EDITORIALS

Discuss: Are Remakes Like 'Let Me In' Any Less Genuine or Honest?

by
February 27, 2012

Let the Right One In / Let Me In

On the movie news front, it seems every week there's another remake, reboot or reimagining coming our way. Most of the time, myself and many of my colleagues are quick to complain at the mere prospect of a remake, but when the right directing and acting talent comes together, there just might be something special to be made. This is even more likely when remaking a highly acclaimed foreign film for American audiences. However, director Tomas Alfredson, who saw his film Let the Right One In quickly remade into Let Me In by Matt Reeves, doesn't seem to be a big fan of the remake, or any remakes. More below!

The Playlist recently noticed an interview with Alfredson where he was asked about Reeves' take on the source material with Let Me In. Before we get to his response, let's flashback to another interview the aforementioned indieWire blog did with the director. Alfredson hadn't yet seen Let Me In and he said:

"I haven’t seen it. It was a little disturbing when I first heard about it because I think I was still working on marketing my own version. So it was a little quick. It’s a very personal thing to be working with a book for several years. You think it’s your own and you fight for it a lot and then to be hearing about someone else dancing with your girlfriend, it’s strange. But I heard that it’s a good film and that they did a great job, so it’s no hard feelings. I will see it."

But in talking with The Wall Street Journal just recently, his bark had some bite with it this time. While he doesn't say that he's seen the film yet, Alfredson commented:

"I think that there's something dishonest about copying someone's work. I think it's much stronger if you do something personal of your own that's original."

Seems kind of harsh. While I'm all for original work over recycled stories, it's a bit disrespectful to say that someone can't connect with the material and still deliver a fresh and fantastic take on the material. In the case of Let the Right One In, it seems almost hypocritical as he's not exactly doing something original as the film is based on the book of the same name. In that same fashion, Reeves merely adapted the book for his own purposes and even went so far as to change the location and make it very personal with 80's paraphernalia and situations. There's no way to say that Reeves film is any less honest or genuine simply because it came after Alfredson's take on the subject matter. The themes are the same at the heart of the story, but the way it's told in each director's hands is still something unique and, essentially, original.

Perhaps my biggest problem with this criticism coming from Alfredson is the fact that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the director's most recent film, had already been adapted into a series starring Alec Guiness. That's some sweet irony right there. Recognizing this fact, Alfredson does say, "There are so many ways to tell the same story with so many different approaches," but I fail to see how that doesn't apply to Let Me In, especially since Reeves merely adapted same book Alfredson did.

However, the point remains as to whether any remake, no matter how good, somehow feels less honest, special or genuine, merely because it's been told before. In the case of foreign films, it can easily make the film easier to relate to for audiences who don't live in Sweden, France, Spain or any country with a film worth remaking. A change in location can even make the story more personal for any given director, and I think that's what made Reeves take on Let the Right One In not just tolerable, but also still powerful.

It's at this point that we'll hand it over to you readers and cinephiles. How do you feel about remakes like Let Me In? Is there something intrinsically cheap or illegitimate about them? Do you find it easier to connect with either film for different reasons? Can a remake be stronger than the original film? Sound off!

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  • http://twitter.com/MrTimDahill Tim Dahill
    no...but its rare you get a remake like Let Me In
  • DAVIDPD
    Absolutely not. Maybe if Mr. Alfredson had seen LET ME IN, he would know that it was more based on the novel and not his film. These quotes make him seem like a real horse's ass.
    • guest
       ummm, I'm guessing you didn't actually read the book or else you'd know that the whole "more based on the book" thing is 100% crap.  This is verifiable fact that Reeves was talking out his ass when he said it.  Actually read a book before you start calling others names.  Ass.
      • Zeus
        "guest" is exactly right! Anyone who has actually read the book knows Let Me In is NOTHING like the book. What an idiotic comment, DAVIDPD. Stop staring at horses' asses and do your research.
        • Zeus
          Oh, and let's not forget that the AUTHOR of the book actually WROTE THE SCREENPLAY for Let The Right One In, and had nothing to do with Let Me In.
          • Scopedog
            Yeah, but he liked LET ME IN.... More than that, he felt that it was fantastic to have not just one, but TWO "excellent versions" of his novel done for the screen. More here....  http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2010/10/04/let-me-in-let-the-right-one-in-john-lindqvist-note-matt-reeves/ Just sayin'....
  • Antonio
    Alex, most people know my view on remakes.  I hate them. Especially remakes of amazing Foreign films. Like Let Me In, The Grudge, and recently Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (which I refuse to see). I hate how Americans (and Im not racist I am an American) take Beautiful foreign films and try to copying the original work. What makes me madder is that the directors of the foreign films receive no credit on a film they worked extremely hard on.  The only reason people remake such amazing foreign films, is because Americans are too ignorant and lazy to watch the original. I've heard "I don't want to read" and "Screw the swedes!" I have heard some dumb excuses about  people not wanting to watch original films but are in love with the remakes and haven't seen the originals. For instance, Roony Mara DOES NOT COMPARE to Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Noomi created Lizbeth, if it wasn't for Noomi then Roony would be nothing! If American's don't want to watch the foreign film, because "they don't want to read subtitles" then they just don't deserve to watch such a great film. Im sorry, but people need to come up with there own original ideas and stop copying and getting ideas from Foreign Films. No respect what so ever. I have read some of your articles on remakes and you say stuff like "they adapted the film with their own view of it" but when the actual film comes out, it his highly noticeable that they stole 80% of the original ideas but just "Americanized" it.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net/ Ethan Anderton
       Do you think maybe that's because in the case of this comparison and also The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that the book serves as the source material and not the film itself? Try not to paint with such a broad brush and say Americans are lazy and that's why they remake foreign films. Matt Reeves did no such thing and the film is very personal and more true to the book.
      • Richie G
        Alfredson didn't write the screenplay for 'Let the Right One In', Lindqvist did. I'd imagine the work he criticised Reeves of copying referred to cinematography: composition, lighting 'n whatnot. Pretty sure there was an article on this site comparing how similar the two movies were in that regard. Hell I liked both I guess. The only reason The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake annoyed me was because they were in Sweden, speaking English and sometimes things were written in English and sometimes it was in Swedish, like they couldn't make up there minds. I guess they couldn't change the setting without changing the story... Nazis 'n all
    • http://phillipgockel.com/ Phillip Gockel
      Out of curiosity, how do you know Roony Mara pales in comparison when you stated that you refuse to watch the film?
      • Scopedog
         Maybe he's psychic?
    • Gabriel Rincon
      Fincher's version is NOT a Remake. Most of the people involved in the movie said they never even saw the original and never bothered to so their own adaptation wouldn't be influenced by it. Also if you did see it you would know that the film is not "Americanized". They didn't shoot it in New York, they didn't change the character's names to Luke, etc. The fact is that this adaptation is more faithful to the books
    • BM
      do you think people in foreign language countries are any less lazy, they listen to horrible dubs instead of subtitles, they just don't have the finances to remake as readily as hollywood
      • Someone
        In Denmark we have a proud history of subbing over dubbing. only kids movies get dubbed.
      • Vegan Rock Child
        You will find the dutch and a lot of EU countries don't watch dubbed but do subtitles and their english is exceptional because of it. 
    • Mike P.
      I think a bigger point we're all missing is that the foreign film market isn't exactly the most marketable thing in America...  A lot of people don't even know that there is a Swedish version, aside from their preference to read or not read subtitles. Of course these foreign directors aren't given credit in the "American remake's" because they aren't remakes of that foreign film, just a different adaptation of the same novel, from a different writer and director. It's a different market, and a different movie, that always draws comparisons, for obvious reasons. I did happen to see both, and read the books, and while I will say Fincher's is truer to the source material, they are pretty similar in tone, but that was what I was expecting.  Both are great films nonetheless.  Although, in my opinion, Noomi nailed Lisbeth, and Rooney leaves something to be desired (she still did a great job though).
    • beevis
      but it isn't just remakes of foreign films - hollywood is remaking anything they can get their hands on....foreign or domestic. this remake nonsense is out of hand.
      • Scopedog
         But Beevis....remakes have been part of Hollywood since, well, since Hollywood started out.  Let's not forget that some of the best-known movies over the past several decades were remakes....and those remakes are thought to be equal to (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, f'r instance) or superior to the original (Carpenter's remake of THE THING, say). Sure, there seems to be a lot of them now, but do we rake other countries' film industries over the coals when they remake an American film, as was the case with the recent Japanese remake of GHOST?
        • beevis
          remakes have never been churned out as fast/soon as they have been over the last 10 years. btw: i do agree on "the thing".......but "seven samurai" was pretty good.
    • Rv37
      I've seen both the Dragon Tattoo movies and all the following swedish. I'm not one to take the American version over the the forign. But in this case the American version was better. I loved Mara more than Noomi. So watch the movies before you go on a rant.
    • Natecsz
      I personally don't mind reading subtitles, but the fact that my eye has to constantly flick to the bottom of the screen takes you out of the imagery that is ment to be seen.  Although I love to see a foreign movie I don't mind at all that some of them get remade.  Not all of them are as well done as Let Me In, but there is definately an advantage to being able to just watch the imagery and not have to focus on reading the dialogue at the same time. Movies ARE imagery so it makes sense to want to redo a movie.  Mostlty because dubbing RARELY makes for a good movie.
    • Scopedog
       "Alex, most people know my view on remakes.  I hate them." Be very, very careful with your choice of words.  Because that would imply that you hate these films: --David Chronenberg's 1986 remake of THE FLY. --John Carpenter's 1982 remake of THE THING. --Phil Kaufman's 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. --THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) --THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and BEN-HUR (both from the 1950s) --A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. All of these films are considered classics and any fan of film worth his or her salt would put these movies on their "best" lists.  And yet, they were remakes.  And two of them were remakes of foreign films--TMS was an American remake of THE SEVEN SAMURAI. Maybe making a blanket statement that one hates remakes makes one seem like a flesh and blood version of Chad C. Mulligan.  But such a statement is a huge misstep in light of the fact that some of the best films of the past 50-60 years were remakes. Just saying.
      • beevis
        the question isn't whether a remake can be good. the question is are we, the movie-watchers, unhappy with the glut of remakes TODAY.....not to mention how fast the remakes are being made compared to when the original released. of course remakes can be good.
        • Scopedog
          Hmmm...agreed, Beevis.  The problem is the original poster flat-out stated that they hated remakes--a blanket statement. That said, I agree that there have been a glut of remakes over the past decade.  Some I did like--such as LMI and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.  Others....not so much. But to be honest....many moviegoers have no knowledge about some films that were remakes.  And I've learned not to lose my s*@! over remakes, since, well, I have the option of not watching them at all.  Just sayin'.  
          • beevis
            i see. hey, the only remakes i've liked in recent years were "let me in" and "true grit"......not because they were better than the originals -but, because they were good in their own right - something that most remakes can't say.
  • Jericho
    its hard to consider any movie a remake when a book/video game/comic is involved so my next opinion revolves around remake of a completely original movie..... FOR MY OWN OPINION *which means I'm not speaking for everyone* A true remake would be something of a more modern approach to older works so that the younger audience would enjoy what you enjoyed once but in a more familiar setting, mind you it needs to be faithful to the original for it to be a remake, remastering is nice but it wont get a modern audience to get it just because the parents loved it so much...unless its too timeless to go unoticed....
    • Josef
      IMHO, I think a good example of that would be 'True Grit.' I watched the original before seeing the remake. The remake seemed to be edited much better than the original. For example, I thought the remake's music set a better pace than the original's Bonanza like score.
      • Josef
        Did you like 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' better than 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?' The 'original' took the source material and turned it into something similar, but slightly different. The 'remake' seems to be a bit closer to the source material during the tour, but then it gets all Tim Burton at the end. Personally, I like the original.
        • Jericho
          that i don't consider an actual remake since a book is involved, the word remake is tossed around so badly nobody even realizes when an ACTUAL remake has happened......
          • beevis
            you want different moods/looks for wayne? how about: war wagon; mclintock; donovans reef; sons of katie elder; el dorado; the cowboys; big jake; rooster cogburn.....and of course the classic "the shootist". and, i am sorry i said it was an idiotic statement - most people under the age of 30 don't have any idea at all how many  great movies were made prior to 1980. if you're over 30 - then my statement stands.
      • Jericho
        that and the lack of John Wayne, im sorry but the only reason why nobody would call him a cardboard actor was because he could shoot people.......
        • beevis
          you should be sorry -that's an idiotic statement.
          • Jericho
            have you actually compared the Wayne movies? one mood, one type of attitude, no facial expressions even when he was on I Love Lucy he barely moved his face to smile......
  • http://twitter.com/stopsatgreen Peter Gasston
    Sorry, but the Reeves film was obviously influenced by the Alfredson one - shot for shot, in many cases. Yes it was different in some ways too, but I bet it wouldn't have looked the way it did had Alfredson's version not existed first. I actually liked both versions, by the way, so I'm not arguing that one is better - just that it's not correct to say both were original adaptations of the same source.
  • son_et_lumiere
    i think opinions get polarised with the indecent haste in which some films are remade before they have had the chance to get their own real audience. i'm a huge fan of the Alec Guinness Tinker, Tailor Ethan mentioned, but since it was at the end of the 70s, a new look - at the original source material - now seems quite reasonable to me. you have more scope to do this with books. i don't like the recent spate of 70s action film, John Carpenter or Wes Craven remakes at all, for example, but the time since the release of the original films means they still retain their own identity. if you are going to remake something - especially if it's close to the original's release - you owe it to your paying audience to bring something new to the table, like (i think) Scorsese did with The Departed. it's the get rich quick speed of the shameless retreads and repackagings for US audiences of Rec, Death at a Funeral, Let The Right One In, pretty much every J-horror release of the past 10 years and countless others - in some cases *before* they have even had a full US release - that really sets the hackles up. all countries remake. but not everyone tries to bring something new to the table, and that's where the 'genuine' and 'honest' comes in.
  • Truthteleller
    Let Me In > Let the Right One In.
    • Zeus
      Let The Right One In ≫ Let Me In
      • Jericho
        Let Me In >>> Let The Right One In
  • Twix
    Sorry, I am confused about one thing. Is there a difference between a remake and a retelling? A film like True grit even though the topic seems more pointed to American remakes of foreign films, seemed more like a retelling of the same story, plus there was a lot of time in-between the two films. Other “remakes” I don’t (with few exceptions) really like, I liked both Dragon Tattoo movies. But hated Let me in. I also could not sit through The Departed, but Infernal Affairs is one of my favorite films, even though some people say they are not even close to the same thing. Old Boy comes to mind as another that I feel will just be a bunch of big money and faces destroying an already awesome foreign film.
    • Josef
      Remake and a retelling is pretty subjective. I think 'True Grit' was a remake, while 'The Lion King' was a retelling of 'Hamlet.' 'Avatar' was a shit storm of 'Dances with Wolves' and 'Ferngully.' It's all subjective. Usually, enough people decide that one or the other is a better movie. That would be called the 'general consensus.' I'm not saying the 'general consensus' is in good taste, but statistically more people like it than not. I really couldn't imagine an U.S.er's version of the Korean film 'The Host.' U.S. directing couldn't capture the emotion in a different culture. I need to see 'Infernal Affairs.'
      • Scopedog
         Great points.
  • Shoshingo
    All good points. But I think something else needs to be said: as content creators, Hollywood has been criticized for not being "original", even more so in recent years. While the number of remakes and adaptions has risen (no doubt about it), fact of the matter is, if you like a certain subject enough to adapt it, you probably should. Just because someone else has done it doesn't mean you shouldn't. A good rule of thumb is that you should always stay true to the original material, to really give it your own style. In my opinion, this is what Matt Reeves did with Let Me In. Creating new content is not only hard, but it is scary. We as a people love praising the good, but also pointing out the bad. Just ask Adam Sandler and his 11 razzies.As far as that generic, pedantic comment above about americans being lazy; I'll just go ahead and mention that it was an American who founded one of the most important Independent film festivals in the world. To generalize like that is shameful. Regardless, this sort of discussions are the reasons why I absolutely LOVE this site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502930579 Steve Larabie
     I'm all for a remake IF the director has a different approach to the whole process. Let Me In was, for me, a failed remake in that it utilized aspects a bit too closely to the Swedish version and also failed in generating the same emotional bond I had to the two main characters (good child actors can be tough to find and Let the Right One In got lucky whereas Let Me In did not, IMO).
  • bellaphoenix
    Wow...great discussion i must say. i Have watched both  Let me In  and Let the right one In and must agree that although am a great fan of Chloe Moretz i preferred the Swedish version simply cause i watched it first. there was not much difference between both films so i guess it was like looking at the same painting in a different canvas. but i do agree some time should pass before remakes are done. viewers are forced to compare both works so viciously and some out of loyalty wont even watch the remakes however good they are(the girl with the dragon Tattoo)
  • Stack
    If anything "Let Me In" led more people to "Let the Right One In". People, who wouldn't have seen the original in the 1st place. This is a good thing. And while I agree that remakes in general can get pretty marginalized pretty quick, I really enjoyed Let Me In and thought that it paid humble tribute to it's predecessor.
    • Scopedog
      Agreed. And let's not forget that it was the original producers of LTROI who started the process for a remake.  And that it was Hammer films who produced the film. I liked both movies, and so did Lindqvist, the writer of the original novel and screenplay for LTROI:  http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2010/10/04/let-me-in-let-the-right-one-in-john-lindqvist-note-matt-reeves/
  • David Banner
    This should be a good example, 2 good movies, 1 is a remake of the other: Abre Los Ojos or Vanilla Sky(remake)?  I'd go for Vanilla Sky, I think its cuz it's easier to identify with what is happening. I do not know really, it is a decade since I saw either. I think perhaps the 'nightmare that the story is' came across better in Vanilla Sky, the shock factor. Both are good, but I own Vanilla Sky. So, Let The Right One In or Let Me In(remake)? First off, someone here is a bad businessman. Someone sold the rights to this remake, or it was not copyrighted material, but I'd bet the rights were sold pretty fast, maybe even before Let The Right One In was completed? The 2 versions came out not far apart. They could have waited 2-3 years so the original could have had some shelf-life, but they choose not to. But then again, many of us paid twice, for the same story, so maybe its a case of bad customers/viewers? Now, both of these vampire movies are good, but a copy/paste was not needed, it diminishes the original. With just a slight tweak, we really would not have needed to add these movies to the discussion: Let Me In would have been better if the vampire girl* had moved to a new location, and was so caught in a loop that she was deemed to repeating what happened in Sweden, just in the US this time. This could well be the 100th time she had found a new friend, like in the original movie. This is not said in the movie, and it's not up for the viewer to 'understand this', if this was a possible explanation; but just 1 sentence where this was mentioned would have made the difference and the (potential)viewers would have accepted it, as a sequel. And neither movie would have been frowned upon. A sequel is OK, just not a flat out remake, and atleast not made/released within the same year(like Sam Raimi's company has done several times). It must be such a blow to struggle for years to make a movie, and then turn around and see someone knocked it off the day after and your movie 'drowns'. * A boy really. In the Swedish version, we see a short glimpse of the vampire girl's genital mutilation(1-2 sec); I think the story goes that in medieval times, they(priests? templars?) were afraid the vampire would re-produce and have vampire offspring, so they chopped it off. And s/he has passed as a girl/woman since. It is not explained in the original, we just see this short glimpse with no explaining added. Guess you have to read the book, or maybe it's a back story that was added for 'depth'. People were puzzled by this. This genital mutilation it not shown in the remake, but it is mentioned, that she's really a he.
  • Willyum_jamz
    The Hollywood remake was sheer copy of the Swedish original, who's screenplay was written by the talented John Lindqvist, the bloody author of the  novel (Let the Right One In)! Tomas Alfredson made the first movie (with what can be only considered as a stamp of approval from writer Lindqvist) so I feel that Alfredson can say whatever he likes about Reeds, who is the imitator. And Reeds movie was by far worse than the original!  
  • patrick
    I like different versions of the same story if done correctly. I think that there are a lot of ways any story can be retold, similarly or differently. Sometimes more focus on a main character, main plot, sub plot or even more backstory on a charcter can bring a story in a whole new light. Back in the 80's Nicholsons Joker was the best acted comic character portrayed up to that time. Based on a lot of peoples ideas here, we wouldnt have seen the tour de force from Ledger.  Another good example is a TV show called Being Human, it started in the UK. It was fun, interesting, edgier than most american shows and enjoyable.  2 years later an American version came out, virtually identical characters and stories.  However the american version had slight changes and different sub plots at the beginning, making the show feel like an alternative universe. It was neat to see how the same character and story went in a different direction when the choices the characters faced were the same. 
  • Matt Cain
    In my opinion, this remake was an unnecessary gamble for the producers. It not only took the limelight away from the original filmmakers and cast, it also didn't bring a fresh perspective or improve the story in any way. And in the end, it didn't make alot of money (which was what the bigwigs were after I presume). The producers said their intent was to make it more accessible to a wider audience. Aggressive marketing of the original could've taken care of that. Expertly crafted (subtitled) foreign films are quite capable of raking in money. Take Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for example. I just don't understand why they felt the need to remake it. If it ain't broke...
  • Jurassic_Max
    I love them both. They're both my favorite vampire films
  • JM
    Remake is a word with a lot of meanings, because is not the same to adapt international films to the USA market (with an audience incapable to go to subtitle films, like much other countries) as soon as possible, with only bussiness purposes, that remake a film with the meaning of taking a new view to the story (as happens in the theatre). Billy Wilder's Some Like it Hot was a remake, the same as Mogambo, and Hitchcock remaded his The man who knew too much. And these remakes are now classics. I think that is quite differnt when an great director-author is behind the idea or if it's only a lazy idea from the studios to make money without thinking so much.
    • Scopedog
      It's more of the four R's--remake, re-telling, re-imagining, and reboot. Most films are straight-out remakes...but some function as re-tellings (Carpenter's 1982 THE THING, Kaufman's 1978 INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and yes, LET ME IN).  Others are re-imaginings (say, Tim Burton's 2001 PLANET OF THE APES), and then there are reboots (Nolan's BATMAN BEGINS, the upcoming THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Abrams' 2009 STAR TREK). You made some solid points here.  Good stuff.
      • JM
        Thanks. I really like The Fantastic 4 Rs
  • DH
    I know this discussion is long dead, but still I'd like to give my opinion. What Alfredson says does not contradict each other. He says there are many ways to tell the same story with a different approach. But there is a difference between telling the same story with a different approach, and copying what someone else did. In the case of Let Me In, it's the latter. He didn't take the book and wrote his own, fresh take on it. No, he took the script of Let The Right One In and left about 95% the way it was, but altered a few things here and there to make it more accessible and easier to understand for the big audience. There are so many possible ways he could have adapted the book onto film, because the book is COMPLETELY different. So many scenes the first one didn't have that could have been put in, or scenes that could have been visualized differently, so many different ways he could have told what was in the book. Yet Reeves chose to copy the way Alfredson did it, except for a FEW changes. The scenes he took over are identical to the original. Therefore it is not an adaption of the book. Lindqvist wrote the script for Let the Right One In based on the book, so I guess you could argue that it is based on the book in the end, but not directly. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on the other hand, is a good example of a fresh adaptation of the book. Both films are separate, independent adaptions of the book, existing in their own right. No doubt they got some inspiration from the Swedish films in some things, but that's normal. They took the book and they made their own thing of it. Reeves did not.

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