Fifteen years after filmmaker John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell teamed up to deliver what became one of the greatest cult classics in American cinema history, they decided to do it all over again. Escape From L.A. was not a new concept for either celebrity: the movie had been envisioned at least a decade before the project ever had a green light. But, there were several “differences of opinions” on behalf of its creators: Carpenter thought is was “too light” and “too campy,” whereas Russell was gung-ho about reprising his role as mercenary anti-hero Snake Plissken. And so, Escape From L.A. sort of sat in limbo for a long time until Kurt Russell finally persuaded Carpenter and producer Debra Hill to give it a go.
The result was an epic failure; one far worse than the devastating 9.6 earthquake depicted in the film itself.
Now, there are a lot of people in the world that are of the opinion that John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A. should never have been made. I agree with their view — but only to an extent. My belief is that Escape From L.A. should not have been made when it was made. Carpenter should have waited a few years, and made the film at a time when computer-generated special effects had grown out of their infant stages. Why? Because the CGI FX in Escape From L.A. are terrible. Even Roger Corman’s deliberately-unreleased assassination of The Fantastic Four had better visuals.
But Escape From L.A.’s “artistic” look isn’t 100% bad. There are some aspects of the film (Kurt Russell walking down an obviously-composited freeway, the usage of miniatures and mattes, et al) that are very effective — in a completely comic book-looking way. And those moments really add to Escape From L.A.’s campy charm. And then — boom — any aesthetic value the movie may have is pushed aside when some crappy computer-generated special defects come into play. Had Carpenter have used more traditional effects all the way through the film (read: no CGI), the film would have looked a whole hell of a lot better.
Upon its release, Escape From L.A. flopped. Big time. This is mostly due to the fact that the entire film was nothing more than a remake of the original, with many moments being virtual scene-for-scene recreations. Despite the fact that Snake Plissken was a great character and a total bad-ass, audiences really had no desire to see Escape From New York all over again (which is rather ironic, seeing as how Hollywood is currently all about remaking everything in sight). Another attributing factor for Escape From L.A.’s acclaimed failure is the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself as seriously as Escape From New York.