AN EMPIRE OF ONE

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Rewrites: Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero is a John McTiernan-directed film about a kid with a magic ticket that transports him into the fictional screen world of his hero, Jack Slater, a super cop played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The kid knows he’s in a film while the other characters, somewhat like Buzz in Toy Story, think they are full-blooded real.

It’s almost 18 years since Last Action Hero bombed at the box office, but since then the film has developed a cult following. I’d say it’s way overdue for a remake. As I see it, there are two ways to go with a remake, and both of them develop ideas that are present in the original, but not fully utilized.

Here are my re-writes:

1. The original film includes many jokes at the expense of action film clichés and several in-joke references to other films. Here are some examples:

Death from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal

Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct

Robert Patrick as T-1000 from Terminator 2

An animated cat detective, a reference to McGruff the crime dog

In the original film, most of these in-jokes are not remarked upon or even noticed by any of the other characters in the film, including the boy, Danny. They don’t all go by unnoticed by the characters. For example, Danny tells Slater that Slater’s friend is played by the guy who played Salieri in Amadeus, F. Murray Abraham.

Danny notices that Slater's friend is played by the guy who played Salieri in Amadeus, F. Murray Abraham

But what if Danny does notice these references to other films? What if he comes to realize that he is not in a Jack Slater film, but in a film world where all film characters exist: from Rhett Butler to Scarlet O’Hara to Flash Gordon to Gertie the Dinosaur to King Kong? He’s not just a Jack Slater fan, but a film buff in general. He knows all of the clichés, and this knowledge gives him a power none of the other characters have. It’s a wonderful world, and he loves it.

However, Danny realizes he cannot leave his mother alone.  His ticket is only good for one person, and it’s only good for one round trip. Once he leaves, he will not be able to return. Reluctantly, he returns to the “real world” and his old routine. But this real world turns out not to be so real. He realizes that he himself is also in a film and that he doesn’t have to return to the film world of Jack Slater because he’s always been in that world. When Jack Slater drives off into the sunset Danny and his mother are on board.

2. In the original film, Danny is transported into the film when dynamite explodes in the theater as he is watching the latest Jack Slater film. In my remake, it’s Jack Slater who comes into the real world. Of course, this is a fish out of water story a bit like The Purple Rose of Cairo, but what I have in mind is a film that shows a film character from a hyper-real world, someone who is used to solving things with guns, explosions, and stunt work, learning to cope with everyday, humdrum reality. Slater learns to survive without the aid of a gun, and teaches the boy to see the wonder of ordinary things. This film also ends with Slater, the boy and his mom riding off into the sunset.

So there are my ideas for a remake of Last Action Hero. However, there’s something else I’d prefer seeing: a feature version of Shadows on the Wall, a short film I made before Last Action Hero, but which was later linked to that film by people who did not realize I conceived of it long before Last Action Hero was released in 1993. Shadows on the Wall is about characters who realize that they are in a film, but with this realization comes empowerment. Empowerment without guns.

"Gotcha!"

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Written by David Kilmer

May 31, 2011 at 5:40 pm