Posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2011 by Russ Fischer
When talking about the screenwriter hire for Warner Bros.’ proposed reboot of Lethal Weapon, I mentioned that there was a lot of potential remake news coming out of the studio today. Well, here’s the rest. [via THR] What happened is that exec Jessica Goodman, a 13-year vet at the studio, has left, and projects that were on her desk, or hidden at the bottom of one of her ‘to-do’ piles, have been distributed among other execs.
The result is a new lease on life for a handful of possible remakes that have been dormant for some time. They include Sam Peckinpah‘s seminal ‘end of the West’ film The Wild Bunch, the aforementioned Lethal Weapon reboot, and a new version of Westworld.
First up, I really can’t see any problem with remaking Westworld. Originally made by Michael Crichton in 1973, the original is practically begging for a remake. You can’t quite replace Yul Brenner, who played a robot cowboy who runs amok at an immersive amusement park for adults, but modern effects might do wonders for the story. Sure, Mr. Crichton later one-upped himself by writing Jurassic Park (robot cowboys are one thing, and real dinosaurs quite another) but there’s still room for a new version. I’d rather see Warners doing original films, but as remakes go this one doesn’t rankle.
But then there’s The Wild Bunch. That one rankles a hell of a lot. Word is that the success of the Joel and Ethan Coen version of True Grit is to blame (or credit) for this one floating back to the surface. I didn’t think anything could make me dislike the success of True Grit, but I guess there’s got to be a downside to everything.
So let’s get this out of the way: besides being Westerns the two original films are in no way comparable, and besides being Westerns, there’s no reason to use the True Grit remake as justification for The Wild Bunch.
Many thousands of words have been written praising and analyzing The Wild Bunch, which presented onscreen violence in a way that was new and shocking at the time, and which remains potent despite the fact that dozens of imitators have recycled its approach. (Safe to say that without The Wild Bunch, there would be no John Woo.) I won’t recycle all that effort here.
Sam Peckinpah’s original features a stellar cast of leading men and character actors (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sánchez, Ben Johnson, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones) and represented the director’s triumphant return to the silver screen after difficulties with his film Major Dundee kept him from working for a few years. It isn’t just a major point in the ever-escalating graph of cinematic violence, but a tender and heartfelt character study about men whose time has passed. I don’t care who you hire to write, the result would be The Wild Bunch in name only. Let it be, please.