There are many legitimate reasons to remake a film. Often, filmmakers produce a remake because the original film had a strong concept, but the execution was somehow lacking. However, there are instances in which filmmakers can justify remaking an already strong movie.
The Taking of Pelham 123 is one such example. Released in 2009, the film is based on the novel of the same name, which was previously adapted for the big screen in 1974, followed by a made-for-TV adaptation in 1998.
Stories from the production of the movie illustrate why remaking it was a smart idea. Although the original film already offers viewers a thrilling experience, the remake stands on its own due to these key reasons:
It Makes the Story Relevant.
After being hired to write the screenplay, David Koepp knew it was important to make sure his updated take on the material took advantage of the technological developments that had occurred since the original film was released: Koepp explains: “I wrote many drafts to try and put it in the present day and keep all the great execution that was there from the first one. It’s thirty years later so you have to take certain things into account.”
This is a very smart approach. Although a modern audience can watch an older film and appreciate that the characters don’t have access to the same technology they would now, some of the tension is lost when viewers can’t relate to that world. Again, they understand that characters don’t have tools like mobile phones and GPS technology, but they also have to view the movie through a filter that prevents them from fully engaging with the characters. They simply can’t put themselves in the shoes of the characters because they don’t inhabit the same reality. By updating the source material so that modern technology plays a more important role in the story, the film’s writers make it more relevant to the average moviegoer.
It Explores New Angles.
Great novels often provide filmmakers with a wealth of inspiration. Sometimes, as part of deciding what type of story they want to tell, filmmakers must choose to focus only on certain elements of the source material. For example, it’s now widely-accepted that the original novel of The Godfather is a pretty melodramatic piece of writing that includes a lot of lurid material that the film leaves out. Rather than telling such a lurid story, director Francis Ford Coppola decided to focus on the timeless elements, like the relationship between the father and his sons and the struggle for power, that more closely resembled a great Shakespearean tragedy.
In other words, when adapting a novel, filmmakers aren’t always restricted to telling one type of story. They can take the film in numerous potential directions.
Although the original The Taking of Pelham 123 is certainly a thrilling movie, it doesn’t have the kinetic energy of a modern action movie. This doesn’t mean the source material didn’t allow for this type of film. It simply means that this style of filmmaking was simply less widespread when the first adaptation was released.
Directed by Tony Scott, who is best known for kinetic action pictures like Top Gun, the remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 injects the story with a degree of high-intensity energy that’s perfect for today’s audiences. As such, it respects the original, but also explores new directions.
It Celebrates New York City.
The Taking of Pelham 123 is a story that’s entrenched in New York City culture. The original film achieved some authenticity by filming on an abandoned subway line, but for the remake, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority granted an unparalleled degree of access to its facilities. This is a unique situation. The MTA’s main priority involves making sure the millions of people occupying NYC at any given time are able to rely on the subway to get where they need to go. Accommodating film productions is not something the MTA is known for.
However, officials at the MTA decided this project was worth making some concessions to. Alberteen Anderson, director of film and special events for the MTA NYC Transit Authority, explains: “We thought, ‘This is our movie—it’s about New York City Transit—and we really wanted it (to) look great.”
Thus, the MTA granted the filmmakers permission to shoot a major sequence at an extremely busy platform in NYC’s Grand Central Terminal. They let the production team take photos of their new top-secret control room. Additionally, the cast and numerous members of the crew participated in a class that actual MTA workers must pass before they can work near active subway lines. The result is a surprisingly authentic movie that celebrates the city it takes place in, while also proving that sometimes it’s worthwhile to remake an already strong film.