This isn’t really intended as a news piece, as I’m sure by now you’re all aware that a reboot has been announced of John Carpenter’s cult classic Big Trouble in Little China, with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson taking on the Jack Burton role.
Instead this is an examination of why the first reaction upon hearing one of your favourite properties is being remade, is to wince and wish death upon those responsible.
First up I have to say that I am a fan of The Rock. I think he’s done more than anyone else to keep the dream of action hero icons alive, and I have nothing but admiration for his work ethic and belief in the films he creates/performs in. I also know that The Rock is a massive fan of Big Trouble in Little China, which leaves me in no doubt he would want this to be the very best it could be. That doesn’t stop me turning into a big cry-baby about it though.
But there are some things to consider whilst we’re crying over companies remaking/rebooting a property (only 2 of these apply in my case):
Fanboy kneejerk reactions are often steeped in nostalgia (unless they’re not – more on that in point 2) and nostalgia is poison for fans and filmmakers alike. When you look back at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon you soon realise that it was actually fairly crappy. But kids are easy to please so long as there’s action, saturated colour and the odd pizza. Thus when the TMNT reboot film was announced lots of people were up-in-arms about the ‘destruction of their childhood’ and such. And yeah maybe the first 1990 TMNT movie was decent, but it wasn’t brilliant (despite the fact that I still watch it at least once-a-year) and again it’s that excitement of our childhood blinding us to the myriad flaws of the film, in a way we wouldn’t accept as an adult. Make no mistake the Michael Bay produced turtles was kak, but that’s because I’m an informed grown-up and not an eight-year-old whose needs are placated by a CGI monstrosity fighting another CGI monstrosity in a collapsing building. I guess the point is that it wasn’t really such a bad idea to reboot TMNT, it just sadly landed in the hands of commercial cash grabbers.
There’s a difference between Nostalgia and a genuine classic. Go and watch Big Trouble in Little China. Do it now. See how it still stands up as an incredible piece of maverick filmmaking? That’s the difference between classics and nostalgia. Unlike the Turtles cartoon, BTILC is still as good as it was, so at least we can ask why bother remaking it? For The Rock to want this badly to reboot BTILC must surely just mean he wants to live out his boyhood fantasy of being Jack Burton, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t. But you only have to look at the difference between the 80s and 2015 to see that making a film about Chinese stereotypes and their ancient culture being punched and shot at by The Rock might come across a bit non-PC. It would surely make more sense to remake something that could actually use some improving. So yeah this is at least a point which allows us to be justified in our rage.
Not only does the original still exist, but you can take the high ground by continually citing that fact: At the end of the day films are going to get remade. There are as many great existing properties as there are original ones screaming out for their moment in the sun. But look at it from the point of a film exec; you can green-light a new film from a new writer with maximum risk, or you can fall back on a beloved property with easy-reference visuals and an A-list star begging to play the lead. It’s a no-brainer (though it’s also a travesty). But as film fans we can always take the high ground. Be the one to show all your friends the original movie. Show it to all the young kids you know and let them see how awesome it is so that when the reboot rolls around you’ll have a close-knit army of fellow geeks decrying the new version as pants. If we so strongly believe in the legacy of a film, and that legacy not being shat on by an inferior reboot, then we must ensure the rest of the world at least has the chance to share our point of view.
So yeah I’m upset about Big Trouble in Little China being remade. It is a classic and there’s such a slim chance of recapturing the magic of Kurt Russell and James Hong battling in a neon-clad wedding palace in San Francisco Chinatown that I must make it my duty not to moan, but to help others see John Carpenter’s masterpiece of genre cinema before getting their eyes sullied by an inferior attempt.
I wish The Rock all the luck in the world, and I live in hope (slight hope). Just please god don’t enlist Jonathan Liebesman.
James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.