Coaching my colleagues on their presentation skills recently I’ve been thinking a lot about good and bad narratives.
And two more 80s remakes hitting the box office, Karate Kid and The A Team, brought this into perspective; in particular the relationship between content and delivery. C.C. Colton couldn’t possibly have imagined the negative impact of his aphorism ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.
To be fair I’ve not seen either of these movies, but in my experience most remakes simply don’t work (and I’m being polite here). They are never as good as the original, in fact they don’t even come close. Usually they’re just a case of form over substance.
Of course that only annoys oldies like me, or younger retro fans. After all, for those who haven’t seen the previous movie isn’t ‘my’ remake ‘their’ original?
And yet I’m not against adapting stories. One of my favourite guilty pleasures is Cruel Intentions, the almost verbatim teen adaption of Dangerous Liaisons. It’s clever, witty, has a great cast and tells the story in its own compelling way. And that’s the clue.
A great story can be retold thousands of times, depending on how you tell it. Take Shakespeare, an inspiration to narrative makers the world over. I’ve seen everything from toe-tapping musicals to a gangster movie (Joe Macbeth) based on Will’s works. The quality may have varied, but I’ve found something in them all.
Where so many ‘take two’ blockbusters fall down is that they try to tell the same story in the same way. No amount of special effects can cover that up.
And that’s where so many pitch narratives fall down, failing to achieve a more individual, compelling, and memorable way to take the audience on a journey. Adaptation, not imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.