Monday, 23 June 2008

Ill-Advised Remake Monday: The Wicker Man

I'm kicking off my semi-regular-when-I-can-be-bothered series of 'Ill-Advised Remake Mondays', with the Neil Labute remake of The Wicker Man. Yes, I know that it's a large, slow target, and it's very easy to mock it, but that doesn't mean one shouldn't, or make it any less fun when one does. Also, I've had a bad day at work, so I need to make cheap jokes about bees; indulge me.

Now, readers of this blog may already be familiar with the original; Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Edward Woodward, human sacrifice and the concept of martyrdom, ideological battle between paganism and Christianity; bleak, almost existential fatalistic ending: right? Well...fuck all that for the remake; this film's all about the bees, baby. Well, bees...and bitches; because, see, right, the Summerislers in this new version are beekeepers (the island has been resited to somewhere off New England, as far as I can tell, so no more of the original's apple orchards maintained by a fluke of the Gulf Stream); and, like bees, you know, have a queen, and like all the men are like drones, see? So it's like a metaphor, cause the women are all in charge and stuff and...Fear not, gentle reader; I have not had a lobotomy over the course of the last paragraph; I am merely trying to put myself in the mental place where I find the endless fucking hive/bee/drone/queen references clever and interesting, rather than thuddingly obvious and dull. Thanks, Neil, but do you think you could keep the subtext, you know, UNDER the text? Rather than writing it on a cricket bat and hitting me in the face with it? I'd be ever so obliged to you.

When the film isn't chucking CG bees at you, it's tubthumping a hysterical 'OMG! Women in charge!!1!!' motif; yes, give women a sniff of power and all they really want to do is reduce men to shambling heavy labourers and sperm donors. I'm not saying that necessarily ISN'T what we want to do...Seriously, I'm not even going to call this as misogyny; it's too stupid and ill-formed for that. Not that the men come out of it any better; morons, cowed by bitches.

All the plot inconsistencies of the original, that become evident after a few viewings when you're used to the shock of the ending, come screaming out at you in this one; if it's necessary for the conspiracy to keep a person alive, why would they deliberately put them in enough peril to kill them...TWICE? So EVERYONE on the island is in on the conspiracy, and is just fine about it? And, sorry but; what do they get out of it, again? Christopher Lee's Summerisle looked like a bloody good laugh; drink, running around bonfires naked, costumes, a bit of a sing-song; Ellen Burstyn's overgrown hive looks about as much fun as an afternoon at a New Age Fayre, drinking wheatgrass and listening to a tabor. Actually, slightly less fun than that.

However, in the fine old Joel-era MST3K tradition; let's find something nice to say about the movie...

...scenery was nice; fields, trees, whatnot.

...It's always good to see Ellen Burstyn in a film (even if it is while wearing a nightie and a faceful of leftover-from-Braveheart woad).

...the climactic scene where a character is placed inside a human-shaped structure (I'm being coy for the one lost Peruvian tribe untouched by civilisation who haven't seen this or the original yet), by being hoisted up between the legs into the body cavity is a nice touch, in its unsubtle way.

There: 3 nice things, and 3 more than this film deserves; now I deserve a RAMchip and a lie-down. If you are wondering why I haven't mentioned Nicolas Cage's performance...honestly, I thought it was kinder not to. Wild At Heart was a long, long time ago.