We all know the Hollywood Well of Original Ideas is only as full as the talent the industry employs, which is one of the reasons why the much less profit-centered independent side of cinema will always generate more creativity. But this knowledge doesn’t make the constant string of remakes any easier, and it’s reaching a fever pitch now that Fox is wiping the dust off of West Side Story. A remake is being considered as a potential project for the living legend Steven Spielberg, who has expressed interest in updating the classic musical. Isn’t there some lesser-known musical from the 1950s or 1960s that actually deserves more audience attention?
Before we all get our panties in a snapping twist, all the director has done so far is show an interest - possibly in the form of a half-shrug as he rocked his head side to side. The Deadline story is much more concerned with possible upcoming brass changes in Fox and DreamWorks, whose decline in output over the years seems to be a sign of its future dissolution, as its Co-Chairman/CEO Stacey Snider is rumored to be taking a top spot at Fox soon, with Spielberg maybe following her.
But we’re more interested in "why" this remake is happening more than we are in the "how" it’s being produced. I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but I appreciate them and am welcoming of feature adaptations that we’ve never seen before, such as Rob Marshall’s upcoming star-studded take on Into the Woods. In fact, almost any other entry on composer Stephen Sondheim’s resume would make more sense for a feature revival than West Side Story. It’s not the first time that someone will recreate a former Best Picture winner, but the mental process that goes into that kind of decision must involve catapults of shit being flung into walls at high speeds, with only the silliest ideas sticking.
And why is this something Spielberg wants to do? His filmography is musical-lite, with the Temple of Doom opening serving as a fine exception. It’s no secret that he’s big on adaptations, both of novels and of people’s lives, and he’s got a couple of re-imagined remakes under his belt in War of the Worlds and Hook. But I really wish he would just finish with the oft-delayed Robopocalypse, the ridiculously expensive feature take on Daniel H. Wilson’s best-selling novel. And while he’s doing that, he could mull over the different ways he could handle West Side Story, such as "running away from it forever."
A lot of what made Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ 1961 film such a classic is the relatively light-hearted approach to gang violence at the time. A group of Puerto Ricans getting into fisticuffs with a bunch of Polish white guys doesn’t exactly scream "modern America." I think a more relevant modernization would involve adding more songs to Showtime’s Homeland.
But there’s gotta be someone else out there who thinks this is a good idea? Is it one of you? Let us know in the comments as you tap your feet to the following video.