Why does everyone hate Escape From L.A.?
Escape from L.A. came out 20 years ago today, 15 years after its predecessor Escape from New York and has become one of those sequels, of insanely popular first parts, that is mostly hated or derided.
You can throw Ghostbusters 2 on that list as well. A film so hated that it was used in recent hyperbolic debates online as the real Ghostbusters film that 'raped your childhood' and not the Paul Feig remake. Which is just fucking ridiculous, no matter which way you slice it.
I personally find the hatred or, to be fairer maybe, dismissal of Escape From L.A. a bit peculiar.
I hear countless horror fans and film fans, when a shitty, corporate remake approximation of a beloved, original film (or franchise) comes out, say "Hey! Well at least it's more Halloween/Friday 13th/Evil Dead/Nightmare on Elm Street, that's cool" but give them a sequel starring the same person and produced/co-written/directed and scored by the same person as the original and if it isn't every bit its equal, or better, then it is dismissed for all time.
People LOVE Kurt Russell and John Carpenter films, LOVE the character of Snake Plissken, buy the t-shirts, the dolls, everything, would probably still want a third movie in the franchise and, who are we kidding, probably even endorse the remake (if it ever happens) for spurious, maddening reasons but Escape from L.A.? "Nah did you see that? the CGI is so bad and Snake surfing? give me a break!"
Well I am here to say that I love Escape From LA. Do I love it as much as Escape From N.Y.? I don't know. That's like asking me what my favourite John Carpenter film is. I want to live in a world where they ALL exist because they're all pretty awesome, please don't make me choose!
Do I recognise that it's not as iconic or hip as Escape From N.Y.? yes, of course, I get that but one was made at the end of the 70s/early 80s and benefits from the fact that we now find that to be a golden age of cool, weird, wonderful and even cosy film-making. 80s special effects are charming, handmade, skillful and better where as early CGI in the mid-90s is laughable and the blue/green screen work we'd forgive for looking a little wonky in the 80s, feels tired in the 90s, especially as this film comes out post Jurassic Park.
So, I agree, the effects aren't always charming and sometimes a little, bizarrely awful. The other thing I would level at Escape from L.A. is that it doesn't really justify its 1996 $50 million budget. The aforementioned Jurassic Park had a budget of only $65 million and look what that accomplished. However, a little in its defense, every single shot in Escape from L.A. has some form of effect, whacked out costume, matte painting, set dressing etc. It's a bonkers, punk, grindhouse, fucked up, grungy, comic book, B-Movie writ large.
Again, I ask, why don't you love that?
Most of what John Carpenter made was gloriously weird, dark, B-movies, genre movies or movies that felt like comic-books. Escape From L.A. really isn't all that different in that regard. Maybe it's lighter, maybe it's a bit sillier, maybe it's more far fetched but if these are the reasons you dislike it, I would suggest you majorly lighten up. Don't you all love Big Trouble in Little China?
Then there's the cast. Headed up by the always watchable Kurt Russell, he's joined this time round by Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Valeria Golino, Stacy Keach, Pam Grier, Bruce Campbell, Michelle Forbes and Carpenter regular, Peter Jason. That's a pretty solid and stella B-Movie cast if you ask me.
Another complaint is that it does, sort of, redo the plot of Escape from N.Y. This criticism seems particularly silly in the light of the fan base for franchises like Halloween and Friday 13th or, indeed, to continue with the comic-book theme, what comic book movies like Iron Man and Captain America do now. It's what sequels, of films like these, are sort of meant to do. Give you something familiar but with a new twist, bigger budget and be, just ever so-slightly, more ridiculous. If you don't like this formula then you can forget James Bond, Aliens, Indiana Jones, Evil Dead, Iron Man... you name it.
Is Kurt Russell playing Snake Plissken? Is he trying to escape from somewhere? is there a cast of mad characters? is John Carpenter directing? is the theme blaring out at full volume while things explode? is the government the ultimate enemy? then, quite honestly, I'm happy.
Add Pam Grier and Bruce Campbell to that mix and I am ecstatic.
I genuinely love the look of the film, the feel of the film, the soundtrack, the performances, the style, the satire and the ideas in Escape from L.A.
Is it really over the top and too much? Isn't it just as weird, wild and/or gleefully imaginative and joyful as Big Trouble, Prince of Darkness, They Live or the original Escape?
I can understand there being a section of people that just love Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape from N.Y. and The Thing but feel that John Carpenter's other films were too weird or silly for them but I don't fully understand loving all the others but hating on Escape from L.A. (or Vampires and Ghosts of Mars while we're at it) as I feel they are made with the same spirit, the same talent and the same disregard for giving a shit about what anyone else thinks.
So in the spirit of John Carpenter, I don't care what you think. I love Escape from L.A.
(however I would love to hear from you in the comments section below...)