The roar of indignation echoed across the internet.
“What do you MEAN, they’re remaking ‘The Princess Bride?’ ”
To be fair to Hollywood – probably not. The whole mess started with an off-hand comment by a Sony CEO that some “very famous people” wanted to take another crack at the 1987 family favorite. There’s been no official announcement since. Indeed, the only word of any kind since then seems to have been an unnamed USA Today source confirming that Sony has no plans to touch the film.
No surprise. If Sony meant to test the waters, the studio quickly found them full of Screaming Eels. In a world where we seem to grow ever more divided, EVERYBODY from ordinary fans to stars of the film to prominent political figures closed ranks to defend the movie. And since ‘The Princess Bride’ is one of the most quotable movies ever made, everyone had a chance to tweet one of their favorite lines as part of the resistance:
“There’s a shortage of perfect movies in this world. It would be a pity to damage this one.” – Cary Elwes
“NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Sonny, The Princess Bride is the greatest thing, in the world—except for a nice MLT, mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I love that. DON’T MESS WITH PERFECTION.” – Sen. Ted Cruz
“INCONCEIVABLE!!” – Half the internet, simultaneously
The only thing missing was Inigo Montoya drawing his sword and making his famous introduction … oops, no wait, there it is in a meme. We’re good.
It’s heartwarming, of course, to see people defending a story, especially this one. This was William Goldman’s favorite novel and screenplay, one that made it to the screen against tremendous odds. It spent over a decade in “development hell,” with many studios convinced it was unfilmable. Its initial release came and went with barely a ripple, since the marketing department didn’t know what to do with it – was it a romance, a fantasy, a comedy, what?
Home video saved it and made it an icon. Small wonder. A fairy tale that both celebrated and mocked its own roots, a story with swashbuckling action and tongue-in-cheek wit, a movie that could wholeheartedly embrace true love (or is it “twoo wuv?) while also quoting “Life is pain, princess; anyone who says differently is selling you something” – what’s not to like?
Or more to the point, what’s to remake?
Hollywood, of course, loves the remake and the reboot. It’s the safe choice, with a built-in audience. And it works more often than we think. “The Wizard of Oz” with Judy Garland was the second feature film on the subject. So was Charlton Heston’s “Ben-Hur.” “The Magnificent Seven” was a resetting of “The Seven Samurai,” while the comedy “Airplane!” took the script of “Zero Hour!” almost word-for-word.
But in each of those cases, there was something new to be brought to the mix. A different tone or genre, or a new take by an actor or director, or new technology to better capture the story. If all you’re doing is retreading the same ground, you might as well just re-release the film and have done with it. You’re not going to take it anywhere new – and you might well make it worse.
You don’t have to be Hollywood to understand that. Most of us know what it’s like. We get in ruts. We make the same decisions over and over. Sometimes they’re good decisions that became merely comfortable ones. Sometimes they’re Charlie Brown’s football, promising over and over again that THIS time it will work.
Deep down, we know we have to explore and grow. That’s why our best stories take someone beyond the comfortable and force them to change. The reckless and rootless Huckleberry Finn learns maturity and the worth of a man. The stay-at-home Bilbo Baggins learns confidence and an appreciation of the wider world.
And yes, the farm boy Westley remakes himself into the hero his love needs him to be – and learns that even the most competent hero can’t do it alone.
Remaking movies can be tedium. But remaking lives is essential. What lives, grows.
Anything else is simply inconceivable.