There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

We've known for a long time that the moguls in Hollywood are mostly risk averse, preferring to green-light projects that are remakes of popular movies and television shows from the past, or sequels to them. After all, if people liked it in the past, they'll probably like it now.

There are a couple of good examples coming down the pike: Fox's television show Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, which is coming in mid-January, and the soon-to-be-released movie I Am Legend, starring Will Smith as Robert Neville, which is a remake of the cult movie The Omega Man (1971) which starred Charlton Heston, which was a remake of the 1964 horror movie The Last Man On Earth, which starred Vincent Price. All of those were based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend.

The Sarah Conner Chronicles will at least have the possible virtue of new content, even if none of the actors is the same as the movie trilogy. I Am Legend looks to be strictly a remake, with the location moved from Los Angeles to New York and with the Robert Neville character going from white to black.

I have mixed feelings about the latter, much as I did when The Honeymooners movie did the same thing to Ralph Kramden, et. al., and when the 2003 television remake of Battlestar Galactica did a sex change on the Starbuck role and turned him into a woman. Jackie Gleason was iconic as Kramden, and similarly, Heston's version of Neville is the definitive one. It just didn't seem right to me. Perhaps in cases like that, you have to make the actor as different as possible from the original, in an attempt to stake out another version of the show that will catch the audience's attention and make them forget about the previous version, at least temporarily. It's great that minority actors are cast in lead roles these days without anyone blinking an eye. Still...

Perhaps for the under-30 set who have never seen The Omega Man, this will become the definitive version. Those of us who are old enough to remember 1971, however, will always remember Charlton Heston as well.