Great stories today have a way of breaking out of the original medium. The best re-imaginings transcend the source material in ways that make their new creation feel inevitable, even necessary. The re-imaginings on this list elevate their source material beyond expectation.
1. A complete vision
The movie “Blade Runner” makes most best movie lists, regardless of remake status or genre. The source material is a Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” Dick’s work is great, but probably wouldn’t be so widely known if not for the movie. Ridley Scott’s movie is transcendent, rendered in atmospheric noir and visually stunning. The film’s theme is eternal: What does it mean to be human? Brilliantly, the film does not provide a definitive answer.
There are many versions, but the digitally remastered DVD set is worth it if your home sound system is excellent.
2. Timeless quest
Like “Blade Runner,” “The Wizard of Oz” is sometimes proposed as the greatest movie of all time. The 1939 movie, adapted from a children’s fantasy novel by L. Frank Baum, is heralded as the most influential ever. The movie leverages its moment in time (as Hollywood was transitioning to newfangled color film) by starting in black and white and switching to color when Dorothy awakes in Oz.
The late great Roger Ebert theorized that its popularity comes from the fact that “the underlying story penetrates straight to the deepest insecurities of childhood.”
3. Daring resurrection
Frank Miller’s “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” recreated not just the titular character, but also the cultural attitude toward comics overall, which shifted from campy to gritty, from fun to philosophical. Miller’s reinvention of Batman after a campy era proved that absolutely any material can be resurrected and transformed. TDKR has its detractors, but its bold influence cannot be understated.
4. Subversive joy
“Matilda” is a good book by the great Roald Dahl about a girl who uses her telekinetic powers against a tyrannical headmistress and her terrible parents. A fine movie was also made. But as a musical, critic David Benedict says “it transcends its source.” The New York Times called “Matilda” “the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain.”
The trend of turning everything awesome into a musical or stage play finds its “raison d’etre” in a show such as “Matilda.” Search for tickets on sites like Telecharge before the show closes in 2017.
5. The writing, the acting
Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica reboot turned campy source material from the first series into a dark saga, rife with political intricacies and compelling characters. It too makes plenty of best-of lists.
Even if you loved the original, the remake transcends in pretty much every way. Incredible writing and performances combine with piercing and surprising examinations of power, identity, war and community.
6. The element of surprise
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” has developed a cult following, but critics have described the re-imaginings as “better than it had any right to be.” Its sequel, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” is equally awesome or possibly even better although “Rise” had the element of surprise. The well-crafted characters are all motivated by love, even as they stumble toward disaster. And it pretty much has you rooting for the downfall of humanity.