Disney have officially announced their motion-capture CGI 3D remake of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. The remaining Beatles have given their blessing, but we can't help but wonder whether this is finally one remake too far.
The official announcement was made over the weekend, and the accompanying press release quotes Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook as saying,
This is truly an inspired collaboration, and a wonderful opportunity to revisit one of the most imaginative and memorable musical fantasies of all time. To be working with the amazing folks at Apple Corps, and to have Bob [Zemeckis] helming the sub is truly as good as it gets. With all those incredible Beatles songs and imagery, the spectacular vision of Bob and his pioneering team at ImageMovers Digital, and a classic adventure full of wit and action, we're sure that moviegoers are going to have a great time on this latest trip to Pepperland.
On the other hand, we're left wondering what the point is. Yellow Submarine isn't a classic story - or even that good a story, for that matter - and what successes it has as a movie come as much from the animation and ability to capture the then-zeitgeist as anything else, with neither of those things being replicated by any remake. The remake won't even have the chance to hear new (and/or rare, depending on when you first saw the original) Beatles songs. So, really, why is this being made?
It feels like a mixture of failure of imagination - Why not do something new, even a new story inspired by other Beatles songs if that's the true impetus of the idea? - and strange hubris about the technology being used in making the new version. Zemeckis is quoted in the press release as saying,
'Yellow Submarine' is one of the greatest fantasy films of all time, and making this new 3D performance capture movie is a dream come true for me. With the latest advances in technology, we will be able to take moviegoers on a voyage unlike any other, and bring new excitement and dimension to Pepperland and the various sea worlds they encounter.
...But how will the latest advances in technology - especially performance capture, considering the movie is about five people (four real ones, two of whom are dead, and therefore unable to be performance captured) in a fantastic, surreal environment filled with non-human , which'll be freed of the realism that performance capture was created to represent - actually "bring new excitement"? Doesn't that excitement come from, you know, seeing something new?
(And that's not even going near the weird, creepy quality of Zemeckis' other CGI movies, The Polar Express and this year's upcoming A Christmas Carol, where characters look almost photo-realistic but not enough, leading you to wonder why they didn't just shoot it with real people on greenscreens.)
That Disney, the Beatles and Zemeckis want to relive past glories makes some level of cynical sense; it's the reason companies spend $4 billion to buy IP instead of create their own, after all, but remaking Yellow Submarine seems to encompass everything that's wrong with remakes in general in one fell swoop, and demonstrates an impressive ability to miss the point of what (little) the original had going for it in the first place: A belief and faith in the imagination, individuality and not being afraid to do something new.