Roman Polanski's Chinatown is one of those classics that's a classic exactly because of the context which produced it. It came out right in the middle of the New Hollywood movement. It was directed by an already idiosyncratic director whose wife had been a victim in the most publicized murder in American history. It took a critical and sardonic view of a well-worn genre. To bring all these things together again is impossible, and that's why the last attempt to reproduce Chinatown's success, 1990's The Two Jakes, was a bit lackluster.
But The Two Jakes didn't have David Fincher helming it, and Netflix has just announced a Chinatown prequel series that Fincher and Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne are both working on. The prequel will focus on a young Jake Gittes, and Fincher and Towne are currently working on the pilot script. Fincher may direct as well, but that hasn't been negotiated.
The fact that this is happening seems unusual at first, until you realize how Fincher has a working relationship with Netflix that's several shows and a movie deep now. Towne is no stranger to Chinatown derivatives, having written The Two Jakes himself. And Chinatown's original producer Robert Evans recently passed away, possibly giving a little slack to the rights of the well-known classic. I guess the only mystery left about why anyone would want to make a Chinatown prequel is that Jack Nicholson is the property's biggest draw for many people. Without him (or water department politics and incest), will the series really feel like Chinatown? I don't know, but I'll be there for Fincher.
No word yet on when Chinatown: First Day of Camp will come out. We'll try to let you guys know.