Essays · Movies

Remember, There Won’t Actually Be a Memento Remake

By  · Published on November 17th, 2015


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – news of an impending film remake isn’t bad news. Not only are there dozens of fantastic remakes already in existence, but there’s also the surprising fact that a remake in no way negates the existence or quality of the original. Crazy, but true. That said, remakes are typically unnecessary and it can still be disappointing to learn that talented filmmakers and actors are spending time on what amounts to an unwanted film instead of focusing on something original.

Today’s announcement that AMBI Pictures is planning to move forward on a remake of Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film, Memento, features no attached talent on either side of the camera, but the outrage was immediate and deafening all the same. Check out their full news release below, and then keep reading to see why I think fans’ anger is just as unnecessary as the remake itself.

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“Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Pictures will finance and produce a remake of Christopher Nolan’s iconic, twist-laden film “Memento.”

Writer/director Christopher Nolan adapted “Memento” from a short story by his brother Jonathan Nolan titled “Memento Mori”, and the unusual, neo-noir psychological thriller took audiences by storm upon release in 2000 and has since achieved cult hit status with a fervent following. Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano, “Memento” was lauded for its nonlinear narrative structure and motifs of memory, perception, grief, and self-deception. The film was a box office success and received numerous accolades, including Academy Award™ nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing.

AMBI took ownership of “Memento” remake rights when the company acquired the Exclusive Media Group film library, which housed “Memento,” as well as 400 additional critical hits, commercial blockbusters and cult favorites such as “Begin Again,” “Cruel Intentions,” “Donnie Darko,” “End of Watch,” “Ides of March,” “Hit & Run,” “The Mexican,” “Parkland,” “Rush,” “Sliding Doors,” “Snitch,” “Undefeated” and “The Way Back,” to name a few. The EMG library acquisition was followed by the launch of AMBI’s new $200 million film fund last week. Monika Bacardi and Andrea Iervolino are anchor investors in the fund along with New York based private equity firm Raven Capital Management LLC (“Raven”).

This series of strategic moves led to AMBI greenlighting “Memento” as its newest feature production.

Said Iervolino, “’Memento’ has been consistently ranked as one of the best films of its decade. People who’ve seen ‘Memento’ 10 times still feel they need to see it one more time. This is a quality we feel really supports and justifies a remake. The bar is set high thanks to the brilliance or Christopher Nolan, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Iervolino added, “Our acquisition of the EMG library reinforced our commitment to build a strong global studio with a strong pipeline of commercial films that can play to a worldwide audience. Bringing a new ‘Memento’ to audiences is an initial example of how we intend to execute this strategy.”

Monika Bacardi added, “’Memento’ is a masterpiece that leaves audiences guessing not just throughout the film, but long after as well, which is a testament to its daring approach. We intend to stay true to Christopher Nolan’s vision and deliver a memorable movie that is every bit as edgy, iconic and award-worthy as the original. It’s a big responsibility to deliver something that lives up to the mastery of the original, but we are extremely excited and motivated to bring this puzzle back to life and back into the minds of moviegoers.””

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In a perfect world the only remakes would be of lesser films that featured a good story poorly told. If it can be done noticeably better then I’m all for someone new taking a stab at a pre-existing tale, but how do you improve Memento? Even if you’re not engaged by the story or intrigued by the structure you’d be hard-pressed to say this particular narrative could be told better. It’s an incredibly intricate puzzle with no fat on its bones meaning a remake would also be ill-advised in changing script elements beyond character names.

AMBI acknowledges the film’s positive critical consensus – and bravo to them for viewing the prospect of making a comparable film as a challenge instead of a near impossibility – but they also know it was far from a big hit. It earned $25 million domestically, but that was slow-going across a whopping 26 weekends. The reality of today’s crowded theatrical marketplace makes that a far less likely option meaning they’d need the remake to open big.

That’s a non-starter though as not only is it a non-franchise, non-effects driven film, but the remake won’t attract A or B-level stars. I doubt any “name” talent would come aboard, but even if they were talked into it AMBI simply doesn’t have the budget. Their entire slate is working from a $200 million fund and they already have a handful of (seemingly) direct-to-DVD titles in production, so the idea that they’d spend much more than Nolan’s original cost (reportedly $9 million) on a thriller like this is laughable.

If they move forward – and that’s an enormous if – I don’t even see the film getting a theatrical release beyond a few theaters in NY/LA.

Instead, I see this as an attention-getting announcement to get their name into the wild world of online chatter. They’ve already gotten hundreds of tweets and dozens of articles (including this one) out of the news. All of it has been negative – an outcome that can’t have surprised AMBI – but they’re now a known entity. Their next announcement will be something less inflammatory but far more realistic.

A quick glance at their IMDB page reveals some of their newly acquired properties that seem ripe for both remaking and possibly – I said possibly – improving. Americans love football, so remake the Kurt Russell / Robin Williams underdog gem The Best of Times! The youth of today love slapstick gags and a good hook, so get started on a redo of the Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin body comedy All of Me! College kids are hungry for Irish Catholics double-fisting guns, so let’s give them The Boondock Saints: Trigger Warning! And does anyone even like Nolan’s The Prestige? I smell a magical reboot!

As for Memento, the best advice as to what to do with the property actually came from director Joe Carnahan.

Instead of remaking MEMENTO, just re-release it. It’s a brilliant film. A lot of younger audiences haven’t seen it. Treat it like it’s NEW.

— Joe Carnahan (@carnojoe) November 16, 2015

This is a brilliant idea and not only because I’d love to see the film in a theater again. It’s almost guaranteed to earn as much as a remake would but at far less cost to AMBI. They could even market it with not-so subtle nods to the film’s idea of memory loss and forgetfulness. “See it again, for the first time…”

I suppose it’s possible that someone out there not only dislikes Memento but also would be in favor of a remake. I won’t pretend to understand that sensibility, but because I care about all of our readers I humbly point you in the direction of your desire – the 2005 film, Ghajini, a Tamil-language Indian release heavily inspired by Memento. It’s not an official remake – a fact that will become quite clear upon viewing the trailer below – but it hits several of the same beats and themes while adding an extra hour to the running time.

It was a commercial and critical hit, and it was then remade three years later into an even bigger box-office success, also titled Ghajini. (But let’s not tell that to the folks at AMBI.)

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.