Our apologies, but really you shouldn’t have slept through your flight to New York. You might’ve noticed we were headed west, and we’ve landed at LAX.
John Carpenter’s cult classic (he has no other kind, save Halloween and Star Man) Escape from New York is a great film. It’s Snake Plissken, and a raw vision of the future fully realized by inventive production design created in part by a young James Cameron just three or four years before The Terminator.
It isn’t, however, out of its mind.
To reel back in, and to be more specific, Escape from New York sets a formula that LA maximizes with blistering confidence and wild abandon. Much like how Evil Dead 2 and Desperado are seen as remakes, rather than sequels, Escape from LA is the same plot as New York — but nuts.
It’s a playground of imagination for Snake Plissken to roam around in, appropriately twisted to a cynical and satirical John Carpenter’s liking. Depending on what Maps to the Stars will look like, just know that Carpenter got here first — it’s not the most subtle riff on California, but the inclusion of deranged plastic surgeons and drive-by shootings treats the city as flavoring to a contemporary post-apocalypse.
Plissken turns a corner and finds something crazy, something pointed and sarcastic — something probably poorly rendered in CG, to add to the charm, and then does what Snake Plissken does. He too is a formula, an action anti-hero extraordinaire, and his interfacing with this playground formula makes for one hell of an adventure.
Escape from LA is not an example of how to do a sequel. It’s simply the cartoon extension of a premise that once served a nearly serious sci-fi thriller. That cartoon pays out in glorious dividends, at once a loving middle finger to garish Hollywood culture, and a tribute to pure creativity in action movies.
If you’re as big a fan of Carpenter as all the best Internetters are, there are two more on the countdown, both ranking quite high.
Put on the glasses, maybe you’ll see…