I just wasted precisely 102 minutes of my life watching the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. It was painfully bad, and yet I watched it in its entirety hoping that some small shred of the original may have survived within this steaming pile of Hollywood blasphemy...but it didn't.
Probably, I should have let the film stand on its own, but comparisons are inevitable, especially since I'm extremely fond of the original film. If you haven't seen either version and you don't want spoilers, don't read any further...
Where to begin?
- One of the most compelling things about the original 1976 version of the film is the soundtrack, but the director scrapped the beautiful Scottish folk music in favor of an Angelo Badalamenti score (and an American setting). That doesn't seem like a completely awful choice given some of the previous work that Badalamenti has produced, but it was completely flavorless. Give me drums, fiddles, panpipes, and penny whistles, please. Overly produced orchestral music just doesn't provide the ambiance of an isolated pagan society, particularly during festival time.
- In the original film, the Sergeant was a solidly Christian man who arrived on an island where the locals practiced the “old religion.” The society was more accepting of sex and nudity, and they openly took part in traditional fertility rituals, most notably the dancing of the maypole and the leaping of lovers over the midsummer fires. It produced a certain amount of confusion and discomfort in the Sergeant, but it was subtle enough to allow the tension to build gradually...and it gave the film a deeper meaning that dealt with differences in viewpoints without actually manipulating the viewer into believing that one side was good and the other bad.
The 2006 version of the film glossed over the fertility rituals almost completely, and instead of showing a society that was sexually free among both genders, it displayed an extremist matriarchal society that abused its men (which was pretty damned offensive for both genders since it was so badly skewed). Additionally, Nicholas Cage's character didn't carry the same religious strength of conviction that the Sergeant had in the original film. Instead, the conflict relied on the aforementioned gender divide which effectively destroyed the depth that was originally there. As far as creating new meaning...Remember kids...women are evil and men are stupid & cowardly.
- There was also some added (yet supremely lame) violence, and I can only deduce that it was meant to add to the “horror” of the film. What it really achieved was making the ending less effective. The Wicker Man isn't supposed to be a slashery horror film. When is Hollywood going to learn that sometimes subtlety is the key?
- There were some decent actors involved in the project (namely Ellen Burstyn and Molly Parker, whom I will continue to adore), but the script was so bad that their presence couldn't even salvage certain parts of the film, and really...Ellen Burstyn is no Christopher Lee. In that regard, I wouldn't have been pleased even if the film had been well done. Lee was the perfect choice for Lord Summerisle, and it would be next to impossible to fill his shoes.
And one more thing before I wrap this up (because I could probably complain for several more days, and I really need to move on to more interesting things)...
If you're about to be stuffed into a giant Wicker Man and set on fire, don't you think that you could come up with something better to say than: You bitches! You bitches!? I'm not sure why that worked my nerves so badly, but it did.
So there you go. I hate the new version of The Wicker Man, and I remain a solid devotee of the original. Anyone up for a nice dance around the midsummer fire?