The Escape From New York prequel is an awful idea from the jump. John Carpenter’s anti-authoritarian ’81 original still resonates to this day*, especially given the current political climate America is experiencing, threatening bullshit border walls and whatnot. Once you add in the *reveals * that Neal Cross’ asinine-sounding script promises (reminder: we already know Snake Plissken’s real name), the project simply sounds like it’s tailor-made for a new audience with little-to-no knowledge of cinema that occurred pre-2005 (I picked that year at random, do not @ me). Now comes a new development in this unnecessary delve into Bob’s backstory that only adds fuel to the fire for those who want the prequel to vanish into Development Hell for eternity. First reported by the Tracking Board as “entering talks” and then confirmed as “getting the gig” by Deadline less than a day later is none other than green-screen maestro Robert Rodriguez. Yes, THAT Robert Rodriguez.
Take a moment to let that sink in while I break the news down for a moment. It makes sense that the Texas-based auteur would step up to the plate for Fox, who won a bidding war for the property rights in 2015. He’s currently wrapping a James Cameron-blessed Alita: Battle Angel adaptation for the studio. But beyond mere loyalty to the most recent hand that fed him, Rodriguez has a long-standing relationship with Carpenter (who is helping to produce the prequel). The master low-fi genre director’s work is a major influence, and Carpenter has been a guest multiple times on Rodriguez’s El Rey Network (including a segment in the rather worthwhile “Director’s Chair”). Just one look at Planet Terror (Rodriguez’s half of the failed Grindhouse experiment co-masterminded by Quentin Tarantino) reveals a rather astute affectation for the synth-driven cheap thrills Carpenter often excelled in delivering during his legendary artistic run during the '70s and '80s. Rodriguez even goes as far as to credit a viewing of Escape From New York at twelve as being the reason he wanted to make movies.
All that said, the last two decades have proven that Rodriguez is barely fit to direct Austin traffic, let alone a major motion picture. Aside from the occasional entertaining anomalies like Planet Terror or From Dusk Till Dawn (both of which are hotly debated topics amongst hardened cinephiles), the rest of the director’s output is a veritable dumpster fire of unwatchable nonsense, completely betraying the El Mariachi creator’s “Rebel Without a Crew” manifesto. Sure, there’s still a scrappy innovation to even his worst films – most of which were written, shot and cut in his own basement at Troublemaker Studios. But that doesn’t make them good movies in the least. At best, what we should probably expect from Rodriguez’s Escape From New York is an overly competent fan film, lacking the soul but mirroring the cheapie craft of Carpenter’s original pair of pictures. At worst, this will be a hollow giggle-fest, a la the Machete movies, poking us in the ribs via the aesthetic of old school exploitation while we patiently wait for the credits to roll so we can ask for our money back.
*And its sequel is slightly underrated, too.