A New Look for "Oldboy"?

We'd reported a while back that Justin Lin had stepped back from an Oldboy remake for creative differences as well as a different gig in the form of the Fast and Furious sequel. In that exchange he'd mentioned he had an entirely different angle from the older film and the studio had wanted a carbon copy. Justin Lin stepped down and noted the project had gone on to "some big filmmaker." We now know who.

Apparently raping Indiana Jones wasn't enough. Variety reports Steven Spielberg is looking into a remake of Chan-Wook Park's Oldboy, the second of his Vengeance trilogy. Personally, I hold this trilogy in a special place in my heart and this news consequently... well it stings—faithful carbon copy or not.

Oldboy sees a man held prisoner—for seemingly no reason—in a dank, dark cell for 15 years. One day he's released with no explanation - given clothes, money and a cell phone to help lead him down the path towards discovering who did this to him and why. This obviously won't be the first time an American studio has adopted [read: butchered] an Asian film for American consumption. In fact it's a long-respected tradition that even Kurosawa's films have fallen pray to. But you'd think the recent abundance and eventual floundering of the most recent entries would have some discouraging effect. Nope.

It seems residual success from the Ring and Grudge adaptations have remained while the sour taste of a certain cell-phone ghost horror flick has been willfully forgotten. Oh how we forget. But goddamn Spielberg - if [read: when] you mess this up you better apologize. Oldboy's far too good to tinker with. The fact that he wants this to be his collaboration piece with Will Smith only further fills me with dread. I know Will Smith did a decent job in (amid the trainwreck that is) I am Legend. He played the "last man on earth" role well - and I imagine there will be more than 15 minutes in the Oldboy remake where he's sitting in that room displaying, in a way that apparently only Will Smith is able, the ways that solitude destroys a man.

What frightens me most is what this means for another Korean favorite of mine: The Host. Heralded as one of the best monster movies of all time by a large number of critics, with the remake of a classic film in a trilogy such as this - it suggests that no matter the quality of the original, if it's not in English it NEEDS translation. I know this isn't a new trend by any means, as I said it's been happening since (and even before) Kurosawa, but to take such a brilliant trilogy as Lady Vengeance and begin bastardizing it with Will Smith of all people just makes me hurt. Deep inside. Where wounds don't heal.

I hope this falls through.

Nov
07
2008
Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.

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