“In France, I’m an auteur,” John Carpenter once said. “In Germany, a filmmaker; in Britain; a genre film director; and, in the USA, a bum.” Carpenter spent years in the trenches, doing his own thing and creating a legacy for himself. His films were not always box office hits, but they gained a loyal cult following that recognized the talent the filmmaker had.
Carpenter’s unique filmmaking style is often imitated, but never duplicated. Recently, genre films have been paying tribute to Carpenter by evoking his stylistic flourishes to pay tribute to the man. Films like The Guest, Cold in July, Blue Ruin and It Follows are all cut from the same Carpenter cloth.
And while paying homage to Carpenter often ends up with great results, downright remaking his films is a different story. So it’s with a slightly furrowed brow that I relay to you the news that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is planning to star in and produce a remake of Carpenter’s 1986 cult classic Big Trouble in Little China. Look, The Rock is an undeniably charismatic screen presence. I may not like the films he’s attached to, but I almost always like him in those films. And according to The Wrap, who broke the story of this remake, Big Trouble in Little China is one of Johnson’s favorite movies. So it’s not like he’s going into this with bad intentions.
Yet it’s incredibly difficult to remake Carpenter, and of all of his films I’d say that Big Trouble in Little China is probably one of the most difficult to remake. Carpenter’s film featured Kurt Russell as Jack Burton, a loud-mouth truck driver who talks like John Wayne, and finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown. The film is weird and delightful–the very definition of a cult classic. Call me skeptical, but it seems highly doubtful anyone can capture the magic of Carpenter’s silly movie.
Per The Wrap, Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, who wrote X-Men: First Class, and nothing about that movie–even if you love it–implies anything close to the tone needed for Big Trouble in Little China. And just thinking about all the god damn CGI they’re going to throw at this thing instead of the wacky schlocky practical effects employed in the first film makes me queasy. If The Rock had been cast in a film that paid homage to Big Trouble in Little China, and was playing the type of clueless, bumbling hero that Jack Burton was in that film, it would be a different story. But calling it Big Trouble in Little China just feels like a stain on that original film. Or maybe I’m just being overdramatic. The point is, please stop remaking John Carpenter movies.