Upgrade writer-director Leigh Whannell is keeping busy. A few days ago, we reported that Whannell was set to write and direct a new version of The Invisible Man for Universal that would scrap all the Dark Universe plans and go for something that doesn’t have to worry about an interconnected universe. Now Whannell is attached to write the remake of John Carpenter’s classic 1981 sci-fi action film Escape from New York. For those who are unfamiliar with the movie, it stars Kurt Russell as convict Snake Plissken, who is tasked with rescuing the President from Manhattan, which is now a maximum-security prison in the futuristic world of 1997.
According to THR, Whannell “is kickstarting Escape with a new vision for the project that sources say will retain elements of the original but bring new ideas to the table. One of Whannell’s goals is to avoid the bloated tentpole remake path that afflicted the reboots of other 1980s-era movies such as Robocop and Total Recall.”
That’s the smart route to go since no Carpenter adaptation thus far has worked. The remakes of The Fog and Halloween were panned, the prequel to The Thing didn’t work, and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13 has largely been forgotten. The only Carpenter-adjacent film that has had any success was last year’s legacyquel to Halloween. Whannell is wise to avoid simply trying to make a “bigger” Escape from New York and find an approach that works with the material.
The bigger challenge is who they’ll end up casting as Snake. It’s one of Kurt Russell’s most iconic characters, and not just anyone can wear the eyepatch. When you have a film as influential as Escape from New York, it’s easy to come off as derivative, so it will be a heavy lift to find a script and an actor to make it feel fresh. As for the direction, THR notes that the door is open for Whannell to helm the remake, but right now he’s just focused on writing the script.