Pan-Pacific Pastiche: Four Future Films Remaking East in West
Can the best of Japanese and Korean genre cinema go Hollywood?
When it comes to American remakes of Japanese movies, the record is so decidedly mixed that we’re still slightly relieved that a live-action Akira remains in development hell; for every scared-up The Ring, there’s a Dark Water with John C. Reilly. Korean films have it even trickier – note how the Tale of Two Sisters remake didn’t even keep the name of its inspiration, redubbing itself The Uninvited and disappearing from memory as quickly as a guest of that sort. But as long as we keep loving the originals, studios stateside will keep trying to find a way to take money off of us. Here are four upcoming attempts we’re keeping our eyes on, ready to either invert them Sadako-style or widen ’em with joy:
47 Ronin – Often described as Japan’s national legend, the 18th-century “Tale of the 47 Ronin” involves a group of samurai who avenged their master’s forced seppuku by executing a two-year plan to kill the man responsible for their former daimyo’s shame. After succeeding, they all killed themselves for having committed the dishonorable crime of murder. In the Japanese culture, that’s a more satisfactory ending than here, where it not only means the good guys die, but also that there’s no room for sequels. Potential solution? Introduce Keanu Reeves as a half-British, half-Japanese outcast who joins the group. Also, they’re adding witches and giants, because actual history doesn’t always have sufficient special effects.
Oldboy – It seems odd when adapting a trilogy to start in the middle, but since Park Chan-wook’s classic Korean triptych is only thematically rather than narratively connected, it makes some sense to start with the most famous one. Spike Lee just wrapped shooting on this remake, which stars Josh Brolin as a man mysteriously imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years. He quickly finds the man responsible, but cannot kill him before finding out why. Sounds like a simple hook, but what fans are rightly afraid of is that the original depended upon unreproduceable plot elements that would push the limits of an NC-17 rating: incest, live octopus eating, tooth pulling, tongue slicing and more. Could be that Lee goes back to the Japanese manga source material, which is quite different, but he’s already promised the famous hammer fight will be shown in a whole new way.
Lady Vengeance – Part three of Park’s trilogy is also being adapted by The Departed screenwriter William Monahan, who clearly knows a thing or two about giving Asian thrillers an American makeover. Less viscerally gruesome than Oldboy – the nastiest harm is visited upon a child-killer, which most viewers will likely cheer – it will now feature Charlize Theron as a woman who confesses to a crime she didn’t commit, and spends her time in prison making friends with inmates who can specifically help her gain revenge once she’s out. In case you’re wondering, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the least likable installment of the three Park films, but if either of the remakes does well, watch it get a facelift anyway.
All You Need Is Kill – Based on a Japanese light novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka with illustrations by Yoshitoshi Abe (Haibane Renmei, NieA under 7), it’s basically Groundhog Day meets Source Code, as a soldier in a futuristic war keeps reliving the day he died, gradually learning more and more and possibly ultimately attaining the ability to avoid his fate. Tom Cruise stars, so considering his relentless drive toward perfection in most of his roles, we imagine he’ll figure out how to cheat death. Because, again: gotta think sequels.
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