Thursday, August 12, 2004

Notes on The Manchurian Candidate 

My thoughts on this movie would probably be much more complete if I had seen the original Manchurian Candidate less than 6 or 7 years ago. As it is now, I can only remember the basic outline of it, and certain memorable scenes. Fortunately, I don't aspire to a full "review" of anything, I just share my thoughts.

It started off with a lot of potential. The beginning was interesting, and pretty creepy. Somewhere in the middle, though, Claire turned to me and informed me she was bored. That's too bad, I thought. But then I realized that I hadn't been actively engaged in a while. I'd just been waiting patiently. Pretty soon, I was bored too. It was like the movie was geared for a slow boil, and had just kinda turned down the heat. In the last part, the movie actually crossed into my hostility zone. When Meryl Streep reaches up to French kiss her son, that was it for me. The ending happens to make no sense, as characters inexplicably and against the logic of the movie do the exact things that allow a happy ending to happen. Whatever.

The acting all around was excellent. I can't think of a single person who wasn't totally on top of their game in this movie.

The political stuff was a bit weird. I've seen it said that Meryl Streep bears a remarkable resemblance to Hillary Clinton in this movie, and I'd agree, at least in terms of costuming and makeup. But that's about where the resemblance ends. I can't even imagine how you'd try to make some argument about the political agenda of the movie from this, though. It goes out of its way to not tell you whether the guy is a Republican or Democrat (the most unrealistic thing in the movie is the way the political channels put the senators' names up, but without the little R or D). The politicians in the movie stick to pretty safe themes: strength, security, integrity of the political system. This modern version replaces the communists with today's reliably unoffensive evil guys, a multinational corporation ("Manchurian Global").

Remaking a movie doesn't have to be a hopeless exercise. But producers are going to have to learn how to do it intelligently. They seem to pick amazingly great, beloved classics, like The Manchurian Candidate and Psycho, or the best of foreign films, like La Femme Nikita. Films you can't reasonably hope to better. I guess the attraction is that if the old one was good, you're already close to a good movie. Too much of the movie-making process is unpredictable, though. To make truly great films, too many different things must come together just right. When it happens, it's wonderful, but you can't plan on it happening. Instead, it would be better to pick up old movies that were flawed but still had interesting aspects, and remake those. Then movies that might have been bad due to factors beyond anyone's control have a shot at being seen as they were intended, and you're creating something better than what was out there before instead of something worse. Think The Thomas Crown Affair or Ocean's 11.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?