Is Len Wiseman Off Escape From New York?

To be replaced by... Brett Ratner?

Now here’s the very definition of that old chestnut, ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. Len Wiseman has left the remake of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, to be replaced by… Brett Ratner.

Wiseman – who redeemed his previously awful Underworld-soiled CV with Die Hard 4.0 earlier this year – will now concentrate on his adaptation of ultra-violent videogame, Gears Of War, while Ratner will apparently postpone his Hugh Hefner biopic, Playboy, to bring Snake Plissken – now played by Gerard Butler, instead of Kurt Russell – back to the big screen.

And, while we’re slightly intrigued to see what Butler could do with an iconic part like Plissken, we have another suggestion for New Line, the studio behind the film: instead of hiring Ratner, just stop. Walk away. Forget about remaking Escape From New York. Until, one day, a director worthy of following in John Carpenter’s footsteps picks up the script and decides to give it a go. And, with the best will in the world, that director isn’t Brett Ratner.

Now, let’s make one thing clear: Ratner is not, contrary to fanboy speculation, a demonic hack from the lower reaches of Hades. True, X3 was a disappointment, but it made money and given the time and circumstances in which he had to make that picture, he did a pretty good job. He actually has made some decent movies – Family Man springs to mind – while nothing he has done has been truly awful… even when Chris Tucker is involved.

But, with the best will in the world, he’s no John Carpenter, and it could be argued that he’s never even made a movie as good as lesser Carpenter, such as Christine or Starman or even Prince Of Darkness. Ratner’s films exhibit a bouncy, playful, exuberant streak redolent of the man himself, and it’s hard to reconcile that with the dark nihilistic streak that Carpenter possesses in spades, and which Escape From New York needs.

Yet, with the strike looming, Hollywood studios are desperate to get as many projects in front of the cameras as possible, and if that means hastily matching the wrong director with the wrong material, then so be it. As ever, we’ll place a hopeful caveat here and say that the hard R script for the remake might bring out a new side of Ratner, the side of him that was desperately required but which failed to show for his remake of Red Dragon.

We’ll know for sure in 2009, but right now the best we can hope for is a movie that’s better than Escape From LA.