Why Dwayne Johnson is asking for ‘Big Trouble’ with his Carpenter remake

I confess that my first reaction to this news was caught on film and you can now see it in photo form attached to this story.

Here's the thing: I am on record as saying that I consider Dwayne Johnson a bit of a natural resource. I don't think the movies he makes are always worthy of his charisma and his genuine talent, but i think he's more than proven himself capable. I am hopeful when he announces a project that it'll be something that is as good as he is.

I am also on record as saying that it's exhausting to get worked up about every single remake or sequel or reboot or whatever at this point. The industry has so clearly embraced that as an omnipresent business plan that it is wasted energy. It takes a lot to shake that loose from me now, but maybe this one bothered me more than normal because I spent most of yesterday writing about a John Carpenter film, so my affection for his work was already at the forefront of my mind.

Toshi often uses the one-finger salute from “Big Trouble In Little China,” and the movie is one of those that ended up in his constant rotation after his first exposure to it. It makes me particularly happy to see how much he digs it because I was working at a theater when the film came out originally, and I saw how people dismissed it entirely upon release.

What makes “Big Trouble In Little China” such an unfortunately irresistible property to remake now is that John Carpenter was ahead of the curve by an amazing amount. American pop culture has absorbed anime and manga and kung-fu movies and more, but not only did Carpenter do it first, he's still one of the very best. When you look at how he shoots the fights in that film, for example, he used a trick that he learned from actual Hong Kong fight films that most American directors not only do not notice but that they certainly don't use. It's a little thing, but it makes all the difference. Here's a section about that from a big interview I did with him about the film:

DREW: There”s one gag in particular, the way you shoot head hits, where you put dummy heads in frame and let the guys just whack them…
JOHN CARPENTER: Yep. Great, isn”t it?
DREW: It”s so effective. I don”t think I”ve seen anybody do that since.
JOHN CARPENTER: You found my secret. These hits, a lot of them don”t work in movies because you don”t get to see them. Obviously, you can”t hit another person. You put a dummy in that looks pretty good, and you can just whack the head.
DREW: It”s very visceral.
JOHN CARPENTER: Glad you had a reaction.

I'm curious if Dwayne Johnson already had this idea in his head when he was on the set of “Furious 7” with Kurt Russell, and I'm curious what Russell thinks about the idea. At this point, it's pretty clear that every single film that Carpenter and Russell made together will end up being remade, which is an interesting statement on their collaborations together and how great a hook each of them had.

Okay, maybe “Elvis” is safe.

The only way this even remotely works is if they do their own thing. If anyone thinks they're going to remotely capture the weird energy of Carpenter's film, I'll save them the effort: it's impossible. You've got Kim Cattrall doing a Rosalind Russell character, right down to that clipped '30s fastball dialogue, you've got Kurt Russell playing John Wayne with a head injury, you've got Dennis Dun as the secret hero of the film, you've got legendary Hong Kong lunatic Carter Wong playing a Thunder god, and you've got Victor Wong and James Hong positively destroying Asian stereotypes with their work.

It sounds like Johnson's wanted to do this, since it was his company that first brought the idea up to Fox, and according to The Wrap, this is one of Johnson's favorite films. But it was the specific take by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz that got the studio excited about moving forward.

I wish them luck. There are a lot of ways to get this one wrong, and we'll see if they figure out a way to get it right.