Busan 2012: Remake Fever Hits Asian Film Sector

Taking their cue from Hollywood reboots of the not-so-distant past, Asian filmmakers mine recent hits for inspiration.

As Hollywood looks to rehashes of recent-past classics for the next coin-earner, Asian producers are also rebooting their own 1980s and 90s fare for surefire hits.

In Hong Kong, filmmakers are taking heart from the 560 million-yuan gross ($89 million) of The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, Tsui Hark’s 3D interpretation of his own 1992 hit New Dragon Gate Inn.

Tsui is aiming to repeat the trick with a 3D remake of Tracks of a Snowy Forest (1960). The Bona Film Group project is repped by Distribution Workshop in Busan. Jacob Cheung, meanwhile, will helm a 3D version of The Bride with White Hair, a box office success in 1992.

Joining in is Wong Jing, whose shingle Mega Vision will remake his hoodlum franchise Young and Dangerous, which spawned six sequels and eight spin-offs during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Wong said he spent years thinking about a new angle. “Then I saw the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise with a new and younger cast, when the original trilogy was still quite new. So I just decide to remake the films with a new cast,” he said.

Aiming for the teenage market unfamiliar with the old series, Wong said the new film “improves” upon the original, as it does not feature explicit depictions of underworld wrongdoings.

Mega Vision aims to sell the project to Taiwan, Japan and European markets. But the company also has the mainland in mind with a remake of the Shaw Brothers classic, Boxer from Shantung (1972).

Titled Once Upon a Time in Shanghai, the remake features the action choreography of Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix) and a cast led by veteran action hero Sammo Hung (Ip Man 2). The $10 million production is directed by Wong Ching-po (Revenge: A Love Story) for an April 2013 release.

In Japan, Ken Watanabe is set to star in a Japanese samurai makeover of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven by Korean-Japanese director Lee Sang-Il (Hula Girls) for Time Warner's Warner Entertainment Japan.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, Hur Jin-ho’s Chinese-backed Dangerous Liaisons is a strange case of a remake of a remake: it follows E Jae-yong’s Untold Scandal, the popular 2003 interpretation of the 1988 U.S. adaptation of the French novel, with the story relocated from late 19th century France to Korea during the same era. Opening on his home turf on Oct 11, Hur’s film is set in 1930s Shanghai.

“The original French novel is a satire of aristocrats set in a pre-revolution era,” he said. “For me, the idea of taking that setting into modern Shanghai and playing around with the similarities of social atmosphere in those two cultures was very charming.”

But the success of Untold Scandal is more an exception than the rule, as Korean remakes of film classics have largely been failures domestically, mainly because the new films remain overshadowed by the artistic and commercial clout of the originals.

Song Hae-seong’s 2010 release A Better Tomorrow, a Korean remake of John Woo’s 1980s Hong Kong gangster film, features a glamorous cast but attracted just over 1.5 million admissions locally.

And Ghost: In Your Arms Again, a Korean-Japanese remake of the 1990 US hit Ghost, came second place in the box office after a 305-screen opening in Japan. In Korea, the film bombed, selling just over 6,700 tickets.

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