The number of remakes that have hit the big screen and have failed to live up to their predecessors is quite worrying. The burning question remains what makes them so bad?
Nigerian cinema has experienced tremendous success in the last decade and it is gradually overshadowing rival industries around the world. The measured but welcome rise is in part thanks to the influx of resources into the industry and also the innovation and creativity of local producers and filmmakers alike. For the last four years or so, Nollywood producers have begun reimagining and remaking classic movies from the 90s, repurposing them for today’s audience. On paper obviously, it's a great idea, given that remakes are a very common feature of film production across the globe.
While remakes aren’t exactly a novel idea in the industry, their regularity picked up around 2019. At the time, the idea was seemingly welcomed. People were excited to see some of their favourite films reimagined for the current climate. However, the excitement for them quickly waned. Opinions are firmly divided now. Today, whenever a film remake is announced, it either raises interest in the possibilities or gets fans in a tizzy. Most remakes have turned out to simply be a cash-grab, a shoddy attempt to simply capitalize off the nostalgia surrounding the original features.
One of the remakes that began this new trend is Ramsey Nouah's Living in Bondage back in 2019. After the release of the record-breaking supernatural thriller, others followed: Funke Akindele’s Omo Ghetto: The Saga ( a sequel to Abiodun Olarenwaju’s Omo Ghetto), Aki & Paw Paw amongst others.
The original storytelling, creativity, and accessibility of these Nollywood classics mostly account for their popularity. Their content reflected Nigerian cultural experiences. While providing relatable entertainment, they reflected society's and culture's aspirations. In addition to introducing generations of talented actors to the world, these films also launched a crop of superstars. In the vast majority of cases, these films were professionally produced.
Among Nollywood films of the 90s, Living in Bondage clearly stands out. Not only did it contain enduring emotional resonance, but its financial success also advanced the industry, providing a template for the Nollywood economic model, commonly referred to today as ‘old Nollywood’. As the' New Nollywood' continues to grow and improve in output and professionalism, these old movies still retain a strong influence on the industry, except in terms of technology and budget size.
Since the ‘New Nollywood’ began producing remakes, the question that the audience keeps asking is what the actual aim of these remakes are, and why are we telling these stories continually when they are nothing like the original?
Personally, I think that remaking movies has become way too prevalent in the movie industry today and it is important to note that there is a methodological and detailed approach to these kinds of movies. But unfortunately, more often than not, what we see is a movie being remade when it doesn’t have to be. There is no clear direction or noteworthy nod to the original, just a rushed production maligned by poor reinterpretation, disjointed storyline, plot holes and a host of other problems.
The most recent example is the 2022 remake of Glamour Girls. It was originally released in 1994 and had such a great impact that from the onset, it was always clear that nailing a remake was going to be a tall order. The original is regarded by many as one of the finest productions the country has ever seen, detailing prevalent societal woes at the time which are very relevant even in this day and age. The remake, however, doesn’t have so much going for it. The story leads you on but then climaxes abruptly, leaving you with so many burning questions that almost insult your intelligence. The remake is woeful to say the least, smearing some of the childhood memory and spins that the original film managed to give when it was released twenty-eight years ago.
A similar canyon can be seen with Aki & Paw Paw and its remake. The classic comedy film was an amazing serial feature that created a fresh breath of air in the early 2000s as the characters were effortlessly humorous, and although the 2021 remake of the film did attempt to preserve some of the original feelings, it fell flat on arrival.
The sad reality is, out of 10 movie remakes in Nigeria, 9 are atrocious. Most of them don’t even try. What we get more than half the time is a half-baked story colliding with technology upgrades and pretending it is a new beginning.
An interesting thing to note is that the Nollywood classic remakes that have been gracing our screens since 2019 up to date are directed by different directors who have made projects that are worth watching. So why do they keep making the same error with the remakes? Is it that the audience’s expectations are too high since the industry is clearly on an upward trajectory or these stories should just not have been touched or revisited for the sanity of the general public or maybe the production companies need to go back to the drawing board and figure out a different approach.
No rule obviously states that remakes have to be bad. Recently, the number of movies that have hit the big screen and have failed to live up to their predecessors, with little consideration for the quality of the film, is quite worrying. There is nothing more unappealing than remaking classic movies that lack the charm or effort of their originals or simply bringing back a dead franchise just for the sake of cash.