There’s Reason to Be Excited About The ‘Escape from New York’ Remake

By  · Published on March 28th, 2017

With Robert Rodriguez behind the camera, at least.

Everyone hates remakes. As film-critic people, we are obligated to hate remakes and reboots ever more. Remember Ben-Hur with Morgan Freeman? Remember Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes (2001)? But I’m can’t help but get excited about the remake of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981) that 20th Century Fox is starting to get the ball actually rolling on. For one, Carpenter remains on hand as executive producer, which kind of makes the director and nowprolific rock star look like a father watching kid’s play with his old toys. Carpenter hasn’t done anything, movie-wise, in almost decade so it’s nice to see that he’ll be somewhere behind a camera sometime soon. Last year, he announced that he’d be also be on hand to help helm currently-hip Blumhouse Production’s first take on the ninth Halloween movie. So there’s a chance those will stop being awful. Maybe that’s his thing now.

But the other great and exciting thing about the remake of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, which will hit production sometime later this year and will probably star some earnest-yet-brawny man I secretly hope will be James Franco, is that it just might feature Robert Rodriguez behind the camera. In a world where writers and directors toss off remakes or sequels of their work to whatever lowly writer or director will make it into something mildly marketable, Rodriguez is one of the few directors to stand by the franchises he has erected: from his early trilogy of hot Western revamps that essentially gave new life to a genre that Clint Eastwood tried to gently kill off in the early ’90s, to the massively-popular and beloved everywhere Spy Kids franchise that was finally forced to peter to a stop after its last round of children, Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook were no longer children. An animated take on the franchise, Spy Kids: Mission Critical, is currently in production at Netflix.

This dedication to his own product – he wrote and directed every Spy Kids movie, I shit you not – is remarkable. Give me one other franchise that wasn’t largely cooked up in a Hollywood writer’s room and was a Happy Meal-mainstay? They’re not putting in action figures of Richard Linkletter’s Jesse and Céline in your oily paper bags anytime soon. And there are only few directors on this side of Steven Spielberg who can make as much a name for themselves in zombie camp as adrenaline-charged children and, fewer still, who’ve risen up out of the independent filmmaking scene to seamlessly make it in Hollywood. A similar story could, maybe, be said of his frequent comrade behind the camera, Quentin Tarantino, but an argument could also be made that most of Tarantino’s movies are pretty much the same. What I’m trying to say is that Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003) at least feels different than From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).

Of course, Rodriguez’s last franchise notably went down in flames. Which just might be why a director like Carpenter might see a kindred spirit in the Spy Kids-mastermind. A director with a staunch fanbase but notably inconsistent critical acclaim or box office appeal, most of Carpenter’s last few movies: Village of the Damned (1995), Ghosts of Mars (2001) and the unfairly-maligned The Ward (2010) were both box office bombs and hold Rotten Tomato scores south of thirty or forty percent. While the common criticism of Carpenter’s output has been its paper thin characters, the same could equally be said of his greatest work. I mean, we don’t even find out Snake Plissken’s real name. In my opinion, its a harder route: if people don’t immediately feel at home in the dark caverns of a burning-slowly New York City or with the loud punchy-colors you dress your movie in, your characters take the blame. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, anybody can write a script.

Before even choosing Rodriguez, Fox had been getting their own script ready for Escape From New York ever since their Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) made incredible amounts of cash and also didn’t really suck. Consequently, a script and story and whatnot has been sitting around for some time now, penned by Neil Cross, mostly known for being the creative figure behind the BBC’s Luther. Per The Wrap, its full of lots of script-y things: we discover Plissken’s real name, the antagonist will be some biotech billionaire instead of a badass Isaac Hayes and the titular New York will be “the island we know, but with more towering glass structures and a high, undulating glass wall.” Cool. Like Fox’s latest Apes reboot, the idea will be to give the vibe of the original while still, you know, surprising you with Draco Malfoy hiding around the corner or something.

Will Rodriguez give those undulating walls the futuristic pomp of, say, an Organization of Super Spies-headquarters? Or will it be dark in the spirit of Carpenter’s original, with the blood, graffiti and revelry that Rodriguez himself perfected in From Dusk Till Dawn? The best thing about Rodriguez’s Escape from New York is that I have no idea.

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