Once again, the other day, I found myself wishing I’d spent less of my youth with, as folks might have said back then, my nose buried in some silly book and more time in the company of hammers, saws, wrenches. You know. Manly stuff. Tools. The reason was, something in the bathtub wasn’t working and we had to call the plumber, who is one of the nicest guys I know and might be the best plumber in Rockland County New York, and we had a chat while the water was running to accomplish something arcane and, well, plumberish. If I hadn’t wasted my youth, maybe I could tell you what.
Anyway: because he knows what I did and sometimes still do to earn money, we discussed movies and television. He’s of the opinion that nobody in the media has any new ideas.
I didn’t argue, and I won’t. With a few reservations, and looking at the evidence, I agree, kind of.
Of course, one could assert that there are no new ideas, an assertion borne out by the fact that treatise after treatise has demonstrated that there are only seven plots, or five, or eleven – some very finite number, in any case. But even given that near = truism, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that’s genuinely fresh around these days.
For instance: As I type this, I’m about two hours away from experiencing the latest incarnation of Knight Rider. Twenty-plus years ago, this saga of a young man and his talking car launched the career of David Hasselhoff, who later became world-famous as the tanned and buff father figure to a lot of equally tanned and buff, but younger, lifeguards. This is the latest of a seemingly endless catalogue of old films and TV shows revamped for the Twenty First Century. Some I’ve liked; the remake of the old Glenn Ford western, 3:10 to Yuma, was, by any reasonable criterion, a good movie. Others…well…
The trick, now and forever, is not to merely remake – as Gus Van Sant did with his almost shot-by-shot redo of the Hitchcock classic Psycho – but to reinvent: recreate the basic idea in a contemporary idiom.
Deep, devoted fans of the original will object, even if the reinvention is done well, but they might qualify as a special group with special needs whose opinion should be respected, but not necessarily heeded. And they’re in luck: given the prevalence of DVD packages, and cable outlets devoted to the old and beloved, they can always go back and experience the original, as print freaks can reread books and/or comics and/or whatever.
Maybe we’ll return to this subject after I’ve seen Knight Rider. Only about 90 minutes to wait…
RECOMMENDED READING: Hey, if it’s good enough for Oprah…At the top of one of the New York Times’ numerous best-seller lists is A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle, so blessed, I’m told, because Ms. Winfrey recommended it. I read the book a while ago, and Mari’s reading it for a course she’s taking, and we both like it. I’m wary of self-help gurus, but Tolle asks that we take nothing on faith, and, I think, culls a lot of what’s valid from several traditions and adds something of his own while leaving sectarian trappings behind.
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and The Shadow – among many others – as well as many novels, stories and articles. The Question: Zen and Violence, reprinting the first six issues of his classic series with artist Denys Cowan, is on sale right now, the second volume, Poisoned Ground, will be on sale April 30, and his novelization of The Dark Knight will be available this summer, and you can pre-order them now.
Dennis O'Neil was born in 1939, the same year that Batman first appeared in Detective Comics. It was thus perhaps fated that he would be so closely associated with the character, writing and editing the Dark Knight for more than 30 years. He's been an editor at Marvel and DC Comics. In addition to Batman, he's worked on Spider-Man, Daredevil, Iron Man, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the Question, The Shadow and more. O'Neil has won every major award in the industry. His prose novels have been New York Times bestsellers. Denny lives in Rockland County with his wife, Marifran.