The Ring (2002)

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*. What more natural way to begin than by comparing this film with Ringu?
*. Two numbers stand out: (1) the remake is almost twenty minutes longer (115 minutes versus 96 minutes) and (2) the original had a budget of $1.2 million and the remake $48 million.
*. In short, the remake gives us more. But more is not always a good thing.
*. The inflated run time is the result of throwing in a lot of extra stuff that not only adds nothing to the story but actually makes it more incoherent and clunky. The cursed videotape itself seems to run for twice as long, filled with a bunch of extra images that appear vaguely avant-garde and totally random. Then did we need all the stuff about the horses? The necklace Rachel pulls out of her mouth? The unexplained bleeding? The back story about the Morgans’ infertility? I’m still not sure what Anna Morgan’s problem was, or why she was driven to such drastic and ineffective measures.

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*. The screenwriters obviously had some awareness of how silly all this was. When Dr. Grasnik tries to explain the bad effects of Samara’s presence to Rachel by way of folksy profundities, Rachel responds with an exasperated “No offense, ma’am, but what the hell does that mean?” I was about to say the same thing.
*. Ringu had none of this, but what it did have was a tidy little story about a woman with ESP who gives birth to an even more powerfully gifted child. The Ring jettisons all of this for a bunch of nonsense that adds up to nothing. The twenty minutes subtracts by addition.
*. This culminates in the final montage of flashbacks as Rachel figures out what she has to do to lift the curse. The problem is that it doesn’t represent any kind of a thought process that I could follow. In the original, just sticking a towel on one of the victims’ heads and having them point to the clue, as ridiculous as it seems, was more effective. Less was more. Or at least made more sense. I mean, did we really need to see the TV attack Rachel in the well at the end? That was just silly.

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*. Then there’s all the extra money they spent. You expect Hollywood to come up with top-notch production values. But even here I had to question a lot of the thinking. Verbinski clearly wanted the whole movie to look like it was shot underwater, giving everything a blue-green tinge. Even the buildings are covered in mold! Does this work? Or does it get tiring? It seems overdone to me.

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*. And what about the appearance of Samara? It’s neat that even in her translated form she still flickers in black and white, but wouldn’t it have been scarier if she’d been more realistically portrayed? Does it help that we see her face (looking a bit like the possessed Regan from The Exorcist) instead of just her droopy eyeball? I’m not sure what we’re getting is an improvement. Though I do like the grotesque melting of the faces of Samara’s victims.
*. Is it acceptable now for a child as young as Aidan to call his parents by their first names? Is that normal? I have to say that bugged me, but maybe just because I’m old.
*. Martin Henderson as Noah looks like what we all think a Seattle A/V dude should look like. Somehow, killing a guy wearing sandals doesn’t seem fair.

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*. In Ringu, Reiko passes the cursed tape off to her father. In this film it was originally planned to have Rachel give it to a child murderer she’d met earlier, but after that character was dropped they just left things hanging. Which is morally as well as dramatically ambiguous. Obviously someone is going to have to get tagged as “it.”
*. This isn’t to say The Ring is a bad movie, or even a bad remake. I can’t say they blew it, but at the same time I think they missed an opportunity to make a good film better.
*. That’s not surprising though. Ringu was one of those movies where I think everything just fell into place, a happy and improbable accident. They weren’t going to be able to duplicate that.

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