Please note that this review assumes that you know the original film and contrains major spoilers for both that and this remake.
like most viewers of this site I would hope, am not a fan
of remakes. That is not to say there aren't exceptions to
the rule, but they are few and far between in this age where
'post modernism' is an excuse to be unoriginal.
The original Wicker Man, made in 1973, is among my all time favourite films (hence
my pseudonym on this site), as is detailed in the companion
to this piece (which I greatly urge you to read before this
one if you are unfamiliar with the original film). So the
announcement of a remake was unsurprisingly not music to
of all let's cover the basics...
original film was a low budget British affair, showcasing
the possibility of more subtle performances from the staples
of UK horror. A labour of love for all involved, and noticeably
so when viewed.
remake is an American Hollywood feature, a pawn in their
cynical money-making drive of modern times; that of filmically
repackaging classic cinema for a contemporary consumer audience
in order to make a quick buck. This is everything I hate
about the dominant forces in the film industry, and therefore
I must warn you that this review may stray from the objective,
although I promise to rein myself in as much as possible,
in the name of fair criticism.
the first scene reveals the dashing Nicolas Cage as a Californian
traffic cop gallantly trying to free a family of girls from
a flaming car, one would be forgiven in assuming this to
be another Cage action flick. But there appears to be something
out of the ordinary about this car full. And as the vehicle
blows up, Cage is thrown to the ground and the title appears...The
at his house we are familiarized with the character. A fellow
cop drops round to see how he's holding up after the stressful
ordeal and reveals the car to be unregistered and the victims
unknown. She leaves, and our protagonist opens a letter.
Here we are introduced to a woman by the name of Willow
(ring any bells?) whose daughter Rowan is missing in the
domain of Summersisle. Aha, I thought, this is sounding
decidedly more Wicker Man like. But this
Willow knows our hero, named Edward Malus, not Howie, from
a past romance and this is why she enlists his help.
off he goes to Summersisle encountering many strange things,
the first of which being a distinct lack of men on the island.
Malus also has a rather unfortunate allergy to bee stings,
proving a problem as the island is practically a honey making
factory, with bees all over the place. Things become progressively
more bizarre and intriguing (that is if you are unfamiliar
with the original) and Malus becomes increasingly angered
and disturbed by Summersisle, the trauma of the family he
was unable to save back in California still preying on his
mind. After a bee accident Edward eventually meets with
'Sister Summersisle' (Ellen Burstyn) the leader of their
sect, who explains the nature of their commune to him; an
ancient Celtic feminist group of sorts, that moved to the
New World to create a new life for themselves and settled
on this island, not far from Washington.
those unfamiliar with the original plot and thus the fate
of our protagonist, what follows may (gasp) ruin the end
for you. Nicolas Cage is indeed burnt to death in a wicker
man. This is due to the whole thing being a set up to lure
him onto the island and sacrifice him to their gods in the
hope of a successful harvest.
is one twist that appears in this that is not in the original
however, the fact that Rowan turns out to be Edward's daughter.
Okay, not that much of a shock!
the formalities of synopsis are done with I will endeavour
to cross examine the film with the original.
the very start there is a totally different feel to the
remake. There is more back story concerning the hero, and
his mental state is called into question with the added
plot strand of the ambiguous roadside car accident, which
crops up throughout the film in flashback. The reason for
the inclusion of this eludes me. It lends little to the
characterisation and serves only to confuse a perfectly
adequate plotline (down to the fact that it is otherwise
almost exactly the same as the original). When Cage enters
the island the sense of other and palpable eeriness of the
1973 film is largely absent. This is the first scene where
the remake practically plagiarizes the original right down
to identical dialogue. Three fishermen (women actually)
are quizzed about the whereabouts of Rowan in a wincable
American impression of Edward Woodward's first scene. It
made me feel uneasy and I awaited what was to come in a
hope it would not recur. A vain attempt to mask this with
something original was given in the guise of a large bleeding
bag with mysterious wriggling contents.
Green Man tavern has been replaced by a Swiss style wooden
cabin that wouldn't look out of place in The Sound
of Music, and the creepy landlord with a butch
formidable looking Frau-American. The landlord's daughter
is nowhere to be seen, but there is a Willow in the form
of Kate Beahan. First of all, she is no Britt Eckland, and
even with the dubbed voiceover Eckland's performance in
the original surpasses Beahan's. Willow's presence in the
new film is actually of a character that does not really
exist in the original. She is the amalgamation of Rowan's
mother, May Morrison, the original Willow and a new character
that reaches into the past of the protagonist. I understand
that this is to give the audience of today an emotional
hook to invest in, but, like the making of the film at all,
I feel this is a great insult to the intelligence of the
s a film struggling with trying to breath fresh air into
a script that is in general still as potent today as it
was on the year of its release. A good example of this is
the Mayday celebration. Malus, exactly like Howie, embarks
on a frantic search around the island for the child. There
is the same down to his opening of a wardrobe from which
a child falls, presumably dead, yet she gets up laughing
and runs off - another stolen and uncomfortable moment,
with more to come, alas. Substituting the Punch costume
of the first film for a bear outfit, the landlady of the
tavern prepares for the celebration when she is knocked
out by Malus, who dons the suit as a disguise before entering
the Mayday procession. The final scene is the worst for
fans of the original. It details the same fate as Woodward's
character but in a much less convincing and harrowing way.
The film ends with a ridiculous 'Six months later' scene,
the icing on the cake of a poor remake.
is not helped by the performances, in particular the character
of Malus. In order to bring the Howie character up to date
he is not a Christian and not a virgin, the two things that
attracted him to the people of Summerisle in the first film.
Because of this and the fact that Cage cannot get a foothold
on this character, it fails.
afraid this is Johnny Depp and Charlie
and The Chocolate Factory all over again. For
a second time I see an actor I greatly admire slaughter
his reputation in a shocking remake. It braeks my heart
to see a classy actor and a classic film shat all over in
one fell swoop.
the supporting cast, they all disappear in the shadows of
the original, which is saying something as much of the supporting
cast in the 1973 film were non-actors. My Nicolas Cage sentiments
are echoed with regards to Ellen Burstyn and the Sister
Summersisle role. I admit that on paper if there is a female
American to contend with the legendary Christopher Lee character,
she has the credentials, but the script and direction put
pay to any redemption she could have created for the film.
these less than solid foundations there is little to redeem The Wicker Man 2006. The direction is uninspired
and any original dialogue serves to do extremely little
in furthering plot or character. The score is nothing to
write home about either, unlike the classic folk soundtrack
in the original. To be honest this film is so bland I can't
even rouse enough emotion to hate it.
someone who knows the first film as well as I do, the whole
thing smacks of someone doing an accurate but ultimately
cringe-worthy impersonation of a well loved personality.
I don't usually say this but I really recommend avoidance
of this film. If you have seen the original it lends nothing
to it, and if not I strongly urge you to do so instead of
this weak experience of a movie.
Cage is burning in the wicker man the islanders chant 'kill
the drone'. I advise you to do the same.