Amazon’s new adaptation of a hit movie is a masterclass in how to approach remakes

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
(Image credit: Prime Video)

Two things can be true at once: remakes can be unnecessary and they can be great business. They simplify marketing for studios because the audience already knows what to expect. However, most fans crave original content. So, it’s no surprise that some of Donald Glover's fans were disappointed when news broke that he would be remaking the beloved movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Little did anyone know that Glover and his co-creator, Francesca Sloane, were about to deliver a masterclass in approaching remakes.

Before the show even premiered, Sloane wrote an open letter acknowledging that fans of the 2005 version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which starred Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as undercover spies, might feel that a new iteration is unnecessary. Over the past decade, Glover has pushed the boundaries of television with shows like Swarm and Atlanta, so his fans and critics understandably expect excellence from him every time he releases something new. A remake seemed beneath his talents. But according to Sloane, that’s precisely why they decided to make the show. She shared that Glover only considered remaking Mr. & Mrs. Smith for the Amazon streaming service Prime Video because it would require such a big swing.

This is something too that the creators openly acknowledge in the show through meta nods to audience expectations. It all begins with a scene where two Smiths (played by Alexander Skarsgård and Eiza González) are introduced before promptly being killed off. This Smith couple is conventionally attractive, the scene is hyper-violent, and essentially, it feels like it was pulled straight out of the 2005 movie. The way they get killed off and never mentioned again serves as a signal to the audience that this new version is something else entirely.

In another pivotal scene, John Smith (played by Donald Glover) jokingly tells his co-worker and wife, Jane Smith (Maya Erskine), that he's only in their increasingly dangerous line of work for the money. This feels like a tongue-in-cheek reference to the often cash-grabbing nature of remakes and shows that the series is clearly not afraid to poke fun at the cynicism a remake invites. This self-awareness is a clear sign to the audience that they’re in safe hands.

A sign of its time

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

(Image credit: Prime Video)

The best way that Mr. and Mrs. Smith masters the remake is through how it changes up the story for a new generation. Just like the previous iterations of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (yes, there was also a TV show), Prime Video’s version works best by being a good signifier of its time. The original 1990s TV series was a fun spy series about getting along with your workmate, and the 2005 movie ended up using the premise as a trojan horse to talk about the secrets kept beneath even the glossiest of marriages in a time when tabloid culture was rife.

Prime Video’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith reimagines the story yet again, focusing on two things that dominate millennial’s romantic prospects: marriage is work and work is everything. In the new interpretation, the Smiths work remotely for an espionage agency where their only connection to the agency is a nameless, faceless individual whom the Smiths call 'HiHi' because that’s how the individual starts their emails.

The episodes explore how a relationship evolves in the age of technology. The first episode, 'First Date,' introduces the Smiths telling a computer about what led them to take this job and it plays out like an allegory of online dating where John and Jane seemingly overshare things that one would typically not say on the first date – like how much money you currently have in your bank account.

Meanwhile, another episode involves Jane finding out that John impulse-bought a vacation home in Italy, and that’s when she truly realizes that he’s bad with money. Every episode delves into a significant stage of a relationship that most people have gone through in one way or another. But past all the relationship drama and spy missions, the show never relents in reminding the audience that this is all just work for the Smiths.

Their failure to see eye-to-eye eventually leads to them failing a mission. 'HiHi' promptly reminds them that they can only fail thrice. So in every episode when the Smiths are self-sabotaging in their relationship and in their work – which is just about every episode – there are increased stakes.

Work-life balance

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

(Image credit: Prime Video)

We’re in an era where studios hope that their various franchises and intellectual properties outlive their audience, so it’s great that filmmakers are figuring out fresh ways of still using these confines to create something truly remarkable and unique. Work and technology are two themes perfect for modern-day viewers, and the drama manages to find a fresh lens to view them through.

In Mr. & Mrs. Smith the question is no longer about if these two can find a way to work through their problems together, it’s about whether these people can find a way to work and be together. And that’s ostensibly why the show works so well, it uses predetermined premises and expectations of a franchise as tools to speak directly to a new generation.

So in an age where remakes are inevitable, Mr. & Mrs. Smith manages to be a masterclass by simply figuring out that even if an intellectual property comes with its own fanbase, a new version must still capture the zeitgeist of its day.

For more, check out our guides to the best Amazon shows and the best Amazon movies available now.