- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

Word spread last week that Warner Bros. plans to remake the 1978 classic film "Superman" with director Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") at the helm.

The original had an iconic score, a heroic performance from then-unknown Christopher Reeve and a spirit that appealed to the child in all of us.

Yeah, they can really improve on that.

Have our attention spans grown so short that we need to remake films that are only 25 years old? And why this particular film? In the pantheon of comic book movies, "Superman" arguably stands alone as the finest of its genre. Impeccable casting, from the mumbling genius of Marlon Brando to the sniveling Ned Beatty, transformed the film into the measuring stick against which all superhero yarns should be compared.

And rarely are screen heroines more worthy of saving than Margot Kidder's feisty Lois Lane.

The film's special effects may not be digitally perfect, but they suspend our disbelief enough to buy the film's original tag line "You'll believe a man can fly."

Maybe I'm just feeling old. I'm at an age now (34) where movies from my childhood have gathered enough dust that the idea of a remake isn't so far-fetched.

Yesterday, yet another hit the big screen. This time, "Manhunter" was released only 16 years after the original hit the nation's big screens.

The film's director, good ol' Mr. Ratner again, has told the press it is a re-imagining of Mr. Harris' novel and not a remake.

Right. And "Star Trek" isn't set in space.

"Red Dragon" is the second screen treatment of author Thomas Harris' novel of the same name featuring Hannibal Lecter, one of filmdom's most compelling villains.

The strong box office receipts for 2001's "Hannibal" (the sequel to 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs") which introduced film audiences to Sir Anthony Hopkins turn as Mr. Lecter, convinced Hollywood to crank out another Hannibal saga. Even though the tale already has been told and told well by most accounts.

To the new film's credit, "Red Dragon" features a passel of A-list actors, from Ralph Fiennes to Edward Norton and the Oscar-winning screenwriter from "Lambs," Ted Tally. And Mr. Hopkins of course, the man-eater himself.

Money, of course, is the reason remakes are made.

They are a quick sell. For every "Psycho," the poorly received 1998 retelling of Hitchcock's masterwork, there are others that were box office hits: 2002's "Mr. Deeds," 1996's "Nutty Professor" and 2001's "The Planet of the Apes."

Sadly, the trend to revisit films less than a generation old has been more evident in recent years.

The 1997 bomb "The Jackal" starring Bruce Willis revamped the 1973 classic "The Day of the Jackal." Pierce Brosnan stepped into screen legend Steve McQueen's shoes in 1999's "The Thomas Crown Affair," a retelling of the 1968 heist flick.

And rumors of a new version of 1988's "Dirty Dancing," possibly starring Ricky Martin, have been bouncing around Hollywood like Anna Nicole Smith on a Twinkies bender.

Why not remake films with great concepts that somehow failed to rise to the occasion? Wouldn't "Waterworld's" fantastical premise benefit from a sophisticated retelling minus the bland Kevin Costner?

Or, let's remake clunkers. Pairing Adam Sandler and David Spade in a new "Ishtar" couldn't be any worse than the original and also would prevent two underwhelming talents from making original stinkers on their own.

A handful of stories survive, even thrive, through multiple tellings.

"A Star is Born" provides a sturdy enough framework to endure the dubious talents of Kris Kristofferson (in the 1976 version). And Shakespeare's works continually inspire fresh, dramatic spins.

But today's remakers of yesterday's gems aren't quite in a league with the great Bard.

If we're ignorant enough to buy tickets to the new "Dirty Dancing" or "Superman," we deserve to lie in the beds we've remade.

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