Of Remakes, Rewrites, and Amputees.
Flight of the Phoenix
Why would anyone want to remake this movie? It’s not that it’s particularly bad (it is), or that the original is particularly good (it isn’t), it’s just that it feels so unnecessary. Generally, I can understand why a lot of remakes get made. Usually, they tend to be of international films, because the closest Americans like to come to foreigners is when they take a cab driven by an Iranian home from the sports bar after they had four too many Coors Silver Bullets and threw up on the keys to their pick-up truck. Sometimes, they’re made as an elaborate intellectual experiment to determine exactly how much money a studio is willing to literally set on fire in the hopes of an Oscar nomination, and often, as in the case of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes and the new King Kong, it’s because the director really likes monkeys. While understandable, it’s perhaps not in the best interest of the studios to invest too heavily in the latter case, because directors are usually crazy. If you let them do too many vanity pieces, you’re going to end up with Todd Phillips’ Home Video Footage of Vince Vaughn Playing Mad Libs With Will Ferrell, or a two hour film of Brian De Palma slowly strangling a prostitute to death.
This is not to say that all remakes are bad. Some are great, and can even improve on the original. I actually prefer the American version of The Ring to the original, and I became a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters for being the only person to appreciate the remake of Psycho. Few people know that John Carpenter’s The Thing was based on a campy 50s cheapie, or that 8mm was inspired by a snuff film I shot in college for an anthropology project, and I’ve got no problem with remakes in principal. The internet, however, is a stagnant pool of sewer water, breeding mouthy film fans like malarial mosquitoes, only their buzz is more annoying and they can’t sting. Every time a remake is announced, the buzz turns into an indignant roar as millions of internet users stop idly sifting through Angelina Jolie gossip and stills of bored looking girls from Vivid photo shoots to misspell ‘ridiculous’ in irate IMDB posts. I, on the other hand, am a firm believer in the cult of the director, which posits that the director is the true author of the film, and that the movie is thusly driven by his particular vision, as well as requiring the ritual sacrifice of screenwriters and Asian child labor on altars of stone and ice. And, as the author of the film, the director can provide an entirely new vision based upon the recycled material. But the remakes do need to be motivated, preferably by something other than money or a tax dodge for wealthy dentists. It doesn’t make sense to just remake a film the same way as it was originally incarnated. The only deviation Flight of the Phoenix makes from the 1965 version is that it transposes the action from the Sahara to the Gobi desert. This is analogous to cheating on your wife with a woman who looks exactly the same as your spouse, and sticking her in the same orifice. The whole point of infidelity is to lay a woman with a peg-leg, or a Mohawk, or a Thai rent boy with a mannish laugh but soft, well-moisturised skin, and the point of a remake is to take it someplace it hasn’t gone before.A wildcat in the sack, believe me.
But as to why Flight of the Phoenix was remade, I have no idea. Pondering this question has made me very confused, like trying to figure out how the twist at the end of the first season of 24 makes any sense while spinning around in a circle and listening for a tune in a Tori Amos song. I’m used to being confused, after all, I have to proof read my own run-on sentences, but I don’t like it, and consequently this movie has made me very angry. Watching a Dennis Quaid movie, like driving drunk and running over a toddler, always seems like a good idea when you start out, but ends up crippling you with moral self-loathing and guilt-complexes, because you’re supporting one of the great non-actors in American cinema. He’s not particularly talented, he’s not even good looking, he’s just recognizable, which is apparently all the American public really wants. They just want to see the same old thing, starring the same old people they saw in the same old feel good sports movie they saw last year. Plus, if it’s they’re watching a remake of a older film, they can bring grandpa along for the ride, and he gets to put in his teeth long enough to complain about remaking classics. Get him an internet connection, and he can join the club.