I was born in the 1980s.
The 80s saw many things, Reagan and Thatcher, Bush and Thatcher and Cagney and Lacey. The Berlin Wall came down. Mobile phones appeared. So did personal computers. Two sets of Summer Olympics boycotted over Cold War antagonism. It saw the growth of a culture exemplified by Wall Street. Braces (that’s “suspenders” to the Americans), shirts with worrying stripes and a culture dedicated wholly to the pursuit of money. Many have said that this could be seen as a rebellion against the Sixties inspired “flower power” attitudes. It might have been. But it was also a time fertile for the breeding of geeks.
For many of my generation the 1980s was a kind of geek nirvana. The time when our passion was born and kindled, it had movies that took children on a voyage of discovery and did it with humour. It had television series that easily became cult t.v. . Honestly which male 80s child didn’t want to grow up to drive “KITT” from “Knight Rider”, we all knew we’d do a better job than “the Hoff” did. “The Goonies” made us believe that anyone of us could go off with our friends, find buried treasure and all the while outwit clumsy adults. Even science fiction saw a new prominence with the return of a “Star Trek” series.
Maybe that is why Hollywood is remaking so many of these great movies and tv series. And maybe that’s why so many people get dismayed or angry or even hurt when we see the things we love get remade into things we never imagined.
I love “The A-Team” , for example. I have most of the series on dvd. I know the names of the characters, the actors, the ranks of the characters ( Lieutenant Colonel, Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant). I know that veteran character actor Alan Fudge (who played Patrick Duffy’s boss on “The Man from Atlantis”) played three different characters on each of the first three seasons of the series, that Faceman fell in love with the same actress playing two different characters in successive seasons and that Boy George is perhaps the worst example of pop star acting since Pat Boone did movies. I excitedly awaited the movie when it came out. It looked great. Face, BA and Murdoch were all fantastically realised modernised versions of the original characters. Then there was Liam Neeson.
Neeson, who it needs to be said, is a brilliant actor, thoroughly ruins, for me, the whole movie. Called upon to play the charismatic, attention seeking, brilliant and at times, slightly unhinged Lieutenant Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, he instead seems to be engaging in some attempt at a Western tough guy. At various points I expected him to say “Get of your horse and drink your milk” or to ask some bad guy to “Go for your guns”. It ruined the movie for me. How he could totally have misread the character I could not understand until I read an article about his preparation for the movie in which he said he’d read the script and felt the character was a Lee Marvin style of character and that he’d never watched the series. The other three leads, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson were all children aged 7, 9 and 4 when the original series came out. Neeson was an adult of 29. The first three acted their parts brilliantly, because you bet they’d watched the series in the 80s, but Neeson hadn’t, so he just played the part from his view of the script not the series.
But that made me think, maybe that’s the point. Maybe geeks are just children who never let go of our heroes of childhood. We can’t stand interference with them because of what they meant to us in our lifetimes. We dislike the remakes, not because they’re truly bad ( although some DEFINITELY are, the least said about the recent remake of “Ironside” the better) but because they shatter our childhood memories, we see the characters not now as heroes but the fragile human beings they are. The plotline holes and storyline errors are more obvious because we are older, more aware of the world around us. We don’t live in that perfect vista of youth anymore, where Saturday morning cartoons (my favourite, “The Raccoons) encompassed our world and summer holidays stretched on forever like some fun filled, sunlit ocean.
My friend Neil’s favourite movie is “The Karate Kid”, the original version, and like myself with many of the t.v. series and movies that I love, he wasn’t even born when the original came out in 1984. And yet he loves that movie with an utter passion. Nothing can come close to that film for him. And I have the utmost respect for his attitude. He can barely stomach the remake of “Karate Kid” (not really surprising for a film that really serves as a Jaden Smith stepping stone vehicle from the brilliance of “Pursuit of Happiness” to the utterly bonkers, mindbendingly boring “After Earth”) but is that truthfully because of the problems with the movie (making the protagonist younger, setting it in China when Mr Miyagi was from Okinawa, Jaden Smith) or is it that it is “Daniel San” is his childhood hero?
When I visited my fiancée Kelly in the US last year and got the opportunity to ride in her co-worker Caleb’s jeep with the roof or doors on, although I was riding through residential housing in Madison, Wisconsin, in my heart I was in the back of a jeep on a mission with “The A-Team”. I know Neil would probably love to meet Ralph Macchio and I would love to meet Dirk Benedict. (Bradley Cooper too, but only because of his part on “Alias” not “The A-Team” or “The Hangover”)
Maybe we give remakes too hard a job. They’re never going to win. Because in reality they’re not just going up against the old movie but for the geek nation, our childhood imagination, and I’m honestly not sure that can ever be beaten.
So until my next blog… “I love it when a plan comes together”, “Wax on, Wax off” and if you want to be a true hero never “Sweep the leg!”.