Friday, September 16, 2011

Bad marketing and the Straw Dogs remake

Dustin Hoffman owned the '70s. Before Ishtar and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium he starred in films like The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, Lenny, All the President's Men, Marathon Man and Kramer vs. Kramer. Any actor would be proud to have their name attached to any of these flicks, yet in 12 years Hoffman made some of the best movies during the New Hollywood Era. A huge accomplishment for somebody once voted "least likely to succeed" in acting school. Really makes you rethink those high school superlatives, eh?

His school obviously didn't have a "most likely to play a badass Captain Hook" superlative.

Released in 1971, Straw Dogs was one such classic. A violent, challenging film, Straw Dogs was released during a time where realistic violence was just hitting the screen. Gangsters and cowboys were always getting shot, but it never went past any emotion than "point the gun at the bad-guy-wearing-black." Hoffman, defending himself and his wife against a group of sociopath, British rednecks made the perfect forum for questions about human nature, gender roles and barbaric instinct. Though a cult film, it even managed to remain remembered after being released the same year as Clockwork Orange, The French Connection and Dirty Harry.

Does he have a unibrow in this poster?

The movie remains just as shocking and impacting as it did in 1971. So, since there is no reason to remake such a film, Hollywood has went along and decided to release a Straw Dogs remake set to premiere this Friday. And since I haven't seen it yet (until I go to sleep, today is still technically Thursday) I can't judge how the remake holds up. Going by the trailer however, this remake seems to of lost all the class and esteem of the original.

Even the poster loses a bit of subtlety.

I have no problem with them moving the setting to the South. I have no problem with Cyclops starring in Hoffman's role (I've always kind of liked James Marsden). It's the general tone that the trailers seem to convey that throws me off. The original is a psychological thriller that explodes in violence towards the end. The remake, though I have not seen it yet, seems to take its tone from more contemporary horror films. Instead of a slow, simmering boil we instead have The Strangers without masks.

The masks being the best part of The Strangers.

Maybe the marketing team are hoping to capitalize on the first fall thriller, but even though the original was violent it was far from today's torture porn. The original had something to say. The remake just seems hollow and if it does try and attempt to say anything it will most likely be obvious and heavy-handed. A message placed on a silver platter instead of one that challenges us. Plus, while Alexander Skarsgard will most likely put in a wonderful performance, the trailer obviously uses him to entice True Blood fans into living out their fantasies of Eric Northman and his impetuousness.

Even when successful, stunt-casting is still stunt casting.

The remake will most likely prove to be nothing but what the title suggests, a form without substance.If it does suprise anyone with its depth, it's only because the marketing failed so completely. Instead of the controversial, raw and engaging original, it will most likely be another movie lost in the fall shuffle. Another bland thriller that, despite its attempt, has nothing new to say or show. That is, of course, the nature of remakes.

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