Alright, I'm tired of the outpouring of outrage over the internet for the upcoming release of Spike Lee's Oldboy. I understand that the first film is very good and very popular with American audiences. The idea of a remake of this film comes across as if it's just another American bastardization. Here I'm going to present some points that I want you to keep in mind before you decide about the quality of this film.
The red band trailer to the film and poster is awesome. Clearly this is not going to be a safe cash-cow project. This will be a rough R-Rated film interested in artistic integrity. View the Redband Trailer
Park Chan-Wook gave his blessing to the film and encouraged that it should be different from his film. In particular, different from his version's ending which is different from the Magna. See film details here
And here's Josh Brolin's quote on Park's blessing: "Look, it’s Spike Lee, its myself, there’s the DP Sean Bobbitt, who’s fucking amazing, man, and me talking to Chan-wook Park and saying, 'Do you mind if we do this?' and his only request was just don’t do the same movie and it’s like 'no we're not interested in that'. Structurally, as a scaffolding, it’s the same movie, but what we do with is very different. It looks very different. Spike, about two and a half weeks into the movie cut together this four minute compilation just for me to look at. Not that I needed it, not that I felt like I’m lost, I don’t know what I’m doing. He just gave it to me and said, 'Don’t look at this until you get home.' And I watched this four-minute compilation and it looked fantastic. It was a massive, massive inspiration.'
The cast is fantastic. You have Josh Brolin in the lead who has been one of the most successful and reliable actors ever since he returned to the scene in 2007. Elizabeth Olsen, who is a fantastic actress (if you need proof watch 'Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene' and 'Liberal Arts') and already has eclipsed, talent-wise, her twin older sisters. Sharlto Copley, who if you listen in the trailer you'll hear his voice on the phone, sounds bad ass. Samuel L. Jackson, finally working with Spike Lee again after years of snickering back and forth with Lee. I think we know he's always game.
The talent behind the camera. Spike Lee needs no introduction, and for all of his controversies off camera, he is still – in my opinion – a great filmmaker who has always pushed the envelope, making projects that satisfy him on an artistic and commercial level. Mark Protosevich is the screenwriter/producer whose credits include 'The Cell', 'I Am Legend', 'Thor', as well as an unproduced script called 'Batman Triumphant'. Sean Bobbitt, the cinematographer, whose credits include 'Wonderland', 'Hunger', 'Africa United', 'Shame', 'The Place Beyond the Pines', 'Byzantium', and '12 Years a Slave'.
The original Oldboy, while spectacular, is not flawless. So the idea that a good remake can't be different and good is false. As Brolin says: "No, you’re not one of those where it’s - which I don’t understand also, 'Why would you remake the film?' Just don’t see it if you don’t like it, if you don’t want to see a remake of the film. Why do another Star Wars? Why do three more? The first three are amazing. Why do the second one when the first one was great? Why do a remake? Who cares?"
One of the things I love about the original Oldboy is the very long takes with action. Without giving away too much do you guys match some of that?
Brolin comments: "we don’t match anything. The only matching is that we do it in one take. That’s the only matching. That’s the only similarity. Well, no, there’s one more similarity, but it’s basically the only similarity within that sequence and I think I can be safe to say that it’s not anything like the original other than it is one take and I’ve never experienced or seen anything like it. And I think what J.J. Perry did as the fight co-ordinator is something phenomenal. I will say this, I thought there is no way I could possibly pull it off until about a week before we did it after rehearsing it for quite a while."
The ending will apparently be even darker. Spike Lee says that "it’s very similar, but we’ve added new elements. Or, Mark Protosevich has come up with new elements to it that will throw off the audience who have seen the original movie because there are new characters and new situations that present themselves in a way that changes the story but eventually go in the same direction. The ending will be something that the audiences will all be, especially the fans of the original, very happy with. In fact, some may consider it to be a bit darker."
An early test screening reaction: "There are only minor changes, with stuff like the prison sequence being longer and some tweaks to the ending. It’s not shot for shot by any means either, so if you see it, you should definitely expect things to be different and to cringe all over again… Much like the original, acts two and three are very sadistic and 'wrong.' "So while saying it's not extremely different, at least it will be equally as disturbing."
So whether you end up liking the new Oldboy or not, let's at least give this film a chance. As I've highlighted before in another post not all remakes are bad; some are even better. While I'm not saying this version will be better then the Korean original, I think movie audiences and serious filmgoers should be more excited about this film. Oldboy was originally supposed to be released at the end of October, but has been pushed back a month to the end of November which I think shows confidence by the studio. On July 16, Oldboy was rated R by the MPAA for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity, and language.