You know, when I previously stated in my fanboyish rant on Ridley Scott rewhatevering Blade Runner, “You know, generally speaking, I’m not opposed to any and all adaptations, remakes, [etc.],” I did not realize I would have to be eating crow again so soon. But with Variety’s report that LA-based Splendent Media acquired the worldwide rights to 69 different Akira Kurosawa film projects it seems the question of a remake’s validity rises once again. It also sort of feels like kicking a man while he’s down.
That 19 of those projects are un-produced scripts is intriguing, but let’s be honest, producers and studio executives will want the “branded” titles of already-produced scripts to better sell audiences, even if your average moviegoer probably hasn’t seen many, if any, of Kurosawa’s originals. No doubt, lazily adventurous directors will want to tackle their own favorite works, too. There’s a reason Seven Samurai, High and Low, Ran, Rashomon, Throne of Blood, The Lower Depths, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro all received the Criterion Collection treatment. I’m saying, they’re pretty good.
Of course, this news does not include the Weinstein Co. remake of Seven Samurai, which has already secured a director and have a finished script. Similarly to how Splendent Media is a young company (they only formed in 2010), the director for Harvey Weinstein’s production, Scott Mann, is a young filmmaker, with only one movie under his belt. That’s only worth noting because not even Akira Kurosawa was inexperienced when he made that particular movie, or most of his best, really. Ridley Scott at least ought to know what he’s doing with Blade Runner, even if he winds up being wrong. Maybe it’s just because I find being inspired by, or paying homage to, or liberally stealing from (like The Magnificent Seven, Fistful of Dollars, and Star Wars: A New Hope) is a lot more fun. It’s not like it’s stopped anyone before. But outright remakes means always having to clarify which one you mean: Heston Planet of the Apes or Burton Planet of the Apes? It would be so much easier to just call the latter Gorilla World.
But since I’m a fan of gallows humor as much as I am of Akira Kurosawa, I’ve decided to put my last few working brain cells to work determining the best worst ideas the typewriting monkeys in Hollywood might come up with. (I’m certain my college Perspectives on Film professor would be so proud.) Suffice to say, none of what you will find below is Shakespeare, but it might be Fusco. I’ll also provide trailers/clips from the Kurosawa versions to show you just how low I’ve allowed myself to go.
Seven Samurai Musical
Baz Luhrman helms this energetic take on the classic tale of disparate badasses joining forces to fight injustice, after the Weinsteins’ fails to get made, of course. In either a genius marketing move or the actions of a man who made Australia, Luhrman packs the cast with actors from both “Glee” and High School Musical. Yeah, they’re mostly skinny white boys, but the story is still set in Japan, so when we film it there, we’ll just populate the background with local extras like M. Night Shyamalan did with The Last Airbender. Win-Win!
High and Low
This stoner-comedy-thriller is written by Seth Rogen and David Gordon Green, directed by the latter and starring the former as rich industrialist Toshiro Mifune who’s daughter (Chloe Moretz, in a role rewritten just for her) is kidnapped and ransomed. Olivia Munn plays his wife as a comically crass shrew in her breakout film role, and Harold and Kumar and NPH themselves play the three detectives assigned to investigate the Chloe Mortez’s disappearance. High-jinks will undoubtedly ensue in this low-brow adaptation that takes place in New York City! Well, Toronto, Canada made to look like New York City.
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2: Stray Dog
Kevin James reprises the title character who has finally achieved his dreams of being a police officer. Unfortunately, he loses his gun to a pick pocket (Jaden Smith) on his first beat and naturally he freaks out that he’s going to lose his dream job — oh, and that a child is in possession of a dangerous weapon. Thankfully, a more experienced officer helps Blart in his frantic search through the mean streets of New Brunswick, New Jersey. In the most anticipated reunion of the decade, Will Smith plays the highly decorated cop!
(This is the best I could find, but some of you may not be able to watch it due to the site being a little NSFW. To compensate, here’s a fan-made horror-style trailer that isn’t too shabby in its own right.)
Ang Lee directs this epic adaptation of Yojimbo and Sanjuro that reconfigures the scripts of both films into a single unified narrative — more The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly than Fistful of Dollars or For A Few Dollars More. Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins, The Last Samurai, Inception) plays the titular unnamed “yojimbo,” the bodyguard originally portrayed by Toshiro Mifune, or Clint Eastwood if you prefer Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. This will surely be the tale of a ronin to end all tales of a ronin.
Actually, hell, that last one sounds pretty radass. Someone out there tell Ang Lee’s people and Splendent Media’s people to call my people (i.e., my roommate’s cat), and let’s make at least one good thing come out of this otherwise face-palming news.
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force, co-hosts the internet radio show We’re Not Fanboys, and tweets the twit @RobOfWar on The Twitter machine.