Chan-wood Park's Old Boy is a comparatively recent, much-loved cult movie.
Why remake it?
To make it better! - might be the best, arguably only valid reason. A bit megalomaniac (the original is quite brilliant) for sure, but still one that could – if successful – justify the remake.
Spike Lee's Oldboy changes quite a few things in regards to ’s original.
Does it change enough? Or does it change too much? You have to watch the film to judge that!
The next best thing, however, is to read this here list of the biggest differences between the two movies.
This is no review, therefore I (try) not to judge, or explain why the changes were made.
Excluded from the list are obvious changes in setting and nationality of characters.
Obviously there will be giant SPOILERS!
Are you still with us? Ok, here we go:
The hero is an asshole
In 's original the hero, Oh Dae-Su (), clearly had issues. But the size and form of the issues was left to the imagination of the audience. We saw him drunk and slightly abusive while being inebriated. But that description fits most Moviepilot employees come Friday evening and is not very specific.
and screenwriter give us a much clearer understanding of the protagonist's depravity: Joe Doucett () is an overweight, alcoholic and gropy divorcee who doesn’t see his daughter often enough, doesn’t pay child support on time, and is full of self-loathing. In short: he is a prick and he knows it!
The villain' assistant is a woman
In ’s thriller the villain's assistant is a scary, white-haired dude, the suitably named Mr. Han.
Lee and Protesevich opted for a henchwoman named Haeng-Bok, instead.
The similarly battle-tried lady also meets a slightly different end than her male predecessor. While Mr. Han is deafened by our hero and subsequently shot by his employer to prevent him from strangling Oh-Dae Su, Haeng-Bok is "simply" killed by having her throat slid open by Joe.
Another suitor for the daughter
In the twisted Oedipus-esque love story of the original there was no place for another man. In the new version ’s Marie works with the young, helpful Dr. Tom Melby () to provide health care for the poor. The doctor obviously has tender feelings Marie, a fact verbalized in one scene by her father and subsequent lover, Joe.
One of two most famous scenes of the original - the other being the one-take hammer fight scene which bravely tries to top – is the moment when our hero devours a living octopus.
While must have endured an amazing amount of dumplings during the filming of Oldboy he was spared the intake of living seafood. Sorry, no octopus nibbling in the remake!
The tongue incident
Perhaps the most disturbing moment in Old Boy occurred when the protagonist cut off his tongue to repent for his sins. In the remake a severed tongue does turn up, but it belongs to Doucett's best buddy Chucky () who made the mistake of calling the villain’s sister a whore.
Out of prison
Once released from prison Oh Dae-Su finds himself on a building's rooftop.
instead chooses a summery meadow as the first post-prison location which contrasts nicely with the darkness Joe suffered before. The following brutal fight scene on a football field is one of the nicer touches of the remake.
The fake daughter
If you attempt to remake a movie that included a massive twist, you'll have to deal with the elephant in the room sooner or later: will there be the same twist?
In the case of Oldboy the answer is a resounding yes. But the movie goes to great length to lead us astray.
While plays Doucett's actual grown-up daughter, Lee introduces a fake one to the audience via an equally fake television show that Doucett watches during his 15-year prison stint.
A different kind of incest
There is another elephant in the room, though: The reason for our hero’s incarceration. In Chan-wook Park’s movie Oh Dae-Su’s guilt entailed making a remark about what he saw in an empty school building - brother and sister in passionate embrace - a long time ago as a teenager. This bit of gossip led to the sister’s suicide and the brother's vengeance years later.
The remake makes Doucett’s yapper much bigger, changes the sort of incest, and the way the villain’s sister finds her untimely end.
Firstly, it’s not brother and sister our hero perceives behaving... erm, badly: it is father and daughter. Secondly, daddy is engaged in all sorts of incestuous behavior, including a fling with his adoring son.
After his unnatural relationship to his daughter threatens to become public due to Joe’s aggressive gossipping he decides to kill his whole family, including himself. He only fails in regards to his son who years later becomes the incestuous clan's sole avenger.
Old Boy ended with a rather poetic coda of Oh Day-Su asking a hypnotist to free him of his devastating knowledge in order to be able to live (with his daughter).
The remake opts for a very different ending: Joe accepts his guilt and books himself into the room that was his prison for 15-years, probably intent on ending his life there.
His daughter is left with a letter, which doesn’t mention the incest, and a possibly wholesome future with her doctor.
Have you already seen/ will you see Oldboy? What do you think about the changes?