It was only a couple of years ago that we were feeling excited about the long-gestating Escape from New York remake. Robert Rodriguez had signed on to direct the redo of John Carpenter‘s 1981 action classic, which saw Kurt Russell play a renegade soldier with an eye-patch tasked with saving the president from the titular imprisoned city. Since that announcement, details about Rodriguez’s involvement were kept close to the chest. But given that the director has spent the last couple of years helming Alita: Battle Angel, you can understand why this one was put on the backburner.
Well, now the remake is back on and seems to be pushing forward. The Hollywood Reporter recently announced that Leigh Whannell has been hired to write the new version. Whether or not he will direct the movie remains a mystery, but he made one of 2018’s best movies in the form of Upgrade, so he should be given the reins. If Rodriguez is still on board, though, that’s also groovy.
Nothing is known about the story other than it will retain elements from the original while bringing fresh ideas to proceedings. That’s the gold standard answer for any remake, but given Whannell’s affinity for cult cinema, coupled with his proven track record of telling entertaining stories, I firmly believe that this remake will be a worthwhile redo. Furthermore, the THR report states that this remake will not be a tentpole movie with lofty franchise ambitions in mind. If that’s not enough to entice you, Carpenter will also executive produce.
The new Escape from New York is in good hands, but the original saga will always be associated with unfinished business. For fans, that’s always going to sting. While the ill-fated Escape From LA is a fun movie that doesn’t get the credit it deserves, it is a far cry from the quality of the original. Plus, its poor box office performance and critical lambasting effectively killed any chance of a third installment. That said, throughout the years, Carpenter and Russell still made efforts to give Snake the send-off he deserves. Let’s discuss what could have been.
Going into Escape from LA, Carpenter and Russell believed that there would be subsequent adventures for Snake. Their goal was to make Escape from Earth since Snake had already survived two urban hellscapes and therefore needed a grander obstacle to overcome. This could have been incredible.
The story would have taken place after the events of Escape from LA, which saw Snake bring an end to electricity in order to teach humanity a lesson. The second sequel would have seen Snake navigate this new world, which had naturally descended into war and chaos as a result of his actions. With Armageddon on the horizon, Snake’s goal was to make a break from his home planet before the end of days arrived.
After years of assuming Escape from Earth was dead, rumors began circulating that it was finally happening when Russell signed a three-picture deal with Paramount in the mid-2000s. He and Carpenter were said to have pitched the idea to studio executives. Of course, if that meeting did take place, the project never materialized. However, that wasn’t the end of the journey to give Snake at least one more outing.
When plans for Snake’s return to the big screen seemed unattainable, their focus temporarily shifted to television. Plans for a 100-episode series were also proposed by Russell, Carpenter, and Debra Hill in the early 2000s. All three of them would have served as executive producers, but Russell wasn’t expected to reprise his role as Snake. Unfortunately, the proposed series was turned down by every major network because it was supposedly too dark and bleak.
With Russell not getting any younger during the years of failed attempts to launch new Snake projects, he didn’t want to appear as the character in another live-action movie. As he told Empire (per the Escape from New York and L.A. Tribute Page), “I never wanted to do Snake old… if you’re going to do him, do him young. He’s one of those guys.” In order to keep Snake young forever, The Snake Plissken Chronicles were proposed, which would have continued his adventures through different mediums.
Up first was an anime titled Snake. The story would have taken place in 2020 and spanned several US cities, while also exploring Snake’s past as a soldier and revealing how he lost his eye. Russell, Carpenter, and Hill enlisted Corey Mitchel and William Wilson to write the screenplay. Some brief concept footage was supposedly created as well (if you want to read more about Snake, this Den of Geek interview with Mitchel goes into more detail).
Finally, we were almost treated to a Playstation 2 video game. Tentatively titled Snake Plissken’s Escape, this nearly saw the light of day before Namco, the game’s developer, pulled the plug on the project. This one is particularly upsetting given that the project was well into development when it was canceled. You can even watch footage of the gameplay online if you want to see a teaser for a product that will never be released.
If the remake is a success, maybe we’ll see some of these ideas repurposed for potential sequels and whatnot. But this is Whannell’s time now, and whatever he has in mind will be great in its own right. Still, there’s always going to be a sense of wondering what could have been if Carpenter, Russell, and co. got to end Snake’s journey on their terms. Our hero’s escapades have continued in comic books, and while they’ve been enjoyable to read, nothing beats a Carpenter/Russell collaboration.