Saturday, 5 March 2011

The problems with remaking a classic

After reading reports that Warner Bros. is looking into remaking, or possibly producing a prequel or sequel to the stunning Blade Runner, I, surely alongside other film enthusiasts, could not help but cry out at my computer screen in disappointment.

A compelling case is to be made against revisiting Ridley Scott’s seminal film. Purists will only cringe at hearing news of a remake, or worse still, a sequel. It has become an all-too familiar and disappointing feature of post-modern Hollywood, an industry which embodies capitalist excess in its crudest form, for popular originals and old hits to be reproduced and continued. So much so that these days the Razzies has its own category of ‘Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel’, each year an increasingly competitive category with many potential ‘winners’  - Vampiers Suck was denied the title this year by a worthier contender (if that’s at all possible) in Sex and the City 2

There are exceptions to this rule, and you do not have to cast your eyes too far back to find one. The Coen Brothers’ reworking of True Grit stood out as original, even ‘Coenian’ – a far more appropriate way to rework a film. But then there was not as much pressure on the Coens: the original True Grit is certainly not one of the best westerns, whereas Blade Runner is arguably the best science fiction film ever made (at least if Sporcle is to be believed). Blade Runner is probably to sci-fi what The Searchers or Rio Bravo is to the western. It is a true classic, has a huge fan base within and without sci-fi devotees and producing an up-to-date version of it places huge pressure upon those behind it. Does it even need remaking?

But in the hands of the experts, cinema’s leading auteurs, who can imprint their own unique vision onto the film, I would certainly want to watch it. A DiCaprio/Nolan or DiCaprio/Scorsese combination would suit the film very well. It would be great to see a brutal Scorsese edge to the film. And DiCaprio’s brooding, intense style would make his interpretation of main protagonist Rick Deckard hugely interesting (with the added guarantee that Leo has made only excellent films for a while now), while the visionary creativity of Christopher Nolan would keep the film original, taking it into a promising Nolan-inspired direction. He has worked with Warner Bros. many times in the past and would be sure to bring in some familiar faces of his own into the project. A role for Nolan chum Michael Caine would be a near-certainty, while Marion Cotillard would be a superb choice as a replicant/leading lady, and Gary Oldman would make for a great villain (Hollywood loves its Brits as the bad-guys, doesn’t it!) Hang on a minute, this is actually starting to sound like a potential classic itself... 

But there are so many obstacles to such a reworking being a great movie. Hopefully it will not fall into the trap Hollywood continuously sets itself of finding another excuse to showcase new innovations in special-effects, of neglecting essential work on screenplay and characterisation in favour of cheap thrills, and of rejecting new creation in favour of recycling old ideas, old films, and sticking religiously to ‘what sells’. Blade Runner deserves better than that, and Nolan would be able to overcome each of these stumbling-blocks. And please, no Harrison Ford cameo. I have nothing against the man. On the contrary, he is rightly thought of as one of the finest, certainly one of the most versatile, actors of his generation. But frivolous, corny cameos have tended to feature prominently in remakes and sequels of late. And it would make the film all the more irrelevant and tragic seeing an aged Ford, perhaps 15 years past his prime, in the film. And no Martin Lawrence dressing up as a woman AGAIN either. Unless (s)he’s a replicant-gone-wrong who meets a brutal and bloody death in Scorsese’s version. I would definitely pay to see that.