In case you haven't heard by now, Fox Studios and Dwayne Johnson are in talks of remaking the cult classic (and my favorite movie of all time) Big Trouble in Little China. This serves as yet another example of Hollywood taking something perfectly good and then screwing it up.
It's common knowledge that Hollywood executives are hypersensitive to money-losing movies to the point where it could be described as a paralyzing fear. As such, they are notorious for sticking to stick to previously successful plots and gimmicks. It has earned them such tags as "movie by committee" for example.
Paradoxically enough they can be talked into backing movies that are guaranteed flops before the first minute of filming even begins. Some of those guaranteed flops are remakes of classic cult films. In the entire history of remakes of cult classics, I can only think of three that did as well as, or better than, the original --- Night of the Living Dead, Rob Vombie's Halloween, and John Carpenter's The Thing. (More on my opinion on two of these remakes, in an upcoming blog post.)
The reason the remakes of cult classics fail is usually because usually the original cult classic was turned down by Hollywood studios, and were personally financed by the writers and directors who believed passionately about their film. And because the films creators were also the ones who finance it, they remain faithful to their own vision.
As such is the story with Big Trouble in Little China. Since the moment he conceived the idea, John Carpenter loved this project so much that he poured his soul into it, not only financing it, but writing, directing, and even writing the theme song (a god awful song, but catchy and filled with all the usual sounds and clichés of a typical 80s theme). It failed in the theaters mainly because Fox didn't know how to categorize and therefore promote the film, but became a video cult classic and gained such a large cult following that nearly 30 years later, people still buy and proudly wear Jack Burton t-shirts and other related items (in fact, Quentin Tarantino loved the film so much, the original shirt Kurt Russell wore can been seen framed on the wall at the bar in the movie Death Proof).
Something that Mr. Johnson and the executives he has convinced to back this project have forgotten two basic facts of cult classic films:
1) they nearly always flop in the box office on initial release
2) their cult success is owed to the chemistry of the actors and their performance, and can rarely be reduced to a formula that can be reproduced.
So now, The Rock and various Hollywood executive committee members have dollar signs dancing before their eyes thinking that this particular remake will be one of those rare exceptions that do better upon initial release than its predecessor. But no one can deliver the one-liners the way Kurt Russell did, and no one can write into the script the kind of personality that Russell brought to the character. Carpenter, Russell, and Kim Cattrall captured lightening in a bottle (pardon the pun and the cliché), and I just don't see Johnson repeating that sort of magic.
To be fair, Dwayne Johnson has impressed me in other comedy roles, specifically Get Shorty and Get Smart, and to be totally fair, he could come within shouting-distance of the job that Russell did if he redefines the Burton character and is able to find a female lead whose chemistry works well with his. Plus, Johnson will have to take into account that the original was part homage and part spoof of Asian action films, two little facts that have been forgotten with time.
But let's be really honest here, Johnson will never be able to pull off lines like, "You know what ol' Jack Burton says at times like this..." or "It's all in the reflexes, and of course, "...The check is in the mail." Sorry, but Russell did it best; Johnson, you're going to have to write your own one-liners, and that's not going to be an easy task.
More than everything else, though, this will present a personal issue for me. I'm frequently asked what my favorite movie is, and I always cite this film. But if that remake becomes a reality, I'll be forced to answer "The original Big Trouble in Little China" with emphasis on the word original. This answer will no doubt illicit one of four responses from the person who asked me, and of the four potential replies, only one will be acceptable.
1.) "Oh yes, the original was the best. This remake sucks."
2.) "I don't know, this new version was pretty good too" --- this response will immediately cause me to throttle the person where they stand.
3.) "I've never seen the original" --- at which point I will duct tape them to a chair and make them watch the original over and over until they recant.
4.) "This was remake? I didn't know that? Who was in the original?" --- their fate shall be the same as Response #2.
As these next few months pass, I will be keeping my eye out for any news one way or the other, and because of my passion about this, you can be sure I'll keep you in the loop.
Until Next Time...
p.s. Much to the chagrin and annoyance of those who know us, it's no secret that The Boss and I can quote Big Trouble in Little China word for word from the opening scene to the final credit. So for those who have seen the movie, I've included some of the more famous quotes below. And for you folks who have never seen, please take this time to stream or rent the movie and enlighten yourself.
Jack Burton: Like I told my last wife, I says, "Honey, I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it's all in the reflexes."
Jack Burton: When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."
Eddie: Well sure it was a war. And anybody that showed up was gonna join Lem Lee in the Hell of Being Cut to Pieces.
Jack Burton: Hell of being what?
Eddie: Chinese have a lot of Hells.
Gracie: I'd go with you but...
Jack Burton: Yeah, I know, there's a problem with your face.
Jack Burton: [tapping on the walls] Two, three feet thick, I'll bet. Probably welded shut from the outside, and covered with brick by now!
Wang Chi: Don't give up, Jack!
Jack Burton: Oh, okay, I won't, Wang! Let's just *chew* our way outta here.
Jack Burton: You know what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like this?
Jack Burton: Jack Burton! Me!
Jack Burton: You can go off and rule the universe from beyond the grave.
Lo Pan: Indeed!
Jack Burton: Or check into a psycho ward, which ever comes first, huh?
Jack Burton: "Jack" what? I'm supposed to buy this shit? 2000 years, he can't find one broad to fit the bill? Come on, Dave, you must be doing something seriously wrong!
Jack Burton: Would you stop rubbing your body up against mine, because I can't concentrate when you do that.
Wang Chi: A brave man likes the feel of nature on his face, Jack.
Egg Shen: Yeah, and a wise man has enough sense to get in out of the rain!
Jack Burton: Feel pretty good. I'm not, uh, I'm not scared at all. I just feel kind of... feel kind of invincible.
Wang Chi: Me, too. I got a very positive attitude about this.
Jack Burton: Good, me too.
Wang Chi: Yeah!
Jack Burton: Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?
Jack Burton: Sooner or later I rub everybody the wrong way.
Jack Burton: Just remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, "Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it."