Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Exhibit A on the General Suckitude of Remakes

All right, some cat named Rod Lurie (the brainiac behind the one season TV series Commander-in-Chief starring Geena Davis ) is remaking Straw Dogs, the early 1970s rape and revenge, savage cinema classic by Sam Peckinpah. He recently made a series of questionable comments about that utterly brilliant film that are worth highlighting. From Dark Horizons:

"It's sort of a classic film in the sense that it's infamous. It's a good not great film by a great director, and we thought if we modernized it and Americanized it, it's rife for a remake, so we just went for it."

"...I look at 'Straw Dogs' as a very imperfect movie. It's a little bit slow and it's themes are a little bit murky. There are some amazing moments and it's a very satisfying movie, but you sort of look at what can be improved upon now."

"...It was pretty much killed by a two-second moment on screen where his wife is being raped and she smiles. That was the end of that movie. You can be certain that she's not going to be smiling in the rape in my film."

So, this is what it happens when a movie is remade by someone who doesn't understand the original. Should be fantastic, no? One wonders, did Lurie even try to understand those *murky* themes? Or because Peckinpah didn't spoon feed them to him, were they just too hard to get a handle on? And the film was slow? Another brilliant criticism!

It's clear that Lurie has no idea what Peckinpah was doing with the original film and that fact alone should disqualify him from touching the material. I'm not kidding. Straw Dogs isn't a "good" film, it's a four star, great film about manhood, machismo and violence, among other things. It isn't easily digestible, if that's what Lurie is trying to say here, but that's the beauty of it: it's a film you actually have to think about.

Furthermore, Lurie's comment about Americanizing it makes no sense, since the original film concerned an American, Dustin Hoffman's character, who was on a self-imposed exile from the U.S. so he wouldn't have to serve in the Vietnam War. The remainder of the film was about feeling out of place, being a stranger in a strange land. Even his wife views him as out of place in her "home." Americanize that idea and there's no story here.

As for the infamous rape scene -- did you watch the film Mr. Lurie? Yes it's controversial, but the smile that you say killed the movie actually means something. Before simply removing it because you don't understand it, how about considering why a "great" director included such a shocking moment in the film in the first place? But I guess you know better than Peckinpah, right?

My friends, this is a perfect example of why today's remakes suck. Often, they are created by people who have no respect - and in this case, no curiosity - about the source material. But Lurie's comments offer a valuable window into the thought process behind these lousy re-makes and re-imaginations. It takes a certain type of personality - a willful blind arrogance - to look at a magnificent, damn near perfect film like Planet of the Apes, or Straw Dogs, or Halloween, puff-out your chest, and tell the world: "It was good, yeah, but I'm the one who really knows how to tell that story!!!"

9 comments:

  1. joey_bishop_jr.2:25 AM

    Hear, hear!

    I agree with pretty much all of this. One truly horrifying remake I heard of is The Warriors. They want to use real gangs (I'd love to be on set that first day)...meaning no Baseball Furies! Were they not teh signature image of that film? Also, look at the remake of Assault on Precinct 13. The whole fabric of that story was changed into just another standard action film...none of the suspense or paranoia of the original was the least bit evident!

    However, as a Zombie apologist, I admit that the Halloween remake is intriguing. At the very least, it can't be argued that Rob loves the genre, and I think he'll have some interesting takes on the material.

    Some remakes get it right, tho- anybody want to debate Carpenter's The Thing, or the 70's Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

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  2. Michael A. De Luca9:22 AM

    Then, you have David Ayer's upcoming "modernization" of "The Wild Bunch". What's next? A remake of "Psycho"? Oh, wait...

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  3. astrid2:11 PM

    Yes, it certainly IS a sacrilege - to OUR generation. We were just talking about this over dinner last night, because I had seen a story on Slashdot about a guy who was given a fiberglass replica from the original mold of Han Solo in carbonite, then proceeded to have some special effects guys remove Han's face and replace it with his own.

    You and I blanch at this, but to the generation coming up (and the youth dollar is the only one anybody gives a damn about) it's just another extension of reality tv, Photoshopping, and YouTube. Damn Andy Warhol to hell, everyone's gotten their 15 minutes whether they deserve them or not. Talent isn't discovered (or valued) anymore, it's produced and force-fed. People want to make their own 'art' without regard for meaning past ego gratification and benjamins.

    Makes me want to puke.

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  4. Anonymous1:40 PM

    The 1978 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was excellent! It's a must-own DVD!

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  5. Is "suckitude" even a word? Come on John, I'm younger than you and I don't even believe it...

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  6. Until I hear otherwise, I claim to have coined the word suckitude. It's a good word.

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  7. Lee Hansen1:49 PM

    A-hem...

    "Suckitude" and "Sucktastic" are trademarked phrases and copyright protected by Lee Hansen and The Hansen Foundation, in the year of our Lee, 1993.

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  8. Anonymous3:14 PM

    *sigh* I hate these kind of guys. They don't think about the original, but they're sure they could do it better. I just heard something about a film version of Moby Dick they're making that reminded me of this. Hang on, I'll go find it.

    "Ahab will be depicted more as a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive. "

    "Our vision isn’t your grandfather’s ‘Moby Dick,’ " Cooper said. "This is an opportunity to take a timeless classic and capitalize on the advances in visual effects to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story."

    Just... ugh. It sounds like it might be so-bad-it's-good, but it's horrible to see a classic piece of literature made into this.

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  9. Anonymous8:45 PM

    There will be riots if the Escape from NY remake ever becomes a reality. It will be as bad as Uwe Boll directing a Metal Gear Solid movie. I'm serious.

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