Yesterday, Deadline broke the news that Renny Harlin’s 1993 minor classic, Cliffhanger, would be getting the reboot/remake/reimagining treatment, and while it’s not surprising that the Sylvester Stallone-starring mayhem on the mountain thriller is getting a new take, it is disheartening. Remakes in general tend to feel tired, but the apparent process that went into rebooting the film sounds straight up depressing – the outlet reports that newbie screenwriter Joe Gazzam, who will pen this new feature, snagged the gig when he “was among a group of screenwriters who pitched their take on a movie that still holds up as a guilty pleasure.”
You read that correctly. At some point during the last few months, a group of Hollywood screenwriters (most likely up-and-comers like Gazzam, who at least has some original scripts in the tank) was tasked with thinking up ways to reboot Cliffhanger, and Gazzam turned in the best one. (Of course, we still have no idea what this new film will entail, but that will come.) Even without knowing what Gazzam’s new film will involve, we already know the one thing it needs.
What’s the one thing that Cliffhanger needs? You know it already. You can feel it in your bones. Perhaps a visual aid will help? Let’s explore.
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Sylvester Stallone. This film needs Sylvester Stallone.
Stallone. Stallone. STALLONE. STALLONE SPELLED OUT IN FONT ALMOST THE SAME SIZE AS THE FILM’S TITLE. STALLONE! BEFORE THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE IS EVEN MENTIONED! STALLONE EVEN ON THE COVER THE FILM’S NOVELIZATION, SUCH IS THE POWER OF STALLONE.
This movie is not Cliffhanger, it’s Stallone. There’s an entire run of nineties films that could have just been called Stallone and that would have been enough (and, yes, the Rocky films and Rambo films almost qualify for this honor – almost).
Who knows if the film will center on a new hero, but it seems like a pretty safe bet that the basis for this “reimagining” will go traditional and reset the film for a modern audience with a fresh star. If Stallone was going to return for more, if the entire twist of this film was that he would be coming back for more, this would be a “sequel,” or surely someone would have slipped up and said something like, “oh, yeah, we’re just going to put Sly back on this mountain. Great, right?”
Instead, we’re going to get someone else crawling up a mountain, literally climbing up in Stallone’s footsteps and doing what has specifically been done before. The real draw of films like Cliffhanger exists in their on-screen talent. Back in 1993, no one lined up at the local theater and asked for a ticket to “the Renny Harlin” or “the mountain climbing movie,” they asked for a ticket to “the Stallone.” This is a film that was marketed correctly – this film stars Sylvester Stallone, come see it, you know you want to. Remaking something like Cliffhanger without Stallone entirely ignores what made the film interesting – the guy on the screen, not the story on the screen.
The film will also need a mountain, but there’s no word on that casting as of yet.