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March 04, 2019

Your Favourite Childhood Classics Are Getting Darker Remakes

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

Gone are the days when Mowgli was a cheerful jungle kid with nothing to worry about and Sabrina was a simple teenage witch who only had high school drama to deal with. We analyse the differences between movies from the past and their recent remakes and talk to four film enthusiasts about why classic movies are being remade in a sinister avatar

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Most of us had our first brush with The Jungle Book on Sunday morning television when a little kid would croon the opening title track called Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hain. In that Hindi version, Baloo bore an uncanny resemblance to Winnie The Pooh, Bagheera was the panther-mentor that we all secretly wished we had and Kaa was the villainous but goofy python whose plans to eat the man-cub were effectively foiled. The 2016 Disney remake was a more sinister rendition with Shere Khan proving to be a formidable enemy as he prowled around slowly, threatening Raksha‘s little wolf-cubs and seizing the throne for himself after killing Akela. Even Kaa metamorphosed into a female, and voiced by the seductive Scarlett Johansson, was a far cry from the original googly-eyed snake. But nothing prepared us for the recently released Netflix version which is too dark for PG-13 audiences. The movie opens with the death of Mowgli’s human parents, and we first see him covered in their blood. Then comes the scene where Mowgli is swimming in a pond and sees Shere Khan approaching and hides underwater. You can physically feel your heart palpitating as the blood from the tiger’s jaw colours the water, and some air bubbles escape from Mowgli’s mouth, almost giving him away. Mowgli has definitely come a long way since being an insouciant kid and has responsibilities to shoulder and deaths to avenge.

Fan speak: Azmina Doctor, a 27-year-old architect grew up watching the Jungle Book and now is the perfect audience for the darker adult versions. “The original jungle book only catered to children, hence the cheerful vibe. Today, these fairy tales and adventure stories aren’t only meant for children; they are a creative means of expression through realistic animation. Movies are darker now because people aren’t afraid of showing what’s true. If a boy like Mowgli does exist, he isn’t living in the fun, upbeat version of the original Jungle Book for sure.”

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

While she may have been the innocent girl-next-door in the original Sabrina The Teenage Witch sitcom, the youngest Spellman gets a woke, feminist and slightly weird makeover in the Netflix reboot titled The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (CAOB). While the original version had witchdom sprung upon Sabrina on her 16th birthday, the remake reveals that the witch has known about her legacy all along. It’s also completely devoid of the lighthearted jokes and instead makes way for a whole lot of gore. Consider the opening sequence in the ’90s version where Sabrina is delightfully trying on iconic looks in front of a mirror. The CAOB version is illustrated and much more spooky and even goes onto show maggot-ridden skulls and creepy graveyards. Sabrina’s parents make fleeting appearances in the original version but they are pronounced deceased right at the beginning of the new one, perpetuating the kids-with-dead-parents-go-onto-achieve-greatness angle. But perhaps the most macabre plotline of them all is the one where Sabrina knows that she’s expected to sign herself over to the Dark Lord on her 16th birthday. The young witch, however, is a bit of a rebel and nonchalantly comments, “I have reservations about saving myself for the Dark Lord. Why does he get to decide what I do or don’t do with my body?” It would be safe to say that Spellman might even go on to duel against the devil himself and stand her ground; something that her earlier counterpart probably never even dreamed of.

Fan speak: Gibran Noorani, a 32-year-old dentist and writer who has a penchant for creating content that appeals to millennials says, “Sabrina came at a time when the Harry Potters of the world hadn’t taken centre stage. We saw fans embracing a more brooding form of storytelling as the seven books and eight movies progressed. Even the Avengers are taking a darker route since the audience who has grown up watching them have matured and now relate to the complexities of characters and the personal turmoils they may be going through. Taking this into perspective, Netflix has revamped Sabrina by giving it a fresh but dark look. The characters have their own bitter charm this time including the lovable aunts who would do anything for Sabrina, even if it’s not always morally acceptable.”

Pet Sematary

The truth is that cult movies like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining should be left alone even though we are now years ahead in terms of employing an accomplished SFX team. The allure of the popular movie adapted from the eponymous Stephen King book lies in its worn-out look; the fright doubled because of its tasteful campiness. This is not true of King’s Pet Sematary though. The horror novel written in 1989 was adapted into a film in 1989 and while it was filled with scares for its time, it doesn’t evoke the same kind of horror that watching The Shining does all these years later. Let’s be honest, we’ve seen people come back to life all the time in movies as zombies, ghosts, and vampires. In Pet Sematary, somebody is making a deliberate decision to bury a deceased loved one in a cursed Indian Burial Ground that will turn them into the living dead. And while the original version was replete with horror cliches — screams and loud sounds — the new one relies on the concept of grief and whimsy to get its point across. The trailer shows a bunch of kids walking in a straight line wearing strange animal masks and banging drums. Just plain ominous. Then there’s the almost human-in-appearance cat Church that kickstarts Pet Sematary’s descent into hell. It’s important to note that the cat is also quite menacing compared to its original counterpart who tried to scare audiences but just ended up looking like a cute little soft toy instead. In the trailer, we also catch a glimpse of a figure with an exposed, gnarled back, crawling across the floor of a hallway toward one of the characters; Stephen King loyalists will recognise her as Zelda from the original book, a welcome change from the cackling and demented ghoul played by a grown man in the 1989 version. We’re hoping that the scene where the protagonist has to fight his son is redeemed as well since the original clearly looked like a doll had been substituted in the scene.

Fan speak: 21-year-old Abdullah Ubharay is a law student who spends his free time watching movies and analysing the tiny plot nuances that the regular watcher tends to miss. “I like Stephen King because his writing is very real. He toys with his characters and doesn’t shy away from absurd storylines. In Pet Sematary, he writes about human experiences and real, psychological fears. He doesn’t follow a particular genre, instead, his stories create a genre in themselves. Pet Sematary tells us that real monsters live within us and borrows from King’s most famous adage “Monsters are real. Ghosts are real too. They live inside us and sometimes they win.” The best part about his writing is that it is not repetitive and injects horror into ordinary lives.”

Detective Pikachu

When the trailer for Detective Pikachu released in November last year, the collective internet rejoiced at the return of our favourite Pokémon. Pikachu, however, seems to have hit an awesome sort of puberty as his limited vocabulary of ‘pika pika’ has evolved into the glib eloquence of Ryan Reynold’s voice. One of the main plot deviations is the complete absence of the ubiquitous trainer Ash, who has been traded for Tim Goodman. We don’t know much about the story of the film yet, but the original Detective Pikachu video game was a missing-person mystery, far removed from the world of badges and tournaments that we normally see in the franchise. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City — a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world — Goodman and Pikachu encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters while attempting to unearth the secrets of his father’s disappearance and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe. We haven’t seen Team Rocket in the trailer yet so we don’t know who the antagonists are but there is the looming presence of the evil mastermind who employs the services of three mean-looking Greninja enforcers, who are seen chasing and attacking our heroes throughout the trailer. Mewtwo, the corrupted clone of Mew also made an appearance in the recently released second trailer of the movie and from the faint purple glow in Charizard’s eyes when he’s duelling Pikachu, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched a thought to assume that he’s controlling the Pokémon. Did we mention Pikachu is battling a caffeine addiction?

Fan speak: 26-year-old toy photographer Shahzad Bhiwandiwala is a die-hard pop culture enthusiast and prides himself on actively being part of a large number of fandoms.  “Change is something that fandoms are generally unaccepting of but Detective Pikachu seems to be the exception to the rule. Pokemon has always been one of those things that kept mixing its stories up and each story had the same overall feeling even if the stories being told weren’t of Ash, Brock and Misty. This change is something that Detective Pikachu executes perfectly with none other than what fans have endearingly dubbed as the awesome amalgamation of Pikachu and Deadpool — Pikapool. The premise of finding the protagonist is an interesting one as we all know that Ash never had a father in the show and goes off on this grand adventure at the age of 10. There are countless theories in relation to this with my favourite being that Ash imagined all these adventures. And the protagonist in the movie is clearly seen to have wanted to become a Pokémon master as a child. Maybe we will get an Ash after all.”

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