I've been guardedly optimistic about Spike Lee's Oldboy remake since he first signed on, under the assumption that the ever-idiosyncratic Lee would add his own spin, avoiding as much as possible comparisons between his own work and Park Chan-wook's original. But from the looks of this trailer, which debuted today at Yahoo! Movies, he couldn't possibly be less concerned about being compared to the original.
It's not just that the plot, about a man mysteriously imprisoned for 20 years and teaming up with a young woman for answers, looks identical. It's that the style is so similar, from the design of the most significant rooms-- the jail cell, the apartment from the end-- to the cinematography itself. I haven't seen Park's Oldboy in years, but this trailer immediately reminds me of it. Which you'd think would be exactly what Lee would want to avoid in remaking a film so rabidly loved by so many.
At the moment in the trailer when you see Brolin grab a hammer, you realize that Lee and distributor Film District are actively trying to remind you of the best parts of the original Oldboy-- who isn't familiar with the iconic corridor fight?-- and they're apparently hoping that you'll want to see essentially the same movie, just in English and with familiar actors. Josh Brolin remains a fantastic choice for the lead role, an actor who can combine everyday amiability with ferocity (think about the way he went from hapless criminal to surprisingly smart prey in No Country for Old Men). And Elizabeth Olsen as the mysterious woman who helps him-- well, we've been waiting for her to get her killer breakout role since Martha Marcy May Marlene. This trailer doesn't give us a glimpse of Sharlto Copley as the bad guy, but fans of the original film know how juicy that role can be. But there's the problem all over again-- everything we expect from this movie comes entirely from the original, and this trailer gives us almost nothing to look forward to that's new.
Then again, there's the mysterious photo posted yesterday to the film's Facebook page, of a Buddha figurine that isn't at all familiar from the original film.
Is that a sign that there's something different in store after all?
I still refuse to believe that Spike Lee is capable of making a derivative remake, and I continue to fervently await his Oldboy, which is set for release October 25. Let us know what you think of the trailer below, and if you noticed some references to the original film that we missed. To help, here's the trailer for the original Korean film below.