect, the long-running TV police thriller that gave Helen Mirren one of her best roles. But before that, La Plante wrote Widows, a hugely popular show that screened on British TV back in 1983. The story was updated and reworked this year as a superb movie directed by 12 Years A Slave Oscar-winner Steve McQueen. Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn remains faithful to the basic storyline, in which a group of women come together after their criminal husbands are killed in a bank robbery shoot-out. But by transplanting the story to modern day Chicago, Flynn and McQueen are able to give the movie a social subtext, which weaves issues of political corruption and police brutality into a gripping heist thriller.
WORST: The Predator
The original Predator is an '80 classic. It combined sci-fi horror thrills and exciting, violent action, and helped make Arnold Schwarzenegger one of the biggest stars in the world. But unlike the Alien or Terminator series, the quality drop from that first movie was fast, and none of the following films are anywhere near as good as the first. So expectations for a rebooted Predator in 2018 should not have been high. But the fact that Shane Black was on board to write and direct suddenly raised hopes that he might actually deliver something to equal the first movie. What would the writer of Lethal Weapon and the director of Iron Man 3 do to revive this series? Unfortunately, as it turns out, not very much. The Predator is just as mediocre as its predecessors, and was badly hurt by an inflated budget, extensive reshoots, and incoherent editing. The film has its moments--the cast is good, there are some funny scenes, and some of the early action is exciting. But it gets worse as it continues, and emerges as what we should have guessed it would be all along--yet another not-very-good Predator movie.
When is a sequel also a reboot? The latest movie in the long-running horror franchise is technically a direct follow-up to John Carpenter's 1978 slasher classic, ignoring every movie in-between. But the fact is that the Halloween series wasn't exactly in good shape before this new one came along. It had been 20 years since the last good movie in the franchise, and Rob Zombie's much-derided remakes was the final nail in the coffin for many fans. So David Gordon Green's 2018 update was very much a franchise reboot, introducing a new, younger audience to the character of Michael Myers and proving that in the right hands even the most generic material can be a hugely entertaining, extremely successful crowd-pleaser.
WORST: Death Wish
Director Eli Roth scored one of the biggest hits of his career in 2018, with the spooky family fantasy The House with a Clock In Its Walls. But seven months before that he had another movie in theaters--a truly terrible remake of the '70s vigilante thriller Death Wish. The original is a cult favorite that made a star out of Charles Bronson, but the remake is just woeful. Bruce Willis takes the lead role as a normal man forced to avenge his murdered wife and daughter, and Roth turns the movie into tasteless, idiotic revenge fantasy with none of the moral complexity of the original. It's a movie that feels trapped in a different era, and a career nadir for all involved.
Some films are so distinctive and individual that it seems pointless to attempt a remake. Dario Argento's 1977 Italian horror masterpiece Suspiria is such a movie; its incredible visual style and thunderous score are so vital to what made it a much-loved classic that a remake seemed redundant. But Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino was too smart to copy Argento's style and went in the opposite direction instead. The plot remains the same--a young American ballet student discovers that her German dance school is actually a coven of witches. But by stripping away the visual and sonic extravagance and expanding the narrative, Guadagnino made a movie that feels so different that it stands in its own right as a strange, scary, unforgettable experience.
WORST: Robin Hood
There have been many adaptations of the Robin Hood myth over the decades, but few as terrible as this turkey. The latest version starred Kingsman's Taron Egerton as the legendary outlaw, and the fast-moving, flashy style was clearly an attempt to appeal to the same audience as the Kingsman movies. But like last year's equally unsuccessful The Legend of King Arthur, the filmmakers clearly thought that flashy editing, excessive CGI, and irritating, wise-cracking dialogue is a good substitute for a coherent script, likable characters, or any real sense of entertainment. Robin Hood is one of the year’s biggest flops, and while we'll almost certainly get another Robin Hood movie in a few years, we can only hope it’s an improvement on this one.
Netflix's Maniac was one of the best new shows of the year; a funny, strange, and moving sci-fi drama that featured stunning performances from Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. But it actually began life as a Norwegian show with the same title in 2015. In the original series, a mentally unstable man finds himself in a series of hallucinated situations, while staying in a psychiatric hospital. Showrunner/writer Patrick Somerville took the basic set-up and themes of mental health, and transplanted them to a futuristic setting, where the hallucinations are part of a mysterious drug trial. Maniac is the best kind of adaptation: one which shares a thematic and narrative base but which takes the material in a bold and original new direction.
WORST: The Darkest Minds
While Young Adult fiction is hugely popular, filmmakers have had less success adapting it to the screen. The Twilight movies set a standard that's been hard to follow, and The Darkest Minds is one of several flop YA adaptations in the last few years. It focuses on a group of kids with incredible powers living in a world where 98% of all children have died from a mysterious disease. Unfortunately, this boring, formulaic sci-fi stinker was hit by terrible reviews (it has 17% on Rotten Tomatoes), dismal box office returns, and quickly disappeared from the theaters.
Annihilation’s writer/director Alex Garland was already an acclaimed novelist before he moved into directing with 2014's Ex Machina, so knew exactly how to tackle Jeff VanderMeer's acclaimed book Annihilation for the big screen. VanderMeer gave Garland his permission to make major changes to the source material, and as a result, the movie stands as a fantastic achievement in its own right. The novel was actually the first of a trilogy, but unfortunately Annihilation's ultimate fate--being sold off to Netflix by the studio--means that we probably won't get another installment. But what we have stands as a trippy, tense, scary, and thought-provoking sci-fi thriller, and one of 2018’s best movies.
WORST: Mortal Engines
Peter Jackson incredible achievement with the Lord of the Rings trilogy means that his place in cinema history is assured. But that doesn't mean that he's not above putting his name to a bad movie. Mortal Engines is adapted from Philip Reeve's award-winning steampunk novel and certainly delivers visually. Reeve's futuristic vision of entire cities on wheels is stunningly rendered, but the generic characters and overly familiar storytelling meant that there is little to offer beyond the dazzling vfx. Perhaps it might have been better if Jackson had directed instead of producing (Christian Rivers helmed this movie), but it's doubtful. Mortal Engines was a big commercial failure and another potential franchise that stalled at the start.
BEST: The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson's classic ghost novel The Haunting of Hill House has already been adapted twice, and the 1960 movie The Haunting stands as one of the greatest horror flicks of all time (the less said about the 1999 version the better). So when it was announced that Gerard's Game director Mike Flanagan was adapting Jackson's book into a ten-part Netflix series, it was unclear what new he could bring to this story of a legendary haunted house. As it turns out, Flanagan kept the character names and location, but changed almost everything else, creating his own stunning vision. His show is as much a moving family drama as a spooky horror story, and stands alongside both the first movie and the novel as a major achievement in horror.