I have a problem with a bunch of articles written about movies these days in that it simply seems like they were authored by folks who don’t actually watch movies. It’s a pandemic, and studios are starting to cash in on this lack of attention we live-tweet (presumably from the theater or our living rooms while the pictures play). The latest (and possibly most egregious example) of this epidemic is the Escape From New York prequel that’s coming from the pen of Luther creator Neal Cross. Numerous outlets (starting with The Wrap, who was then regurgitated by publications like The A.V. Club) have claimed that this freshly invented backstory will include the ***MAJOR REVEAL*** of Snake Plissken’s real name.
Here’s the thing: that bit of info was already exposed in John Carpenter’s goofball ’96 sequel, Escape From L.A. (spoiler: it’s Bob). When pieced together with Hauk’s rundown of Plissken’s accomplishments in the ’81 original, we know that the one-eyed, sleeveless badass served in Special Forces Unit Black Light, earned two Purple Hearts, and was the youngest soldier to be decorated by the President, thanks to his bravery in World War III campaigns against the Former Soviet Alliances and Eurasian United War Union. He lost the use of his left eye in the “Leningrad Ruse” and, after his parents were burned alive in their home by the United States Police Force (according to Mike McQuay’s novelization), turned to a life of anti-government crime. He traveled to Kansas City with his best war buddy Bill Taylor and formed a partnership with Harold “Brain” Hellman (Harry Dean Stanton) and Fresno Bob. Brain turned on Plissken, selling him and Bob out to the USPF, who subsequently tortured and killed the latter associate. Many believed Plissken to be dead thanks to the Kansas City Incident (leading to the infamous Escape From NY running gag), but we know he’s very much alive once he’s called in to rescue the President (Donald Pleasence) after his plane crashes in the titular dystopic maximum security prison.
Admittedly, this is some deep cut nerd shit for John Carpenter devotees. You would only know any this if you watched Escape From New York and Escape From L.A. Or if you read either of the Plissken comic runs that appeared in the late '90s and early '00s. Or if you just went to Snake Plissken’s Wikipedia page. Ostensibly, none of this is going to make it into the planned prequel, which revolves around a hurricane, a playboy heir to a biotech corporation, doesn’t apparently have a prison in it, and replaces Lee Van Cleef’s Hauk with CIA Exec Director Roberta Hauk (which is cool, because who really needs a CGI LVC?). To be honest, as much as this author would love to see the “Leningrad Ruse” or Plissken’s WIII exploits played out on screen, it makes sense that we’re getting an entirely undocumented Plissken adventure. Not necessarily from a creative standpoint (though it is neat that a writer as good as Cross is taking a crack at it), but more because nobody really seems to give a shit about the established mythos, including those reporting on the new picture’s development.
While this may come off like a spurned geek wishing others would pay better attention to one of the great low budget sci-fi epics of all time (and that’s partially true), it’s equally an anguished lament regarding our current film culture. All of this information is at the disposal of anyone who wants to write about this movie. But nobody uses it, and the studio kind of knows that. The fan service that will most certainly be built into the forthcoming prequel will probably contradict that which was already established, mostly because nobody could be bothered to re-watch (or even watch) the stellar films we already have sitting on our shelves. Instead, we’re chasing EXCLUSIVES that don’t necessarily exist, buttressing a microcosm that’s becoming more mindlessly corporatized by the minute. An Escape From New York reintroduction is inherently unnecessary, but its rendered even more so by the simple fact that nobody wants to engage with the already intriguing universe others have built for this iconic ass-kicker. Though, to be fair, Carpenter probably doesn’t give a damn about any of this either, as long as his check cashes.