People have been getting quite worked up over the past few days after hearing news that the mighty Escape From New York has been lined up for the remake treatment. I can see why that news would be upsetting, but I also think that most people seem to be forgetting that Escape From New York has already been remade on at least two occasions now. The first remake was set in L.A. and directed by John Carpenter. The second one, off the top of my head, was directed by Neil Marshall and called Doomsday.
I know, I know, Escape From L.A. isn't a remake, it's a sequel. Of course it is. It just happens to hit almost every beat from the original movie in exactly the same order. The opening, once again, tells viewers about the disintegration of America and how a certain area of land has been made into a point of no return for most citizens. The danger, once again, comes from the daughter of the POTUS and the one man who may be able to get the job done is, once again, the mighty Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell effortlessly reprising the role 15 years after the original film). Snake is, once again, given very little choice in the matter and ends up using a one-man vehicle to get into L.A. before wandering around and meeting a variety of oddballs as he tries to reach his goal.
The fact that everything is so familiar is both a big positive and BIG negative for the film. Russell is great, in one of his best roles, and the supporting players all bring some fun to the proceedings but the old familiarity breeding contempt adage starts to come true as each scene clearly plays out as a pale imitation of good stuff from the original movie. There are no surprises here for fans of Escape From New York.
There is, however, still plenty of fun. Carpenter, who wrote the script with Debra Hill and Kurt Russell, may not be at the top of his game when it comes to the visuals (a lot of these mid-1990s effects look worse than the stuff in the 1981 film, which at least has a certain retro charm to it nowadays) and makes one huge mis-step with a scene featuring some surfing that has to be seen to be disbelieved, but he throws enough good people onscreen to guarantee that movie fans will at least spend most of the movie with a smile on their face.
Cliff Robertson plays the president this time around, Stacy Keach and Michelle Forbes are the people who give Snake his instructions and try to keep tabs on him, Peter Fonda is a wise old dude, Steve Buscemi is slippery Eddie AKA Map To The Stars Eddie and Bruce Campbell is a creepy surgeon. Valeria Golino has a small role as a woman who enjoys the freedom that living in dangerous L.A. provides and Pam Grier is enjoyable as Hershe Las Palmas. A. J. Langer is the daughter of the president and Georges Corraface is the revolutionary type that she falls in with, but both are overshadowed by the supporting cast, which also includes the great Al Leong and Peter Jason in small roles.
While certainly not as bad as it was made out to be when initially released, Escape From L.A. just isn't a patch (pun possibly intended) on the first film, but it has plenty of enjoyable little moments throughout and shows some strong ideas at its core as it weaves the basic plotline through an America that Carpenter shows to be horribly restrictive and in need of adjustment. It's set in 2013, but it's a 2013 where personal freedoms are kept in check by the government, American citizens are treated like a foreign invader once a judgment has been made and people are controlled by a mixture of lies and misinformation. Thank goodness it's only a movie, eh.