Tony Earnshaw: Why are film remakes so difficult to get right?

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You don’t have to be a Top Gear fan to recognise the fallout surrounding the new show, which premiered last weekend.

Reaction on Facebook and Twitter was rapid, and not pretty. But can we be surprised? Were the knives already out and sharpened? Maybe.

Now consider this. The trailer for the Ghostbusters remake has allegedly made history as the most disliked ever on YouTube. Viewed almost 33 million times it has received almost a million ‘thumbs down’ votes versus a quarter of a million ‘thumbs up’ votes.

And therein lies the core of an on-going problem with modern Hollywood: if a studio opts to reimagine a smash hit from the past it needs to keep faith with the original and, where possible, reunite the same faces.

The Ghostbusters of 2016 is an all-female affair boasting the ensemble of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. The original and its sequel starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver.

The reboot finally put the mockers on long-gestating plans for Ghostbusters 3, which would have reunited Murray and Co. That is thought to have finally fizzled out when Harold Ramis died in 2014. And yet Murray has contributed a cameo to the new film. Alas he won’t be playing madcap Peter Venkman. Thus a true link to the old films has been severed.

Perhaps fan pressure led McCarthy and Wiig to launch a charm offensive on Murray.

Maybe someone realised that taking the film so far from its roots was actually a bad thing. Audiences, after all, generally want more of the same. Think Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and their sequels. The world of cinema is littered with remakes that failed. It doesn’t stop them occurring, though. Some are sufficiently reinvented to eclipse the memory of what went before. Star Trek comes to mind. Some are canny enough to combine old and new, giving the 
fans what they want whilst simultaneously looking to new horizons. Think Disney’s Star Wars franchise and its spin-offs. With Ghostbusters there is a problem. Back in the 80s Murray and Aykroyd were coming off Saturday Night Live and some hit movies. They had a track record and Ghostbusters (as written by Aykroyd and Ramis) was tailored for their talents.

The new film feels like it has been hijacked. The name’s the same but the faces, the milieu, the style and the comedy are all different. Is it a cinematic doppelganger? It sure feels like it.

Time will tell. But the jungle drums are already beating out a response…