Friday, January 16, 2015

Spike Lee's Oldboy, and What I learned About My Opinions on Remakes...


I have always been someone who is willing to give any remake, or reboot its fair chance. The very idea of remaking or rebooting anything, especially a beloved classic, is always received with anger and disapproval immediately upon announcement by the majority share of internet users, and film geeks alike. I don't agree with this. Taking a classic film and putting it into the right creative hands in order to give it a new life and perhaps even introduce it to a new audience can end wonderfully.

Take for example one of my favorite film trilogies of all time, Infernal Affairs. Martin Scorsese took this well loved trilogy, and crafted it into his very own modern classic, The Departed. It is near perfect, he took just the right elements of all three films and managed to make an amazing one off retelling(there has been plenty of Departed 2 rumours, but I fail to believe this will happen)that was extremely well received, by Infernal Affairs fans and non-fans alike. Thus proving it can be done, remakes can be AWESOME.

Fright Night, Psycho, The Ring, The Thing, A Fistful of Dollars, Scarface, 3:10 to Yuma, and True Grit are just a few examples of great films that were also remakes of classics. None of these films set out to undo the original, or make them better. These films were clearly made in respect and love for the originals, and if anything could lead to fans who would have not originally had any interest in their original source material going back and checking them out.

It was inevitable, Oldboy was going to be remade. Original talks suggested Speilberg and Will Smith teaming up, that was eventually scrapped. Then one day I heard Spike Lee was taking over. I was immediately curious, and not angry. No, I was not mad at all. I like Spike Lee films, I have not seen them all, but have enjoyed what I have seen. So with considerable thought I decided this could be a good pairing, I was on board. While the internet was crying for blood, I sat back and just thought, "Lets wait and see what we get", maybe Lee was the right man for the job. Could this brilliant peace of art be properly remade for a new market? Can Lee recapture the magic?

The answer of course is no.

Truth is, my interest in this film made a steady decline leading up to its release anyway, the confidence and excitement just left me. Then the film was released, and was brutally panned and hated across the board, and I was still a bit disappointed. While losing interest I could only continue to hope, hope it would come out and blow us all away, and rejuvenate my excitement. In the end it would take me over a year to watch it...

So I finally watched Spike Lees Oldboy, and guess what, I didn't like it very much. Oops, I guess.

I still stand by my original stated opinions about Remakes, and am still going to give them the benefit of the doubt, but like anything else there will be the good, and there will certainly be the bad. Oldboy felt like a lazy, half ass effort that was thrown together without a care in the world. "Here is a poorly written script, here is a cast and crew. Now make it like the pages". No passion, no creativity, and certainly no respect for the source.

From the opening moments I knew it was going to be a rough ride. The set up runs way too long, and they add an insulting red herring to the film that was completely unnecessarily, the story is about mystery. Someone going in blind with no prior knowledge of the original film shouldn't have even the remotest idea why our hero is having these things done to him, but now they have this "Well was it that guy and his wife, could be him" looming for the first half or so of the film. Parks film throws the viewer in almost immedialty, Choi min-sik is quickly shown to be obnoxious and loud, we see he has a family, then wham, he wakes up in a hotel room prison. This time round the beginning completely over stays its welcome.

Then we are taken on a bland, uninteresting journey that lazily puts the peaces together for us and shamelessly just takes moments from the original, and plops them in with an obvious "well people liked these form the original, so better do that" attitude instead of allowing them to compliment the rest of the film. The infamous hammer fight, though impressive,(and probably necessary because honestly it does need to be there), just did not work. They took what was a simple but brilliant moment and turned it into an over the top, multilevel action set peace. Sometimes simplicity is more effective.

The villain this time round does have the same motivation, and is played by the perfectly miscasted Sharlto Copley(of District 9 fame). He is not good in this film, his character is awful, his hench-woman is just terrible, and his back story and reasons behind his motivation are a mess, from what I can understand. The tragedy behind the revenge plot in the original is both beautiful and tragic. This time around, lets see, Sister and brother have sex with father, Josh Brolen sees and tells school, father is shamed, kills daughter with shotgun gut shot, kills wife with shotgun gut shot, kills son with shotgun shoulder shot? What? Nope he lives, he lives another day to plot his revenge.  Guess the father thought the shoulder was as effective to shoot as the stomach, so he then offs himself. Fine whatever is this almost over?

Not yet, now we have to move to the BIG REVEAL. *sigh* If the film was not already disappointing enough, the conclusion is truly awful. Perhaps a strong ending could have redeemed this film, but we will never know because the ending is weak weak weak. The one thing about this film I was enjoying was Josh Bolin. I felt he was a perfect person to play this character, and considering the material he had to work with did a pretty great job. Then the ending happened. Choi Min-siks performance during the big twist in the original is some of the finest acting I have seen, I've watched the film a zillion times and it still gives me chills. He desperation, his begging and pleading to give his poor daughter the mercy she derseves is gut wrenching, and real. HE CUTS HIS FUCKING TONGUE OUT! Its incredible. Then the films ends with him having to live out the rest of his days in shame and regret. So how does this end? Brolin yells, says no no no, please, blah blah. Copley is all like "okey tay" and kills himself.  Brolin writes a pretty letter and drives off. The end.

The hell?

Yeah, Spike Lees Oldboy is not good. My original argument, and my willingness to sit back and accept this blew up in my face.  You cant win them all right? But as I said, I'm not going to stop giving remakes their fair shake, but perhaps I will take just a little more caution, perhaps I will go in ready to be amazed, or be slapped in the face.

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