Remakes are nothing new in the realm of fiction and film. They can take a classic story and breathe new life into it, update it to reflect modern themes, even explore the original problematic elements and turn them on their head.
However, there are a few instances where drawing upon another work can be detrimental rather than inventive.
1.) Misunderstanding the messages/themes of the original work. I imagine I probably don't have to tell you how many times I've seen a remake of Romeo & Juliet portrayed as a cutesy love story or romantic comedy. It's difficult to work from source material that's been misinterpreted, although there's something to be said for taking a classic story and inverting its tropes.
2.) Borrowing stories from another culture without proper context. If you're going to reinterpret a folktale or classic piece of literature from a culture you're not intimately familiar with, it's extra important to make sure you understand the source material and its context in the culture it invokes. It's equally important to avoid going off of a romanticized or Americanized version of the story. Taking another culture's beloved stories and whitewashing them is very problematic. Likewise, it's best to avoid taking a story that's become a cultural icon for a certain community (women, GLBT, POC, minority religion, etc.) and recreating it for a majority audience. For example: don't remake Hedwig and the Angry Inch by removing all of the queer themes and turning it into a cisgendered story. I have absolutely no idea how you'd manage to do that, but you know what I mean.
3.) Using the original story as a crutch and making few significant changes. The purpose of a remake is to make a story new and fresh in some way. If the only changes are very superficial and the core of the story stays exactly the same, you're just retelling it. Push harder to spin the story in a new light or find a way to make it newly relevant.
4.) Similarly, rewriting the story to the point where it's unrecognizable and using a comparison to the original to gain the attention of that audience. You can't claim a story is based on Homer's Odyssey if it bears only the most obscure reference to the original story. I'm not sure why people do this, but I've seen it happen more than once.
Ultimately, I think retellings can be a lot of fun and a fantastic way to explore different themes using a familiar framework. Many times, I think it's almost more difficult to create a successful remake than a completely original work. You have to contend with purists and skeptics alike. But when they're done well, man, they're super cool.
How do you feel about remakes, readers?