Twitter Plot Summary: The Wicker man gets a remake starring… Nicolas Cage?! He dresses up as a bear.
Five Point Summary:
1. Cage is haunted by the death of a young girl.
2. Cage threatens to shoot someone if they don’t get off the bike.
3. Cage punches a woman.
4. Cage, dressed as a bear, punches another woman.
5. Cage shouts “Not the bees!”
If one film never deserved a remake (some might argue that no film deserves such treatment) then it was Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. In my opinion that film is about a perfect as it can get. It was with some trepidation that I originally went to see this film at the cinema in 2006 and recently watched again for the second time, albeit as the Director’s Cut on this viewing. For clarity, there aren’t a huge number of differences between the two versions – the Director’s Cut removes a final coda on the mainland and tweaks the Wicker Man scene to the point of making it even funnier than the theatrical version – but otherwise they’re almost identical.
For what it’s worth there are a couple of good aspects – yeah I know, it surprised me too. The core idea of a matriarchal commune is actually a decent one. Maybe not as a Wicker Man film, admittedly, but it could work in isolation. Unfortunately that’s as far as my praise of this notion can go – it’s presented as an exercise in misogyny as Cage runs around the island, threatening women and, more often than not, punching them in the face. After a couple of scenes where Cage enters full-on insane mode (which continues for the majority of the film), you’re left wondering if this is actually supposed to be a comedy. I’ll be honest, it’s not that far off. The cinematography is pretty good, although as that’s essentially the only truly decent aspect of the film (seeing as the matriarchal society idea was wasted) it’s difficult to praise in any great detail.
Whilst there are a number of links to the original 1973 film (the internet tells me that 80% of the dialogue is the same, so it must be true), there are a number of newer elements that don’t add up. Cage’s Edward Malus is haunted by the death of a young girl and her mother in a freak car accident, which adds absolutely nothing to the narrative and doesn’t make much sense overall. Cage’s relationship with Willow (Beahan) is unnecessary and removes any of the underlying tension that was found in the original film. Characters are sketchy at best, motivations are hidden beneath a veneer of smarmy smiles and knowing nudge-nudge, wink-wink dialogue delivery, and all of the subtlety provided by the original is lost.
By the inevitable finale you’ve likely spent at least 20 minutes hoping for the end credits to appear, so it’s no surprise that the appearance of the Wicker Man has no impact – you may also have found yourself distracted by Ellen Burstyn’s Braveheart homage. This scene differs between the theatrical and Director’s Cut edits to the point where both versions are unintentionally hilarious. In the former, Malus is subjugated by the locals in voiceover only, whereas in the latter he’s visibly crippled and forced to overact horribly as he’s stung repeatedly by bees.
It’s films like this that give remakes a bad name. If any of them did something worthwhile with the original idea then it would be less of a problem, but when you get something as ridiculous as this, a deluded man’s interpretation of The Wicker Man, then it’s inevitable that audiences will decry attempts at reinventing stories that they love. However, it’s not often that you get to see Nicolas Cage in a bear suit beating up women, so perhaps it’s not worth complaining about too much. And, in hindsight, I now understand why the older bearded man sat a few rows in front of me in that cinema in 2006 laughed so frequently as the er, “action” unfolded, and is perhaps the perfect film to suffer a Wicker Man style demise should the pagan gods ever decree it.