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I am a big fan of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981), it is one of John Carpenter’s best films and succeeds as both and action film and a social satire. You can only imagine how excited I was, not only when they announced the sequel after almost a 15-year gap, but on top of that I was hired to work on it as well.
Unfortunately that high lasted until I actually saw the finished film. ESCAPE FROM L.A. is one of my biggest disappointments film-wise and a complete missed opportunity that destroyed a promising franchise.
But after almost another 15 years gap, I decided to give the film another shot and see if my expectations were just too high when I originally saw it and if I was being overly critical.
Nope. My initial opinions were pretty spot on.
For it being almost a retread of the first film, ESCAPE FROM L.A. lacks all the spark and rawness that made the first film work so well. In exchange, with get some goofy humor and characters that are the equivalent of live-action cartoons. Even Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) himself is watered down and uninteresting.
The sequel finds Plissken once again captured by the police but this time instead of rescuing the President, he’s sent to the island of L.A. (which is a carbon-copy of what had befallen New York) to retrieve a nuclear football of sorts and assassinate the President’s daughter who stole it.
Inside L.A. he meets a collection of rabble-rousers and wannabe leaders as well as a few friends that he enlists to complete his mission. Beat for beat it’s the same film as ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK with some adjustments made for the changed milieu. In other words; completely uninspired.
To make matters worse, ESCAPE FROM L.A. features some poor use of special FX. Matte paintings are obvious and there is some sketchy (I’m being nice) compositing that pulls you out of the film.
I know I’m usually not this harsh, but ESCAPE FROM L.A. is such a missed opportunity and after all these years watching it again reminded me of it. I hate to say it but I’m hoping that they do reboot the franchise as Snake Plissken is an iconic character and deserves better.