The corner of the web dealing with genre-related projects briefly caught fire over the last few days when it was announced that director Robert Rodriguez was linked to yet another attempted remake of the John Carpenter Science Fiction classis, Escape From New York (1981).
Now, I'm often taken to task by others when I christen Escape as a "classic." Yes, the term is most decidedly overused -- especially given the critical community's ongoing insistence on labeling their next personal favorite as "an instant classic!" (if there ever were such a thing) -- but I think the better of the two Snake Plissken features has definitely earned it. It's one of those rare 'older' flicks that continues to inspire younger and newer viewers who discover it. It's definitely stood the test of time, thanks largely to Carpenter's crisp and efficient direction in letting a good story simply tell itself. Its cast definitely pushes the film toward cult status (Adrienne Barbeau has never looked lovelier, and Isaac Hayes gets great mileage out of the perennial 'stink eye' performance), though many went on to even greater fame subsequent to Escape's release, including Kurt Russell who remains a bankable box office commodity from time to time.
And doesn't Hollywood's ongoing insistence on attempting to remake/reboot/rebrand the franchise in and off itself prove the picture has merits?
For those new to SciFiHistory.Net, let me be perfectly clear: I'm not a fan of re-imaginings because, quite frankly, I think some pictures are good enough to be left alone. I have no problem if someone wants to go off and craft some sequel of sorts by using the same character in a different setting (think of what George Miller did with Mad Max: Fury Road, and you get the idea -- different Maxs but same universe), but all too often a re-visitation ends up diluting what made the original such an interesting story to begin with. There's a danger inherent in going back to the well: do it poorly, and you tarnish the original ... and that's a little lesson I wish someone would teach JJ Abrams.
Or better yet: why not go out and find something done wrong the first time and then attempt to get it right? Sylvester Stallone tried to tap into Science Fiction with his take on Judge Dredd (1995), an interpretation that looked little-to-nothing like the judge/jury/executioner I'd read in comic book form. The film failed -- probably for many reasons -- but thankfully director Pete Travis stepped in with Karl Urban for Dredd (2012), a fantastic version that arguably gave fans of the property what they were looking for. Since so many good ideas get poor screen treatment, why not find something else other than Plissken and company and give that a go?
Besides, if you really want to get picky, I'd argue that Escape already was remade: in fact, Luc Besson was sued over how closely his inferior Lockout (2012) tried to capitalize on Carpenter's original, and I thank the stars every day that someone other than me felt that way. Guy Pearce did his best 'Snake Plissken' impersonation ever, and the President's daughter stood in for the actual President of the United States in the rip-off's peril (an idea already tried in the God-awful Escape From L.A. so don't get me started). I realize Lockout has its fans, too; I just don't consider myself among them, and I'm ashamed to admit we share the same planet.
Casablanca? It's a classic. Don't remake it. Citizen Kane? It's a classic. Don't touch it. Escape From New York? Yeah, it sits on that same pedestal in my house, and -- while Hollywood insists on trying it again -- I think it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.
As always, thanks for reading ... and live long and prosper!