For fans of Park Chan-wook's South Korean output, it may be disconcerting to see an effort to Americanize his movies. And it might be especially painful to see those remakes now that the director has moved to America to debut his psychological film "Stoker" next March. You have to wonder what he thinks, though, when America plans to remake his "Vengeance Trilogy" into very Americanized products with actors Charlize Theron, Josh Brolin, and different directors.
He'll have to accept that for what it is if he doesn't want to raise the ire of Hollywood. Although it must be challenging not to give heated opinion when the "Vengeance" movies in South Korean had a particular aesthetic that can't be completely duplicated or marketed in American terms. While the revenge tales can easily be reformulated for U.S. audiences, it's the philosophic details that made them classics in South Korea.
Leave it to us to start with the second and third within the trilogy rather than the first. The reason for that is possibly simple: "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance" were far more popular at the box office than the first in the trilogy, "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance." Not that it largely matters since the three only connected via theme rather than by characters.
You also have the problem of "Mr. Vengeance" becoming nothing but a diluted American vigilante movie. Even so, the American vigilante movie is having a bit of a comeback, and it's perhaps why dipping into the Korean concept of revenge will also be back on the big screen. How will they all look, though, when Park Chan-wook's unique directorial style made these three films into widely regarded masterpieces?
With the Americanized "Oldboy" being directed by Spike Lee, we'll still see plenty of stylization. The real question is whether star Josh Brolin can play vengeance seeker Oh Dae-su (a drolly-named Joe Doucett in this version) to the physical and psychological depths required. This film also has extremely complex action scenes that Spike Lee has had little experience in doing prior.
Then there's the newly proposed remake of "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" with above-mentioned Theron. So far, a director hasn't been picked, which is telling taking on such a complex tale and competing with Wook's prodigious and obsessive directorial prowess. It's dubious this adaptation will even attempt to re-create the impressive version done in South Korea where the color slowly fades out as the film progresses.
But what would happen if Park Chan-wook ended up colliding in America with one of his own films? Would he take the job and give a new American spin, or simply remake the same film he did before with American actors? We'll assume he'd avoid wanting to direct any of the other two American "Vengeance" films out of simply wanting to carve a new cinematic identity here.
"Stoker" already has its fans lined up, even before it's officially released. The irony behind "Stoker" and countless other films Wook will eventually direct here is that they may become too good to be endemic to America. In that regard, the arriving breed of new South Korean directors will perhaps take on "Stoker" someday and make it into their own, much like Japan is doing with "Unforgiven" next year.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Josh Brolin