By: Kevin Jordan
Who wants a moustache ride?
It’s time for another edition of “Should You Have Remade That Movie?” For those new to our game, it’s simple. We ask a few easy questions and determine how wrong it was to remake a movie. Tonight’s contestant is Murder on the Orient Express. Now, let’s play “Should You Have Remade That Movie?”
Question 1 – Is the original more than twenty years old?
Answer: Yes. The original was made in 1974. Plenty of room to spare and manages to be older than yours truly *rimshot.*
Good start. Let’s move on to Question 2 – Is the remake a shot-for-shot remake?
Answer: No. Director Kenneth Branagh and writer Michael Green made some minor changes and created their own adaptation of author Agatha Christie’s classic novel (published in 1934).
Well done and two for two. Question 3 – was the original great, terrible, or in between?
Answer: Pretty great. Rotten Tomatoes aggregate score is 95% and was very positively received at the time. Uh oh, it was also nominated for six Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay
Ooohhhh (sucking in breath). That one hurt and leads us to Question 4 – did it win any of those nominations?
Answer (stalling for time): Ingrid Bergman won for Best Supporting Actress. I’d say this game just took an ugly turn, but we’re talking about Ingrid Bergman *laugh track plays.*
I almost don’t want to ask the next question, but that’s not how the game works. Question 5 – how does the new cast compare to the old?
Answer: Original cast featured Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, and Anthony Perkins. Oh man, that’s almost not fair. But, wait a minute – the new cast features Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley. Two all-star teams you would never bet against, so kudos to the casting director of the remake for living up to the challenge.
So far, we’ve got a great matchup here, but let’s take timeout for a word from our sponsor – all libraries. All libraries would like to remind you that you pay taxes for libraries and a massive amount of movies are adaptations of books. For no money whatsoever, you can check out a book and read what your favorite movie was most likely adapted from. But please remember that with great knowledge comes great responsibility. Return your books on time and resist being that jerk that insists the book is always better than the movie. Now, on with the show.
Question 6 – does the remake feature a flavor-of-the-month headliner?
Answer: Not only is there not even a hint of anyone who might have been on Dancing with the Stars, but Rihanna does not show up anywhere.
We’re down to our last question before we tally up the score – how much money did the original make?
Answer: $36 million on a $1.4 million budget. 11th highest-grossing film of 1974. That’s successful, but by no means gangbusters (Blazing Saddles topped the year at nearly $120 million).
While we tally up the score, let’s look at our competitor a bit more so the audience can get to know it a little better, especially those who never saw the original. Branagh plays Hercules Poirot, a world famous detective and circus-strongman-moustache-thief, who inadvertently ends up on a world famous train where a passenger is murdered during the journey. Due to an avalanche blocking the tracks, Poirot takes on the challenge of discovering who of the eleven remaining passengers (or handful of crew) is the murderer. All of the major characters are kept intact from the original, as is the murder being tied to a previous and famous case in which a child is kidnapped and found dead (Christie’s novel being a take on the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping in 1932). The film maintains the classic mystery structure and feels nostalgic in a way that doesn’t come off like it’s catering to your parents. Branagh is easily the star of this show, delivering a great version of Poirot, emphasizing Poirot’s OCD and quirky nature to balance his pompousness. The rest of the cast hits their marks as well, delivering a bunch of characters you will simultaneously like and hate throughout the film. There are a couple of weak scenes near the climax, one in particular that feels out of place (you’ll know it when you see it), but the flow of the movie is great and you will be invested in finding out whodunit almost as much as Poirot.
Alright, the judges have just brought me the score, but let’s get one more word in from our sponsor – all libraries. Seriously folks, we exist. Don’t be like the President – read a book or two.
The judges say the remake covers the small things well and really stepped up to the plate with the cast, but took a bit of a beating by thinking it could improve on six Oscar nominations, including one win. On a scale from Ocean’s 11 to Ghostbusters – Ocean’s 11 being an 11 and Ghostbusters being negative 1000 – we’re scoring it an 8. Besides the answers, we took into account that classic novels will always get multiple adaptations throughout time, as well they should. We doubt it will snag any Oscar nominations, but it’s a very solid movie and faithful adaptation that will leave you satisfied at the end.
Thank you judges and thank you for tuning in. Join us next time where we hope we aren’t covering Jumanji.
Rating: Don’t ask for any of your money back and don’t be surprised if we get offered another moustache ride in forty years.