Sequels and remakes are just something we as moviegoers have learned to accept, for better and for worse. After all, it isn't that hard to revisit a movie that was pretty good in the first place, right? Simply find out what viewers liked about the first film, copy it, and resell it to a hungry audience (this is known as the Force Awakens strategy).
But sometimes, the original movie contains a subtle moral or theme -- an underlying message that the filmmakers were trying to get across amidst all the dinosaurs and vampires. And sometimes that message completely escapes the folks in charge of the sequel/remake/reboot, or it is deliberately ignored in order to make room for more bitchin' action sequences.
20th Century Fox
The Original Message: Humanity's blind pursuit of military superiority will ultimately doom the planet.
While the original Planet Of The Apes is now considered kind of hokey, possibly because of the weird cheesy ape costumes and/or Charlton Heston's chin, it's actually a rather serious flick with an undeniably haunting ending. When Heston's character escapes his ape captors, only to discover the remains of the Statue of Liberty, he's horrified by the implication. The planet of the apes was Earth all along, centuries after humanity had wiped itself out in a nuclear war. That's why the ruling apes keep the fact that humans were once the dominant species a secret -- they don't want apes going down the same self-destructive path.
20th Century Fox
The New Message: Humanity will destroy itself by wasting time on science and medicine instead of building weapons.
There have been approximately 8,000 sequels, spinoffs, and reboots of Planet Of The Apes, ranging in quality from "fine" to "horribad". But we'd like to focus on the most recent iteration: the well-regarded Rise Of The Dawn Of The War For The Planet Of The Apes.
The first movie, Rise, is a gritty reboot which shows us how the human planet becomes the ape planet. There's no massive nuclear war, followed by the slow, centuries-long ascent of ape here -- instead, a botched medical experiment grants apes intelligence while killing off the vast majority of humanity. Was it an attempt to create some sort of hideous biological weapon? Nope, James Franco wanted to cure his father's Alzheimer's. Humanity isn't doomed by the thoughtless pursuit of warmongering violence, but by the pursuit of medicine that would better the world. Hope you ... learned your lesson?
20th Century Fox
Then, in Dawn, ape leader Caesar learns about how useful violence is, which is exactly the opposite of the original point. For most of the movie, he's a firm adherent of the philosophy that "ape shall not kill ape." But after one of his followers, Koba, conducts an elaborate false flag operation to trick the apes into starting a war with the smart, resourceful, and (mostly) peaceful humans, Caesar decides he was naive for believing that apes were superior to man and kills Koba. The next film in the series, War For The Planet Of The Apes, will be about precisely what the title promises, but it's a war that's 100 percent the apes' fault -- humanity is still awesome. Our only crime was caring too much. And not making enough weapons to defeat the monkeys.
The Original Message: Nature cannot be controlled by technology, no matter how advanced.
The first Jurassic Park is about one thing, or two if you count hilarious early '90s computer speak. But it's mostly about chaos theory:
And getting women wet.
Jeff Goldblum's flirtatious ramblings are admittedly distracting, but the point is that nature is unpredictable and impossible to control. Laura Dern even lectures the park's founder on the futility of trying to tame it. Despite our best technology, we're all victims of the universe's cruel whims, a point expertly demonstrated by the dinosaurs busting loose and eating everyone. "Life finds a way."
The New Message: Science is basically magic, and nature will do whatever we command, dammit!.
Jurassic World was spitting in the face of the original before it even came out. We mean, look at this banner ad:
The park -- a symbol of mankind's hubris -- is open. Come on down and check it out! Buy some raptor nuggets; they're delicious! The supposedly mysterious and unconquerable nature got curb-stomped by the shiny boot of science, and now mankind is raking in millions by displaying its corpse for the amusement of gawking yokels.
"But Cracked," we're hoping you're saying, because this hypothetical counterargument leads perfectly into our next point, "Jurassic World is about the park going to shit. It's the same message on an even grander scale." But consider the main (dinosaur) villains. In Jurassic Park it's the T. rex -- a huge, relentless force of nature that's neither good nor evil. It just is. The tyrannosaurus is even on the poster, a constant reminder that nature can wreck all your science bullshit if it decides to and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
But the big bad of Jurassic World is the Indominus rex, a genetically modified dinosaur that humanity has given superpowers (it can turn invisible, even though the whole point of its existence is to be a tourist attraction). The only thing that can destroy man's awesome new park is a monster they create themselves. It's a symbol of man utterly dominating nature; it's even in the stupid new dinosaur's name.
Now think about how the movies end. In Jurassic Park, the heroes survive a raptor attack by dumb luck -- the tyrannosaurus happens to wander in and kill the raptors, the random force of nature conveniently working in their favor this time. In Jurassic World, one character tricks a T. rex into fighting the Indumbnamus rex while Chris Pratt commands his trained raptor to join the fight. That's right, man has mastered raptors. There's even a subplot about weaponizing them for military use. Instead of barely surviving the onslaught of nature and learning a valuable lesson about its awesome, timeless power, our heroes use one set of giant toys to stop another giant toy that was misbehaving. It's like when a roller coaster malfunctions and kills someone -- other guests go right back to the park the next day.
The Original Message: War is really, really shitty.
In First Blood, Sylvester Rambollone returns to America after serving in Vietnam, with nothing to his name but PTSD. After being greeted with ahistorical derision, Rambo is mocked and tormented by corrupt small-town cops until he snaps, fleeing into the woods and kicking off a massive manhunt. While the police try to kill him, Rambo fights back non-lethally, and causes the movie's only death by accident.
In the end, Rambo doesn't win this battle. He eventually suffers a traumatic breakdown and gets arrested, sobbing uncontrollably over his dead comrades and the uncaring home he returned to as he is led away in handcuffs. The message is clear: "Look at the awful things war does to people, and look at the awful things we do to the people who fight them for us."
The New Message: War is fucking awesome.
Rambo guns down 58 bad guys in First Blood Part II. There's no subtlety, moral ambiguity, or stirring speeches on the horrors of war -- he drops back into the middle of Vietnam and enacts bloody revenge against the Bad Guys.
He kills more people in the first 30 seconds of the trailer than in the entire first movie.
Rambo's former superiors ask him to go back to the country which traumatized him with its pointless horrors and peacefully confirm the existence of a handful of ahistorical leftover American prisoners. Rambo disobeys his orders, shoots every commie he sees, rescues the prisoners, and retroactively wins Vietnam, because it was the 1980s and America was feeling itself on all levels.
Hell, he even discovers that the mission was a sham planned by the government to discredit the idea of remaining POWs, which plays straight into the pro-war belief of "America would've smoked those pinkos if the hippies hadn't complained so much." The message is again clear, but this time, it's "the Vietnamese would all be eating chili cheese dogs and watching the Super Bowl if America had sent more Rambos to shoot them." So while First Blood was made to address the disenfranchisement of war veterans, Rambo: First Blood Part II was made to make hippies spontaneously combust.
Later editions only increase the body count and militarism. In Rambo III, Rambo helps heroic Afghans kick the communism straight out of their country and definitely not go on to form the Taliban. And in Rambo: Just Rambo, Not Rambo IV For Some Reason, Rambo teaches missionaries in Burma that nonviolent resistance is for stupid losers. Why waste time bringing medical care to devastated villages when you can kill all of the bad guys with a boat propeller? (Please note: This is a lesson that the country itself seems to have disagreed with.)
Strangely, this isn't the only time Stallone has thrown out the moral of one of his movies to cash in on nonsensical sequels. The first Rocky ends with Rocky losing the boxing match, but he's ultimately satisfied because he worked as hard as he could, got back his self-respect, and met the love of his life. Who cares about a stupid championship belt compared to that? In the sequels, Rocky gets said belt anyway, becomes rich and famous, wins the Cold War, and is carried into a glorious retirement by a squadron of bald eagles. Or in Stallone's words, he learned that viewers get bored when he gives nuanced speeches.
The Original Message: It's okay to be different, because someone out there understands you.
Let The Right One In, the most terrifying movie ever named after a Morrissey song, is about a lonely and bullied 12-year-old named Oskar and his strange but quietly poignant friendship with the mysterious Eli, who looks like a 12-year-old girl but, spoiler alert, is in fact a vampire.
Eli lives with the middle-aged Hakan, who pretends to be her father but is really her caretaker, murdering people and bleeding them to feed Eli. What does Hakan get out of all this? Well, the film is a bit ambiguous, making it clear only that Hakan loves Eli in a thoroughly unhealthy way, but the original book spells out that he's a pedophile. Eli gives him a (sort of) acceptable outlet for his urges, because vampires aren't really people. It's kind of a fucked-up book.
Anyway, the movie plays down the pedophilia for some crazy reason, but there are still hints -- their relationship is based on convenience, manipulation, and uncomfortable obsession, and Eli shows no emotion when Hakan dies. Eli then saves Oskar from his bullies by brutally murdering them, and the cold-hearted, centuries-old vampire and neglected, incompetent, rage-filed boy run away to start a better life and a quasi-romantic relationship. It's a powerful message about how even the loneliest among us can find happiness, even if we're hollow, broken, or insane. Or vampires. Mostly that last thing.
The New Message: Girls will literally bleed you dry.
The American remake is nearly a shot-for-shot recreation of the Swedish original, apparently made for the benefit of Americans who simply cannot bear to read subtitles. There are a few small changes (the main characters' names are changed to Owen and Abby instead of Oskar and Eli), but Let Me In made one particular change that accidentally screws everything up.
First, let's have a look at Eli in the original:
Eli is played by a girl, but the character is really a boy. When asked by Oskar to be his girlfriend, Eli says "I'm not a girl." Later on, Oskar peeks in on Eli coming out of the shower and catches a glimpse of a castration scar, in one of the most uncomfortable scenes in cinema history. Between androgyny, genital mutilation, and a preteen boy displaying bisexual tendencies, we're not shocked that Let Me In changed Eli to Abby and made her the girl from Kick-Ass.
So Abby is a girl, instead of a boy being forced to pretend he's a girl. So what? Well, Abby's caretaker Thomas (Hakan in the original), rather than a deranged immortal-child molester, is shown to have been a friend of Abby's since he was a little boy. He fell in love with Abby, and decided to spend his life murdering people for her so she could remain a little girl, while he steadily aged into a sad, terrifying old man. Abby isn't a lonely vampire stuck in unusual circumstances; she's a manipulator who imprints on impressionable, lonely little boys, makes them her servants, and then, when they're old and used up, finds someone else.
Essentially, the movie is telling us that this is what Owen has to look forward to. This is still better than prison, which is likely where he was going to end up had he not randomly befriended a shoeless vampire living in his apartment complex.
The Original Message: Nuclear weapons are not meant to be wielded by anyone, and will destroy the world if we try.
The very first Godzilla was directed by Ishiro Honda, whose hobbies as a younger man included working alongside legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, serving time in a Chinese prison camp, and watching his country recover from the devastation of nuclear bombardment. Honda wanted Godzilla to be a powerful visual reminder of the horrors of nuclear war. But what fictional creation could possibly demonstrate the raw devastation of such terrible weaponry? There were two options: a chillingly lifelike reenactment of the war's destruction, or a giant fire-breathing lizard. He chose the latter.
In Honda's original film, Godzilla is roused from his slumber beneath the ocean by hydrogen bomb testing. The movie begins with the destruction of a fishing boat, which is a reference to a real-life American nuclear test that accidentally blasted Japanese fishermen with a corpsefying storm of radiation. Godzilla proceeds to devastate Japan, and his rampage is enabled by a government that would rather study it and learn its power than kill it. In the end, Godzilla's finally killed by an even more powerful experimental weapon, whose creator then kills himself so that the science behind it follows him to the grave.
It's quite far from pro-superweapons, in case you didn't pick up on that. But considering Japan is the only country in the world to ever suffer a nuclear attack, we can't really blame them for being a little angry about it.
The New Message: Giant monsters look awesome when they punch each other.
The American release of Honda's Godzilla stripped all criticism of the US military and nuclear weapons, and added an American protagonist in Raymond Burr. Because in 1956, "Perry Mason helps the Japs kill a big ol' monster" was a better box office draw than "The people we brutalized with the two most devastating weapons in the history of the planet want us to feel a little bad about it."
But others involved in Godzilla's creation recognized that the Japanese public was generally more interested in watching men in rubber suits stomp buildings for their amusement than they were in a thoughtful allegory that made them relive some of the most harrowing moments of their lives. And so began the steady churning out of dozens of sequels. A few kept the original's dark overtones, but most became family-friendly action movies in which Godzilla would show up to win a destructive fight against another monster, do something fun and wacky, and then vanish into the sea until he was needed to save Japan again or got bored and decided to fight the Avengers. And now he's one of Japan's most iconic pop culture creations, which is kind of like if Vietnam started producing Agent Orange soft drinks as a form of satirical protest and it became so popular that it was sold to children in Pizza Huts around the world.
Thankfully, "Orange Crush" tested better with focus groups.
The franchise has drifted so far away from Honda's original vision that the 2015 American remake casts Godzilla as an ancient benevolent conflict mediator, rising from the ocean's depths to save the world from two other monsters who eat radiation to stay alive. That's right -- America's only crime was accidentally stumbling upon the monsters' favorite food.
Oh and as a little bonus, in Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim -- an homage to the original Godzilla that is dedicated to Honda in the end credits -- a heroic American saves the entire planet from the threat of giant monster invasion by detonating a nuclear bomb in the monsters' home. USA! USA!
It's almost as if no one ever watches the predecessors of their creations. See what we mean in 5 Video Game Adaptations That Missed The Point Of The Movie and 4 Movies That Got The Source Material's Point Exactly Wrong.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out The Scarier Story You Missed In The Background Of 'Jaws', and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Also, follow us on Facebook. Or, you know, don't. It's whatever, yo.