Should Older Blockbusters Get The Remaster Treatment?

As I’ve gone back to enjoy more and more older films over the past few months, an idea keeps sticking in my head: Would it be wrong to update certain films like we do games?

Before you bring out the pitchforks, let me clarify a little bit. I’m not talking about remakes of classic films. We see plenty of those; some good, some not so good. No, the idea that’s been ticking in my brain for a while now is about updating visual effects in films where they have not aged as well as the rest of the movie.

Enhancing Stories Is Nothing New

I’m not talking about the “Special Edition” treatment that polarized both Star Wars fans and general movie buffs (even though I confess I enjoy them). There would be no adding of scenes, altering dialog, or anything along those lines. Rather, it’d be a straight up graphical improvement to make them more in line with current big screen standards.

I know it seems like an almost blasphemous concept, but are films so sacred to be immune from such a thing? Just about every other form of entertainment media gets a comparable update to what I’m discussing.

A few years back, the Scott Pilgrim comics were given all new hardcover editions that fully colorized them (they were originally released in black and white). Just last month, we got word that The Walking Dead comics were also getting color re-releases. Hell, even books get new editions, sometimes with added scenes, annotations, drawings, and a host of other things to enhance the story fans love.

The video game industry has been practicing this concept for several years (at least two console generations) now. There are a number of gaming remasters that have managed to bring classic titles–hell, even ones that aren’t that old–to a new generation of gamers.

The best remasters, in my opinion, are those games that manage to update things without changing the core of the gameplay experience; or at least give you the option for both! The recent Command & Conquer remaster, for example, handled it incredibly well. It updated all the technical aspects (from graphics to audio) and gave players expanded options for their gameplay experience. They could choose a more updated control layout, making the gameplay a bit more in-line with modern RTS games, or stick to the original layout.

There are a host of other impressive gaming remasters/ports over the years (from Crash Bandicoot to Call of Duty), and it’s a trend that isn’t likely to stop any time soon. The film side of things, however, hasn’t embraced that idea, and largely seems opposed to it. Hell, last year, when Cats sent an update to theaters with improved visuals, it was mostly met with jokes and derision–although that’s partly because Cats has a host of other problems associated with it.

What Are The Benefits

Goofy as it is, Twister is still one of the most enjoyable disaster films around. You could remake the movie (or whatever’s going on with the reboot in the works) with the exact same script and there’s no way it could recapture the magic and chemistry from all those involved. So why not give it a graphical facelift? Perk up those tornado VFX, which once help revolutionize things in the industry, and make it look even more badass.

I’d happily contend, and argue, that a re-release of Twister, with improved VFX, would be just as big a blockbuster as when it first launched. The same could be said for a number of films, which hold up in terms of enjoyment and story content, but not as much visually….Hell, who wouldn’t want to watch TRON: Legacy with a digitally de-aged Jeff Bridges that doesn’t look wonky?

My impetus for finally sitting down and writing this out was a recent re-watch of DragonHeart (the original with Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery). It’s a film that still manages to whip a good deal of ass, but those Dragon VFX are rough. For me, I can still enjoy the experience, but younger audiences (e.g. my kids) don’t get the same level of immersion and have a more difficult time getting past the dated visuals.

The Mummy (with Brendan Fraser) is another film in a similar boat. It is still an insane amount of fun, but the visuals, which were so impressive for the time, are tough to get past.

A visual upgrade would not only be appealing to older fans, giving us the chance to enjoy our favorite films once again in a fresh way, but it would also be more attractive to younger audiences who might be off-put by the visuals. Yes, we can always make the argument that previous generations should embrace older films and look past things, but you can’t control someone’s first impressions. It’s an easy argument to make among diehard film buffs constantly plugged into the industry and certain social media circles, but general audiences don’t care.

Not to mention the current state of the film industry and how we’re all dealing with the ongoing pandemic. As we’ve seen, unfortunately, studios are still struggling to adapt to the shut down. While some films have started production once again, there are a number of projects currently still in a holding pattern. Between that and not knowing when NEW films will be able to release, studios are looking for ways to make money beyond shooting all new films.

Matrix Reloaded (Music Scene) - Burly Brawl - Neo Vs Smiths GIF ...

Don’t get me wrong here, I know VFX work isn’t exactly cheap, and would still require a lot of hard work to update. There are other technical issues to consider as well, and depending on how a film was mastered for release, a “remaster” might not even be possible. If feasible, however, such a thing would still be significantly less expensive than shooting an entirely new project from scratch.

Studios could re-launch select films (with blockbuster potential) to hit drive-ins or even for new physical media releases to make some money off existing properties. Not only could they get some additional cash flow, but these could potentially be used to fill any gaps in schedules down the road when things finally open back up.

Technology is a constantly shifting thing, and many could see this remaster idea as a slippery slope. When would we stop? Would Twister get an update every few years? At what point would improvements begin to affect the story or director’s intentions?

There’s definitely a taboo in the idea, but as other media/entertainment has embraced the idea (hell, even comics come out with special colorized editions, etc), why not film? I think it’s a concept worth exploring, if only to get more perspective.

What would you think about remastering films with improved VFX for the modern age? Which films would you want to see get handled that way first?