When is something both old and new at the same time? Before you jump out of your shoes to reply – we are not considering used cars, antiques, second-hand clothing or collectibles, or even buying a home that someone else has lived in and then placed it on the market. While we are at it, let’s say that theatrical revivals or new productions of operas written long ago are not part of this discussion either.
For the record, the first dramatic play that I ever saw was Antigone which was written by Sophocles nearly 2500 years ago. Fortunately I did not see the original production. I saw an adaption in the late 1970’s written by the French dramatist Jean Anouilh in the 1940’s. If I had seen the Sophocles original performance, you would not be reading this blog. The second play that I ever saw was the far newer musical – The Pirates of Penzance which Gilbert & Sullivan created and which premiered in New York a mere 132 years ago. Each of these have been performed many many times, on stages in every corner of the world. The point of mentioning them is that you may see a performance of one of these in the future. For you, it will be new, yet each are quite old.
Okay – you should know by now that I’m talking about the movies. Some have said that all films are spin-offs of the first boy meets girl story. I can’t say when the first film version of that came out. But you all know the man and woman I’m talking about – the cute couple known evermore as Adam and Eve.
For our discussion today, we’ll have a look a three ideas from years back which are soon to arrive at a movie house near you. One is a remake, the second is a new film based on an original novel written in 1963 and brought to the silver screen in 1968, and the last is a sequel, and it will be the last one in the series. So, as you can see – the old and new occur at the same time, once more.
For our first example, I can tell you that the original probably played at a theater near you in 1971. That’s 40 years ago. Directed by Sam Peckinpah, and starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George, this film was called Straw Dogs. It is most easily described this way: A young American math professor and his English wife come to live in rural England and face increasingly vicious local harassment. Hoffman runs afoul of some local bullies.
They bust his balls, and tease him, then to make sure he got the message – they rape his wife. He has to fight them on his own property, and the violence is extreme to put as mild a spin on it that I can. It was disturbing, provocative, and asked you to think about doing things that if you had a choice, you would never think about or do them.
Fast forward to the present. Opening on September 16, 2011 will be a new and updated version of Straw Dogs. This one is directed by Rod Lurie. The couple in question are a LA screenwriter and his wife. The locale has been changed to the Deep South of the USA. Apparently they’re calling this a re-make. Others have said it is an unnecessary remake. No, I’ve not seen it, but I am already disturbed by the fact that the posters are thematically the same.
Example Two: This one appeared in 1968 and since that time has been called one of the most iconic and revered films in the science fiction genre. I’m not talking about Kubrick’s 2001 which also opened in 1968 – instead let’s focus on the other of these two famed films. Yes, I’m talking about Planet of the Apes. Since that one is more than 40 years old, I’ll describe it for you: Deep in the future, three American astronauts awaken from a deep hibernation to find that their space craft has crash landed on a planet where humans are unable to speak, and the dominate species are the apes. The humans are pre-lingual and uncivilized to say the least.
The simians have speech and technology – they wear clothes, live in houses, watch TV, and do everything that we humans do now. That film had a twist at its conclusion that no one who saw this movie (either then or now) could have seen coming, and the film proved to be so popular that it launched plenty of sequels, TV series, comics and the like which followed in its wake.
Opening on August 5th, 2011 – a mere three weeks away is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This one is not set in the future, instead this one is set in present day San Francisco. In this one, humans are still the dominant species but the question that comes up in this film is – Yes, but for how long?
You see, a miracle of science has been created, a way of genetic engineering, and this process was tested on laboratory animals, specifically chimpanzees, and gorillas. In a small amount of time, the development of intelligence in apes has been accelerated to such a degree, that humans are soon fighting for their lives as a war begins for supremacy of life on earth. Okay make that in San Francisco.
James Franco, Freida Pinto, and Andy Serkis are the headliners. They’re supported by such luminaries as Brian Cox, and John Lithgow, as well as the marvelously superior technology that we have available to us today.
These apes may be the creations of the CGI wizards, but I’m sure they’ll look better than James Whitmore and Roddy McDowell in makeup and costumes. That’s what’s new.
On the other hand, men are still men, or maybe I should say humans are still humans, and the thought of being something other than the dominant species, is still scary. And that my friends, is what we can call ‘old’.
Our last film is the latest in the Harry Potter series. This one is called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part II. In fact, this one is the last of the series. So we won’t forget that fact, check out the film poster which grandly proclaims: It All Ends 7-15!
Harry and his friends, along with the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and various and sundry villains were first brought to the movies with the 2001 film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The source was the novel of the same name by J.K. Rowling, who went on to pen a number of additional Harry Potter books – and all of them have been made into movies.
In fact, the three leads: Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, have remained a constant. When the first film came out, Radcliffe was 12, Watson was 11, and Grint was 13. Now each of them are adults. As they’ve grown on-screen, we members of the audience have aged along with them,.
Time flies when you’re having fun either acting in a film, or watching these actors perform in the wonderful Potter series as members of the audience. We don’t regret that Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint are now world-famous, or that author J.K. Rowling has become wealthier than she ever dreamed possible. For we too have been enriched, if not fiscally, than certainly on a scale that measures pleasure.
So what goes around, comes around. Sometimes it takes 40 to 50 years. But hey, who is counting? And of course as someone once said – and it was many, many years ago – there are no new ideas in Hollywood. Seems to be so, wouldn’t you say? In the case of this brand new Harry Potter film, it opens today, July 15th. See you on the ticket line!
[edit Friday Morning 071511] – Well plans don’t always work out the way you hope. Arriving at the theater at 08:55 AM for a 9:15 show, I was told that they only had a few seats left, and those were in the first row. For me this gives new meaning to the definition of the word ‘popular’. Plan B – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan didn’t work either. This film won’t be showing in Florida until July 29th (two weeks from today) and then only in one city – Orlando, which is a wee bit too far (131 miles) for me to drive to see a film.