This is how I find out they’re remaking Escape From New York, with an announcement that King Leonidas (or the Phantom of the Opera, depending on how non-charitable you’re being) is going to take on the ultimate badass role that Kurt Russell originated in the 1981 classic. I know a lot of you found yourself with new admiration for the guy after seeing 300 this weekend… does the goodwill still hold up?
In case you’ve stumbled upon CHUD from prettypuppiesandsunshine.com, Escape From New York is set in the distant future of 1997, where Manhattan has been converted into a maximum security prison. Air Force One crashes there and the president (Donald Pleasance, natch!) is trapped on an island full of murderers, thieves, rapists and hipsters who moved there for the ironic value and the affordable rents. Only one man can rescue him – Snake Plissken, a one-eyed former special ops soldier and current criminal. That’s the story, but the real joy of it comes from this wacky retro-future that John Carpenter created.
And now, the remake. It’s being written by Black Hawk Down scripter Ken Nolan, who has had a bunch of projects languishing in development hell for the last few years. If you’re getting up in arms, don’t bother. John Carpenter doesn’t care at all – he’s just happy to cash the checks. And it isn’t like this is going to stop the much-discussed Escape From Earth from getting made… since that project was never happening anyway.
What I find odd about the remake is how it makes no sense anymore. In 1981, New York was still in an economic pit and was riddled with crime. The idea of walling off Manhattan was obviously silly even then, but it worked on a level of satire. Today New York is the safest big city in the world, and the poor and criminals aren’t taking over – they’re being priced out! Even the most historically bad neighborhoods in the city are getting gentrified. In the modern world this project feels like dress-up.
But who knows? Maybe throwing away everything from the original is the way to do it. Maybe a terrorist nerve gas attack turns Manhattan into an island of rabid lunatics. Get rid of all the characters from Carpenter’s original except for Snake and the president and start clean. Do it like Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead – a remake in that it has the same concept and the same name, but that’s it. And the truth is that what worked in an action movie in 1981 just isn’t going to work today. In fact, I wonder how many younger readers of this site know Escape From New York… or even like it. The whole film has a heightened theatricality that probably doesn’t gel with modern sensibilities.
The real test is going to be who directs this film. That information, hopefully, is coming soon. The thing is that, more likely than not, this movie is happening, so we’re just going to have to accept it. I feel like I’m a grief counselor now.