These are the times that try men’s souls.
In the past I have been very cavalier about remakes. I have said that there’s no reason to get so upset about them because the originals still remain, and that at worst the remakes will turn some people on to the films upon which they are based. And at best we get a good movie – it’s happened before.
But the past few weeks have beaten me down. Matt Reeves has announced that his remake of the modern classic Let The Right One In could be before cameras next year. And the long dormant remake of Oldboy suddenly sputtered to life last week, with the heavy weight of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg behind it. And now today there’s more news on that film, and a sudden return from the grave for the remake of The Host.
Both The Host and Oldboy were part of the exciting South Korean film resurgence of a few years back. What makes them very notable, at least for the American majority reading this, is how West-friendly they both are; besides those pesky subtitles, neither film feels prohibitively ‘foreign’ in theme or pacing (although The Host does have some elements that really improve with a minimal amount of understanding of Korea). They’re also movies with vision and personality.
Like Let The Right One In there’s just no reason to remake these films for American audiences. The movies right now are accessible for anyone willing to read subtitles. And fuck people who aren’t – they don’t deserve awesome movies. But all three are being remade anyway. So let’s get to the actual news, which is so disheartening it provoked this rant.
First up, Mark Protosevitch, one of the writers on I Am Legend, has been brought on (at Will Smith’s insistence) to write the adaptation of Oldboy. This is just plain old bad news – the trifecta of Spielberg, Smith and Protosevitch guarantee a defanged Hollywood product that betrays the spirit of the original. If you were holding out hope, this bit of hiring should dash that for you.
Next, Gore Verbinski is producing The Host, and a newbie director, Fredrik Bond, is going to be helming. Bond is a commercial director, and that’s not what’s bumming me out – we’re well beyond the point where looking down on commercial or video directors makes any sense, at least as long as people like Ridley Scott and David Fincher and Spike Jonze come from those worlds. What’s bumming me out is that he’s such a hugely unknown quantity. If I liked or trusted Verbinski more as a filmmaker, I might hold out some hope, but as of right now, Bond on The Host earns zero benefit of my doubt.
Slashfilm has helpfully compiled some of Bond’s commercial work. None of it grabs me – there are some nice visuals, but most of the ideas are boring or don’t quite work. Click here to see the commercials.