When it was first reported that Dwayne Johnson’s production company was looking to develop a remake of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China, fans were not happy. Carpenter’s film, an homage of crazy Shaw Brothers-era wuxia films reset as a modern Hollywood action film, is much loved for its off-kilter sensibilities and for star Kurt Russell’s goofy performance as the swaggering buffoon Jack Burton. But since then, there hasn’t been any news of the project, and I suspect that many fans were just hoping that the whole project had just faded away.
Well, Johnson’s plans haven’t faded away, but instead are coming into a bit sharper focus as Collider is reporting that the film will not be a remake of Carpenter’s classic but rather a continuation. Speaking with Hiram Garcia, the president of production at Johnson’s Seven Bucks productions shingle, they got this update –
“There’s a lot of things going on with [Big Trouble in Little China]. We are in the process of developing that, and let me tell you, the idea is not to actually remake Big Trouble in Little China. You can’t remake a classic like that, so what we’re planning to do is we’re going to continue the story. We’re going to continue the universe of Big Trouble in Little China. Everything that happened in the original exists and is standalone and I think there’s only one person that could ever play Jack Burton, so Dwayne would never try and play that character. So we are just having a lot of fun. We’re actually in a really great space with the story that we’ve cracked. But yeah, no remake. It is a continuation, and we are deep into development on that as well, and I think you’ll start hearing some things about that probably soon.”
While any remake doesn’t mean that the original will somehow vanish from existence, remaking Big Trouble In Little China always seemed like a fool’s errand to me. There is a certain crazy alchemy in what Carpenter created that is just perfect for the material and this does sound like an attempt to capture lightening in a bottle twice.
But if this is a continuation, that raises the question about the return of Russell for a second go-round as Jack Burton. Would that be something he would be interested in? On the commentary track for the film’s home video release, Russell and Carpenter sure sounded like they had a blast making the film. But if Carpenter isn’t involved for whatever reason, would that be a disincentive to Russell? And if Carpenter were to pass on returning, would another director be able to replicate the original film’s very tricky tone?
It should be remembered that this is not the first time that there was an attempt to extend the Big Trouble In Little China franchise. In the early 1990s there was an attempt to make a TV movie sequel, that never got past the screenplay stage. We’ll be keeping an eye out to see how far this one gets.