The remake of West Side Story had a weak opening weekend at the box office, and the live action remake of Cowboy Bebop will not be renewed for a second season. This shows that audiences reject Hollywood’s rehashing of beloved, classic properties that were perfectly fine to begin with. Sequels have a similar problem. There are exceptions to these trends, but they show that remakes and sequels succeed when they honor the originals. That has rarely happened since 2016.
The following YouTube video by Geeks + Gamers reports the box office numbers for the weekend of December 10 through 12, 2021. The host “Odin” analyzes the slow opening of West Side Story. It was directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, but was barely marketed by Disney/20th Century Fox. Odin also discusses the earnings of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and Dune.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is beloved by fans of the franchise, and they feel it rights the wrongs of Ghostbusters 2016. Ghostbusters 2016 was tacky and poorly made. The all-female cast was used as a shield against criticism; the filmmakers and Hollywood media said anyone who didn’t like it was a male chauvinist. Afterlife nukes this argument by making its protagonist a young girl who is actually likeable. She leads her middle school classmates on the adventure, discovering the original Ghostbusters’ tech, paying respect to the original 1984 cast, and saving the world. It’s a fine passing-of-the-torch story.
By most accounts, Dune is also good, and faithfully interprets the classic sci fi novel it’s based on. The original 1984 version was hurt by trying to cram the book’s huge plot into a theatrical running time. By splitting the story in 2 parts, with the sequel already in the works, this modern version does the epic tale justice. Dune’s only problem is its massive budget, and it likely won’t make its money back in theaters. That’s more of a symptom of pandemic lockdowns than anything else, and it will probably make a profit with streaming and Blu Ray sales.
In contrast, this year’s West Side Story feels unnecessary. Writing in June of this year, John Podhoretz of the New York Post predicted the remake’s “cancellation.” The far left mobs on Twitter already savaged In The Heights for supposed cultural misrepresentation. Podhoretz thinks Steven Spielberg, a Jew, will get roasted for daring to film Puerto Rican characters.
Writing for National Review, Armond White describes the remake as a tool of division, whereas the original was a plea for unity. The Broadway musical and 1961 film were a reimagining of Romeo And Juliet. The tragedies in both stories were blamed on the self interests of feuding factions. Those factions are moved to reconcile at the end. The modern remake seems to blame its tragedy solely on white privilege.
The Civil Rights movement and subsequent racial integration in society is a triumph of American history, and is rightly celebrated by sincere liberals and conservatives. Far leftists, masquerading as liberals, supposedly want to relive that triumph, but racism is a dead horse, and Americans are tired of beating it. No matter, leftists will to restart racism, or pretend it never went away. America has different problems in the 21st century, like the collapse of the dollar, and the loss of manufacturing jobs to countries with horrible human rights violations.
In 1998, Cowboy Bebop was a landmark not just for Japanese animation, but television as a whole. Young people like myself were agog, amazed that anything could be so sophisticated. Anime was just beginning to boom in the US, thanks to Cartoon Network, and it was exciting and refreshing for Generation X and the Millennials. American television before then tended to be episodic, and a series wasn’t considered successful if it didn’t last more than one season. Anime introduced continuing storylines, and usually wrapped up its story arcs within 26 to 50 episodes. But even among anime, Bebop stood out.
Cowboy Bebop is set in the future, in which a loose group of bounty hunters chase criminals throughout the solar system. Every episode features a different bad guy, with a few recurring villains. However, there are so many layers in the presentation, one can see the show is more than that premise. The 3 adult leads, Spike, Jett, and Faye, each have painful pasts they’re trying to heal from. The 4th member of the quartet, Edward, is only 13, and serves as the comedic foil.
Bebop’s story is told not just through dialogue, but in exciting action sequences, as well as quiet moments and wordless flashback images. The visual style is something that can only work in animation, which is why the live action remake by Netflix is so undesirable. Patrick Marlborough explains the problem perfectly in this previous post, but suffice to say, longtime fans of the original find the remake to be wretched. John Cho is a fine actor, but he’s not right to play Spike Spiegel in live action. NO ONE IS. Spike is just too cool to exist in the real world.
I have theorized before that the Internet, and now the Metaverse, present new economic opportunities for independent creators. There is a diminishing need to work for corporate Hollywood to make a living. Anyone with genuine talent and skill can succeed on their own, leaving the big companies with just the hacks and bootlickers. There’s also the possibility that Hollywood is bound to communism and/or the banking cabal, and must work to undermine Western culture. Whatever the case, audiences are voting with their wallets, and punishing Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy.