Now playing – yet another movie, TV remake

By Tom Joyce -

Tom Joyce

In thinking about a subject for today’s column, I easily could have delved into the archives and pulled out a previous one from, say, 2011.

I might have dusted off the old column, changed the headline and tweaked it here and there to make that column relevant to today’s times. Then the repackaged product could be offered to you, gentle readers, in the hopes no one would realize it was recycled material.

But I’m not made that way, folks. To me, it is a privilege to share my musings on various subjects in this space every Saturday, and I believe the audience deserves a fresh new column every week on my part — for better or worse.

I just wish our modern entertainment industry thought the same way and would quit churning out all those remakes, and bad ones at that.

Of course, we’ve seen this many times with songs, better known as “covers,” such as when Madonna covered the classic Don McLean song “American Pie” and Britney Spears similarly laid ruin to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” a Rolling Stones staple.

Yet this phenomenon seems to be more prevalent with movies and television shows.

Every other week, some new superhero movie seems to show up at theaters, featuring Superman, Batman, Spiderman and others who might have been invented in the 1930s.

Two especially notable remake examples really catching my attention recently include that of the classic TV mini-series “Roots,” and another movie featuring the “Tarzan” story that novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs introduced way back in 1912.

The fact Tarzan first swung through the treetops more than a century ago hasn’t kept various and sundry retellings of his adventures from appearing in the years since.

Now as most everyone knows, events surrounding the Tarzan character are fairly cut-and-dried. A baby is born in the jungles of Africa to a couple from England, then raised by apes after his parents’ death. He goes around in a loincloth, finds himself a girlfriend (Jane), lives in a treehouse and interacts with the apes and other creatures.

While many actors have donned said loincloth, to me Johnny Weissmuller will always be the quintessential Tarzan. He was a champion swimmer whose athletic skills served him well in a series of movies featuring the jungle hero. Weissmuller was so immersed in that signature role that he did the Tarzan yell late at night while residing in a rest home near the end of his life.

In July, the latest cinematic version, titled “The Legend of Tarzan,” will hit big screens across America. It concerns how Tarzan has settled down in London and is living a life of nobility, but is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate activities at a mining encampment where Belgian colonists have instituted slavery.

I was at least relieved to see, from watching trailers of the new movie, that no aliens or zombies are part of the plot. To its credit, the cast does include Samuel L. Jackson, one of my favorite actors (who I would like to play me if anyone ever decides to film my life story).

Then there is the new version of “Roots,” based on the great book by Alex Haley that explores the evolution of Kunta Kinte, an African in the 1700s who was captured as a youth and sold into slavery in the United States. The epic book details Kunta Kinte’s life and those of his descendants in this country all the way down to Haley.

I remember when the original “Roots” mini-series aired on TV in the late 1970s and what a must-see event it was among everyone, who couldn’t wait for the next episode.

The original “Roots” mini-series was such a groundbreaking production that I never imagined it would be remade — but lo and behold that’s exactly what happened. I deliberately kept myself from watching the new version when it recently aired, to avoid tainting the memory of the original.

In examining the remake phenomenon, I get it that producers generally prefer to focus on tried-and-true subject matter, which is known to sell, rather than creatively exploring something new.

I also get it that they want to capitalize on today’s special-effects and other technical capabilities to liven up old stories and introduce them to a new generation of fans.

However, there are just some things, such as the original “Roots,” for which there is no substitute.

I’m surprised that “Gone with the Wind” hasn’t been remade — but don’t hold your breath!

Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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