Producer Roy Lee thinks he can out-dark incest and live octopus eating. Good luck to him.
For viewers, the politics of adaptations pre-release is a tired one that almost always ends with the conviction that it will be colossally shit, as we’ve usually seen with text-to-film remakes. What’s worse: rehashing, or altering angles and failing? It’s one thing, compiling the best bits of a wanky predecessor to create something new, but tackling an already strong film with claims to make it darker than the original, in an American context? I call that pre-packaged gas.
The film getting the remake treatment this time is Oldboy, a thriller first portrayed in manga by Garon Tsuchiya, then adapted into a renowned 2003 Korean film by Park Chan-wook. Director Spike Lee now holds the task of translating the vengeance story to an American setting, via Mark Protosevich’s (I Am Legend, Thor) screenplay, for an October 2013 release. Spike Lee’s artistic vision habitually covers social commentary on urban America, so how exactly he’ll renovate the original and execute the ‘wtf!?’ factor distinct in Chan-wook’s original will be all in the detail. The official synopsis reads:
An advertising executive is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his punishment, only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.
Word suggests there’ll be no strong attempt to give a makeover to the pervasive mindfucks of the 2003 version, which include incest and live octopus-eating. Producer Roy Lee has called the 2013 remake “very similar”, with some new elements, but a story that “eventually [goes] in the same direction.” So, at best, it’ll likely be a safer means of bringing the story to a wider audience and the poor sods that haven’t seen the 2003 Oldboy.
Perhaps instead of teeth & tongue pulling, dicks will be yanked off with pliers
Still, maybe Roy Lee will make good on his promise that fans of the original Oldboy may find the end result “a bit darker.” Perhaps instead of teeth & tongue pulling, dicks will be yanked off with pliers. Already, there are signs that the film makes steps to go that little bit further: rather than being incarcerated for fifteen years (as the protagonist was in Chan-wook’s original), Lee’s anti-hero Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is instead confined for…20 years?!
Though Spike Lee has proven he has dark directorial capabilities, there’s something so authentic about Asian vengeance plots that it seems to only belong to Asian cinema. We don’t want to believe that a culture responsible for meaningless blockbusters (that’s the US) can adapt a grim tale about the extreme perils of running your mouth. For fans of the original, the main concern is how thorough the gruesome elements will be handled. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst is inevitable by fan standards; the bar may just be set too high. Thankfully, it sounds like Lee and his team are not adamant on cocking up a classic.
Featured image: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks