Thursday, March 05, 2015

Missing the Point

You know, I thought - no, make that hoped - that Hollywood had finally run out of old TV and movie properties they could do awful remakes of - then I saw the trailer for that Man From UNCLE film.  I know we really shouldn't judge films by their trailers - then again, the trailers frequently cobble together all of the film's highlights into two minutes, so maybe we should judge a movie by its trailer - but Jesus, it really looked like a heap of shit.  Then I saw the second trailer: even worse.  Not only does it not look or feel anything like the sixties TV series, but it seems to entirely miss the point of that series - it was a reasonably light hearted spoof of Bond-type spy movies, (unfortunately, by series three it had gone beyond light hearted and tumbled over into self-parody, viewing figures likewise tumbled and, despite a return to less spoofy stories, it was cancelled mid way through the fourth series).  OK, I know that, arguably, the film is being made for a different generation of film goers who will not be hardcore UNCLE fans or even have any knowledge of the original series, but nonetheless, what is the point of taking an established property and making it unrecognisable?  You could just as easily come up with an original script and characters. 

However, I suspect that, as with those recent Star Trek films - which are superficially linked to the original series via character names and the designs of uniforms and spaceships but are really just generic space operas bearing little resemblance to the series - the new Man From UNCLE film is simply using the classic series and its name recognition with audiences, to sell a generic spy movie which otherwise wouldn't have found an audience.  But, as it turns out, this isn't the worst remake on the horizon.  I was dismayed to read the other day that Antoine Fuqua was slated to direct a remake of The Magnificent Seven with Denzel Washington in the Yul Brynner role of Chris.  Now, the casting isn't the thing I have a problem with.  I certainly don't have a problem with a black actor playing Chris (in reality, a large proportion of cowboys in the Old West were either black or Mexican, something written out of history by Hollywood), and in the increasingly ropy sequels to the original he was played by far less suitable actors than Washington in the form of George Kennedy and Lee Van Cleef (both perfectly good actors, but completely miscast in the role).  The first of my problems is Fuqua, a director none of whose films I've found satisfactory and who has a track record for pointless revisionism (just look at his awful King Arthur, for instance).  The plot details of this proposed remake just confirmed my fears: small town taken over by mining company, widow of murdered man who opposes them hires bounty hunter (Chris) who then hires six more gunfighters to help him fight the mining company.  In other words, a generic western which seems to be an amalgam of plot elements from several, better, movies.  By eschewing the Mexican setting of the original, it completely misses the point of the story.  But hey, who cares? Everyone knows the title and it still has seven gunslingers protecting a small community - so it must be the same, mustn't it?



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