Tag Archives: remake

Ghost In The Shell (2017)

Ghost In The Shell posterSince it’s release in 1995 the anime of Ghost In The Shell has become one of the touchstones of not only Japanese animated films breaking through into western culture (along with the likes of Akira and the Miyazaki films) but has become a heavy influence on science fiction cinema of many sorts from The Matrix to Dredd and beyond.

So now, some 22 years later, the long developing ‘Hollywood remake’ has hit the multiplexes with Scarlett Johansson leading an international cast, also including Juliet Binoche and ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano.

The story here concerns Johansson’s Major Mira Killian, a cyborg member of a kind of top-secret law enforcement agency, and her teams mission to take out a mysterious new threat who is killing off high level scientists from the company who created the Major’s robotic body. From there things head into a fairly predictable conspiracy plot.

While there’s nothing wrong with the plot per se, and it does use the conspiracy to explore a similar notion to the earlier animated version, it is hampered hugely by a near total lack of definition in the characters all of whom are at best two-dimensional renderings of fairly well-worn stereotypes – even Major who of all the roles has the most scope for something more.

Scarlett Johansson as Major Mira Killian - Ghost in the Shell

Johansson as Major

While this same criticism could be levelled at many of today’s blockbusters everything around the central group of characters just feels somewhat bland with a script that relies too much on spoken exposition to both move the story on and labour its point with visuals that, while technically impressive, never wow like it feels they should and display no sense of flair or originality.

Given the fact at least some of the cast are known talents it’s hard not to conclude that a major part of the problem lies with director Rupert Sanders, the man previously responsible for Snow White And The Huntsman which had many similar problems.

On top of this came the fact that there is a sense that Ghost In The Shell was produced somewhat ‘by committee’, trying to simultaneously target both the mainstream American (western) movie audience, the increasingly important Chinese market, the Japanese market and fans of the original.

Ghost in the Shell - Batou and team

The rest of Major’s team

While the original anime version of the film helped establish new tropes of future urban dystopia this version does little to build on that, strangely giving it a feeling that it is copying the very things the original influenced both visually and in terms of its story and characters.

This all comes together to leave a film that, while not technically bad, just feels flat and uninspired which, given the legacy of its progenitor, makes it a massive disappointment and a missed opportunity that probably arrived two decades too late, if it ever even needed to arrive at all.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Wicker Man (2006)

The Wicker Man poster 2006There are good remakes (Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), there are bad remakes (Gus Van Sant’s Psycho), there are pointless remakes (again Van Sant’s Psycho) and then there is Neil Le Butte’s 2006 go at The Wicker Man.

As with most films there is probably a vague reason to remake Robin Hardy’s 1973 classic The Wicker Man. For many years, outside of cinephile and horror fanatic circles, it was seldom seen, with the studio that funded it doing their best to bury its original release and future versions suffering from cuts and re-edits galore until the more recent DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Directors Cut and the even more recent extended cut, so, in the early to mid-2000s maybe giving viewers a new way into the story seemed like a good idea.

Unfortunately whoever had that idea either totally misjudged what they wanted or just didn’t have a clue what they were dealing with.

Nicolas Cage - The Wicker ManWhile the original melds the best bits of Hammer with some true folk horror creepiness, along with excellent performances from leads Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward with a real sense of anarchic freedom running through it all, Le Butte’s ‘vision’ seems to miss every point entirely and descends into Nicolas Cage shouting about bees and hitting women.

While this sounds like it could be an entertaining “so bad its good” romp, from the start it is simply nonsensical, adding to the original narrative a back story that makes little to no sense it just goes down hill from there as Cage’s “California Cop” heads to Summersisle (why the extra ‘s’?) to investigate a missing girl.

wicker_manAs the film goes on I thought that, at some point, all the disjointed scenes might somehow coalesce into something that did make some kind of point, but sadly, this wasn’t the case so never did I side with, or feel any connection to, either protagonist or antagonist and, when the inevitable “unfortunate event” occurs, it just left me thinking, so what, that was a waste of an hour and a half (as much as I ever consider watching a movie to be a waste of time).

Throughout, the film lacks any sense of cohesive style with Nicolas Cage seemingly doing whatever he wants while being lit really badly in front of a camera that doesn’t really know what it wants to see. This is very telling because anytime these factors become noticeable it means a film can only be genuinely bad as the narrative, nor the acting, nor anything else are distracting from the mechanics.

wicker-man-2006-burning-of-the-wicker-man-endingThe one thematic notion that I thought might explain all this is if the film was some kind of fever dream for Cage’s cop, unfortunately this notion was never backed up so what we have been left with is a film that seems to not have a clue what it really wants to be or say and is simply a poorly stage folk horror film. What puts it over the edge into the territory of the pointless and truly awful however, is its evocation of the original classic, as this film really has nothing to do with the original notion or spirit of The Wicker Man.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Thing (2011)

The Thing 2011 posterFilms made as sequels or prequels to others long after the original are always going to be problematic, and, when they do what The Thing does, it heightens these problems further.

Ok, maybe that sounds a bit negative to start off, and Matthijs van Heijningen’s 2011 horror The Thing is far from being a bad movie. Throughout it is, in its best moments, genuinely suspenseful, shocking and generally inventive as it tells the story of a team of scientists holed up in a research station in the Antarctic after they discover what seems to be a crashed alien spacecraft, and the remains of its inhabitants.

If you have seen John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name, this is all stuff we already know, and throughout this movie pays homage to that earlier ‘version’ of The Thing. But it does manage to stand on its own legs as a horror movie as well with a paranoid, haunted house feeling that builds up to mostly satisfying denouement, and then in the credits links us to where the earlier movie came in.

The Thing 2011Unfortunately what the movie fails to do is really give any sense that it is a story that needed to be told. I am not someone who holds Carpenter’s film in high reverence, it is good and I understand why it has a place in the horror canon, but, coming to it later, it is no Halloween, and upon watching it I never had a feeling that going back and seeing what happened before was necessary.

What doing this did was somewhat spoil the sense of mystery that the Carpenter movie had. In not knowing more precise details of the monster and what had happened at the Norwegian base, that film had a greater level of suspense than this one and telling that story now, spoils something of that unknowing.

The Thing 2011 - two faceAlso what the 2011 version does in many scenes is use beats and moments from the Carpenter version with a slight twist and, while this pays homage to the original, it does give the impression that, really, what Heijiningen and his team wanted to create was a remake, but instead made a prequel, and one that doesn’t quite have the same inventiveness of its predecessor.

That said the monsters here do generally look good and expand on the excellent designs of Carpenter’s movie in suitable ways with them growing larger and, with the aid of CGI, more inventively gruesome. But, by being CGI there are a few points where they lose the immediate sense of body horror some of the monsters in the original managed and it took me more out of the film than I would have liked.

So, while this version of The Thing is far from bad, and if you like paranoid horror movies with a bit, but not too much, gore, then this is certainly well worth a watch, for me it just seemed to stand far too much in the shadow of John Carpenter’s version to be truly satisfying.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,