Last week on Naver this article, on the subject of Hollywood remakes of Korean films, was one of the most-viewed.
“My Sassy Girl”, the Hollywood remake of “엽기적인 그녀”, will land in Korea on the 30th.
“My Sassy Girl” went straight to DVD in the United States but will open in theaters here. So it might be expected to be as popular here as the original film was.
But “My Sassy Girl”, as revealed at a press conference, fails to capture the charm of the original film and has to be evaluated as just another Hollywood romantic comedy.
We are now in a situation where the news that Hollywood plans to remake a Korean film has become expected rather than surprising. Korean films are attractive in that they have different kinds of stories from the usual Hollywood fare.
But from “The Lake House” (“시월애”) to “Mirror” (“거울속으로”) to “My Sassy Girl”, many domestic fans have found it difficult to like the Hollywood remakes.
To ask why Hollywood remakes fail to live up to the standards of the originals is to ask how closely tailored Korean movies are to Korean audiences.
The first remake, “The Lake House,” generated considerable hype because of its pairing of the American stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, who starred together in “Speed”. The remake was faithful to the original’s theme of a love able to transcend time and space, and opened at fourth place in the box office ranking.
But despite the star performances it grossed a disappointing $52 million overseas. In Korea it was a box office disaster. The domestic media called it a retread and gave it low marks.
“Mirror” opened in seventh place at the U.S. box office and put in an ok showing for a horror movie. Disappointed fans in Korea produced tepid grosses, though it did alright in the United States.
There is little difference between this and the situation in Hollywood after the success of “Mirror”, “The Ring” and so on that led to a boom in Hollywood remakes of Japanese and Thai horror films. This is because horror movies are an established genre in America and new elements were mixed in judiciously.
“The Lake House”, “Mirror”, and “My Sassy Girl” are remakes that fit into clear genres. These were the first Hollywood remakes of Korean films and experienced clear genre success to the degree that the originals fit into simple genres.
Moreover, in the early days when remake rights were sold to Hollywood, they were sold at low prices and without rights to participate in the remake’s production. The primary reason for this is that in the process of changing Korean sentiments into American sentiments the original work loses its artistic merits.
Hollywood is aware of the seriousness of these problems.
The American movie magazine Variety reported on the 22nd that Hollywood is taking a new approach to Asian movie remakes. According to the report, Hollywood studios have purchased the rights to many Asian films but has written few new scripts or begun new productions. Compared to the past there is now a lull in new intellectual property purchases.
Whether purchasing those rights or investing in a remake, costs are similar and prospective profits are low, so the problem is that the film may do poorly in Asia.
Because of this Hollywood is considering purchasing the remake rights to Asian films and then producing them in the local language. Zak Kadison, formerly of “My Sassy Girl” studio Gold Circle and currently head of Fox Atomic, said, “Hollywood studios are going to be doing remakes in local languages.”
Fox Star Studio, the union of 20th Century Fox’s Asian division and Fox International, is an example of this.
On the other hand, in the current atmosphere there is a need for Korean films to take a strategic approach to Hollywood.
A representative of ShinChine, the company which founded “엽기적인 그녀” producer Robot Taekwon V, announced, “in the past we were grateful to be able to sell the remake rights, but now we are putting together our own international strategy.”
This is not related to the current trend that when a contract for the sale of remake rights to Hollywood is concluded there is negotiation over distribution profits. CJ Entertainment is also preparing an international strategy to participate in the production of Hollywood remakes of its films.
The original Variety article on which this piece relied can be read here. (Frankly it seems the author of the Korean piece didn’t fully understand it.) There might already be some dividends from Hollywood’s new strategy as South Korea will soon give the world Beverly Hills Ninja 2. Pay dirt!