While the 1980s remake/update/reboot craze seems to have touched on most of the major franchises from that decade (The Terminator, Mad Max, RoboCop, Total Recall), one property has been in development for years now: the remake of Halloween director John Carpenter’s 1981 dystopian sci-fi/action flick, Escape from New York. Kurt Russell starred as outlaw Snake Plissken, an Old West-style gunslinger in the near future, who is sent into the island of Manhatten – now a maximum-security prison for the scum of the Earth – to save the President of the United States, who crash-landed inside.
In the years since the remake was announced, directors have come and gone (Total Recall‘s Len Wiseman, The Crazies helmer Breck Eisner), and the possible stars keep changing (Gerard Butler, Timothy Olyphant, Jeremy Renner, Jason Statham or Tom Hardy), but development appeared to ramp up again about a year ago. Überproducer Joel Silver (Die Hard, The Matrix) teamed with Studio Canal to produce a new Escape trilogy, starting with a prequel of sorts.
“No, no we’re not, no we’re not. I mean, it’s funny because we have a relationship with Studio Canal, which somehow ended up with the rights to that, and it has been floating around L.A. or at least in the development world for a long time.”
The idea to take the premise and iconic main character of Carpenter’s original film and spin that into a trilogy appears to have been Silver’s. He elaborated on that point:
“I always liked Kurt’s character, the Snake Plissken character, so I’ve always like that idea, but we kind of figured out a way to do almost a trilogy of that story.”
As for what ground a potential prequel could cover, Silver spoke of a celebrated Batman video game as inspiration for how Manhattan became a giant island prison:
“There was a videogame that came out a few years ago called Arkham City, which shows how when Gotham became this kind of walled prison and how it became a walled prison. And they never deal with that in the story of ‘Escape from New York,’ so part of our idea was to kind of see how the city became this walled prison and how the Snake Plissken character was a hero and how he became not looked at as a hero. And then, in the middle of the story, would be the movie that we, you know, previously saw about the President’s daughter goes down, he has to go in and get her. And then, you know, they did a sequel, Escape from LA, but I would like to then kind of find a way to have New York go back to a place that we’d like to see what it is today.”
The reference to Arkham City is interesting, not the least of which because Arkham City took many of its ideas from Escape – the city-prison, of course, but Joker also infected Batman with his poisoned blood to get him to do his bidding. In Escape, Snake is injected with an explosive device that will explode in a certain amount of time if he doesn’t save the President.
Silver’s plans for the property are pretty ambitious, but despite the seemingly endless development, the project is still not even close to going before the camera. Silver said:
“So there is a way to tell the story in three ways, but we haven’t got there yet and we’re just starting.”
There are dozens – perhaps hundreds – of dystopian sci-fi action thrillers in existence, but few are as much fun as Escape from New York. We’ve got the grim and serious Terminator and Mad Max reboots on their way, but the genre could use the tongue-in-cheek humor of Escape. If Silver can get this moving – with an angle as fresh and promising as his statements point toward – this could be a fun, viable franchise for years to come.
If they cast it right, that is. And don’t take themselves too seriously. Check out the original’s trailer below – would this tone even work for today’s audiences? It’d be interesting to watch Silver give it a shot, though. Stay tuned for more information.
Escape from New York is in development at Silver Pictures.