The trailer above is for the 2003 film Oldboy, a South Korean mystery/thriller from director Park Chan-wook (who made his English-language debut earlier this year with the terrific Stoker). The film made waves upon its release, earning top recognition at the Cannes Film Festival and high acclaim from international critics for its skillful use of stylized action (and yes, violence) in service to a complex and enigmatic plot.
Along the way it also acquired cult status among a diehard fan base, as Asian action films are wont to do. That fan base is pretty angry -- not quite torches in the public square angry, but close -- that Spike Lee has crafted an English-language remake of Oldboy, starring Josh Brolin and due for release in October. Since the release a couple of days ago of the first official trailer for the new film (WARNING: It's a "Red Band" trailer, with some R-rated content), Internet message boards have lit up with righteous cinephile indignation: It's an offense to the original! Why do they need to remake this? Spike Lee is a hack! And so on.
Personally, I find Internet outrage boring; but that's a gripe for another day. What's noteworthy here is the peculiar sense of ownership fans have over their beloved films -- as if Lee's version somehow cheapens or invalidates the version to which they've bonded. Naturally, nothing could be less true: If anything, the high-profile release of Lee's Oldboy later this year will only push more eyeballs to the original, which many American audiences will never have seen. (Instead of not existing any more, Park's film is still available over at Netflix Instant; I could watch it again right now if I wanted to.) And that's not even taking into account the possibility that Lee could make a second good movie out of this story. Stranger things have happened, as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fans will attest.
When the American remake of Shall We Dance was released in 2004 with Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, I didn't like it because of how the movie completely missed the specific cultural relevance of the 1996 Japanese film on which it was based. As a result, the plot of the remake doesn't really make sense. That bugs me, but no more than any movie whose plot doesn't make sense. It doesn't affect my appreciation for the original; if anything, it made me love it all the more.
So if you loved the first Oldboy and can't stomach the idea of a second one, my recommendation is: Don't watch the second one. But regardless of whether you take this advice, your affection for the original will still burn brightly.