April 11, 2002

The Daze Rant

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Someday, I’d like to sit in on a meeting of network executives at a major studio to see how they come up with their whack ideas. I’m envisioning something like this:

BOARD CHAIRMAN: … rides on the success of the E.T. re-release. Next on the agenda, looks like pitches.

NET EXEC: Out of the stack of 50 Middle East war drama pitches and horror movie spoofs, nothing really stands out. We’re back to square one.

BOARD CHAIRMAN: Damn! Wilson, ideas?


NET EXEC: Uh … you’re talking to a volleyball.

BOARD CHAIRMAN: He provides valuable insight and is useful for tipping the balance, thank you very much.

NET EXEC: Look, here’s the deal. We still have $50 million left to burn from the 9/11 telethon. Why don’t we find a mildly entertaining, risk-free movie and attach the most hated director in Hollywood to the project?

BOARD CHAIRMAN: That’s it! Remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre … without the gore! Michael Bay could do wonders!

Et cetera, et cetera. Unfortunately, this is based more on fact than theater candy-induced hallucinations. They really are remaking that classic of slasher bloodfests with Bay (harbinger of Armageddon and Pearl Harbor) producing. They really are making it with a minimum of gore, and with the original writers and director (Tobe Hooper). I’m not sure that further comment is necessary. This is the latest in an increasingly disturbing trend of Hollywood remakes during a time when fresh ideas are apparently scarce.

Look at Disney, which is systematically releasing crappy remakes of every one of its good movies. Take the recent announcement that a remake of the 1962 political thriller The Manchurian Candidate is in the works. This follows the same logic as Massacre: Take a classic, remove it from its historical context, “update” the content and make it more politically correct and therefore less entertaining. How do you remake a political thriller made before we landed on the moon? Before Nixon even became President, let alone symbol of ’70s disenchantment?

The debacle of Rollerball is a perfect example of why remakes are hopeless. Norman Jewison’s 1975 cult classic treated the then-popular paranoid themes of individuality vs. corporate oppression and futuristic fascism with an innovative premise and an entirely original game combining rollerskating, ice hockey, and American Gladiators. John McTiernan, who has forced countless remakes on unsuspecting moviegoers in his career, followed the predictable formula in updating Rollerball: Remove all depth, insert LL Cool J and replace rollerskates with Rollerblades. Why wasn’t anyone surprised when it tanked?

Other projects in the works include a new version of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, the classic Sam Peckinpah shoot-’em-up that could be one of the most violent movies ever made. The new version will star Benicio Del Toro and will be directed by a music video veteran. Maybe Dr. Dre will do the soundtrack.

Unfortunately, the trend extends far beyond remakes: sequels to movies we apparently want more of are flying off the reels.

Prime Examples? Stuart Little 2. The Blair Witch Project 3.

Apparently they left the camcorder on.

Archived article by Andy Guess