“The Japanese Version Was Waaaaaaay Better”; or American Remakes of Foreign Language Films

William Wasielewski

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and raised an hour north in Appleton, Wisconsin, a small metro area of about 250K people. Being raised in an area with a small town feel, yet a number of niche groups around, movies became a large part of my life. I started college in the fall of 2006 - attempting first a Journalism degree, then a Radio/TV/Film degree. Three years later, seven majors later, and $12,000 dollars in debt, I decided to drop out of school and pursued truck driving. A year and a half later, I deliver pizzas for a living and quietly work on a number of manuscripts I hope to have published one day (and I've never been happier).

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5 Responses

  1. Nathan Chase says:

    I think you could point to the upcoming American films “Let Me In” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” as examples of potentially successful remakes of their foreign counterparts where the directors that respect the source material are simply trying to bring great stories to a larger audience. It always seems a gamble when the source is beloved, though.

  2. aphexbr says:

    Like the recent remakes of horror movies from the 70s and 80s, there has to be 2 things in place for a remake of a foreign movie to be successful – respect and originality.

    Simply transposing a script does not work due to cultural and other differences. However, in doing so you have to be innovative, otherwise the resulting product ends up dry and uninteresting, especially to those who have seen the original (a great recent example is Quarantine, a poor carbon copy of [REC], whose dumbing down has made a faithful remake of the sequel impossible)

    This is where the best remakes have succeeded. The Departed made enough intelligent changes to Infernal Affairs to remain thrilling even to those familiar with the latter. The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars, while respectful to Kurosawa’s work, were great original works in their own right beyond the basic scripting similarities. The Ring, while I personally consider it inferior, made some very interesting choices when transposing the material, and so on.

    I’m filled with a certain amount of dread at the upcoming remakes of Let The Right One In (how can the subtlety and heart of that movie survive a major American studio?) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (a major part of Lisbeth’s character arc is based on a strange quirk of Swedish politics – how does that translate?), but let’s hope they realise these points.

  3. Kezzo says:

    (This contains Departed and Infernal Affairs SPOILERS, but if you haven’t seen both what are you? A person who doesn’t like movies?)

    What was interesting to me about The Departed was how they chose to end the film with a bloody conclusion for that character whereas the original was more about the shame he would have to carry with him.

    This may be considered a good choice of the remake because I doubt American audiences would have accepted anything short of a bloody end for that character. However I still wonder how the film would have been received if they had kept it closer to the original. Would it have been challenging or simply frustrating? Is the remake ending still evocative or did they simply want to meet audience expectations? Or did I think the original’s ending was unconventional simply because of my North American upbringing? Maybe in China that ending is quite conventional, I don’t know. Maybe I think about these things too much. Both great films though.

    Also, I am very skeptical about these great Swedish films being remade.

  4. Phoenixanew says:

    While I certainly knew who Godzilla was, I had never seen any of the original films when I first watched the remake. Trust me, it was still completely terrible. So terrible I turned the tape off before it was finished because I was literally falling asleep.

  5. chris nadeau says:

    the only thing I saw was the part where the writer said he grew up watching Godzilla on Sci-Fi & saw the American version when he was ten years old. Gonna go lie down now.