Movie Death Match: Abre Los Ojos vs. Vanilla Sky

It’s an age-old process that often falls flat on its face: The Remake. It’s the embodiment of current Hollywood creativity. Instead of attempting something new, the accountants that run studios nowadays would much rather re-release something that was once great. But first add some current actors, some modern settings and a more often than not bastardization of the original story.

With that diatribe, most readers will probably be able to predict the result of this comparison between the “make”, Abre Los Ojos, and the remake, Vanilla Sky. But in the interest of makeshift due process, here goes a heavy duty, aspect-by-aspect showdown between the Iberian effort and the American update.

It used to be that remakes took decades to come about; let the body go cold, at least. But in the deficit of originality that is modern Hollywood, a foreign movie can go into remake process after its first week of release overseas.

The original story, as it were, is about a handsome, rich guy who has his face horribly disfigured in an automobile accident caused by one of the many women he has used and discarded. After the accident, the world’s most expensive plastic surgeons say there is no hope for the pretty boy’s face. The girl of his dreams runs away from him, and his best friend is afraid of him. Then reality starts to shift wildly around him. And he sets off on a mission to find out what the hell is going on with the world.

Writing: Cameron Crowe versus Alejandro Amenabar. The 31-year-old Spaniard wrote the script before he was 25-years-old. Crowe is an established stud. With writing credits like Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, no one can question Crowe’s ability to write. Their biographies aside, the dialogue and character development were stronger in the original.

Result: Abre Los Ojos. It’s pretty good over pretty mediocre. At least Abre was an original.

Acting: Penelope Cruz played the exact same role in the original and the remake. Has this happened before? Obviously, this is a tie. Tom Cruise versus Eduardo Noriega is another tie for me. The kid from Risky Business does his usual thing and delivers his usual Tom Cruise personality acting. Jason Lee wins over Fele Martinez as the main character’s best buddy. Jason Lee will nearly always win when it’s a contest of cool, loveable loser guys. The supporting role of the psycho model chick is another toss-up. It’s pretty much whether you like blondes (Cameron Diaz) or brunettes.

Result: Push. The actors did a decent job in both films. Maybe Noriega was a little better than Cruise but Lee was better than Martinez.

Direction: Crowe faces off against Amenabar again. This one is another nod to the Iberian. In the American version, Cruise’ grossly disfigured face does not match the grotesque flesh puzzle in the Spanish version. Also, the scenes that show the horror in the American movie are much fewer and farther between than in the Spanish version. Part of the intensity of the original was that face and its frequent presence. That intensity is diluted in the remake for the American audiences.

Result: Amenabar. Can’t say if it was Crowe’s decision to turn down the raw imagery or if other forces pushed him in that direction. Either way, the end result is a win for Espana.

The final tally is two wins for the original and one tie. No surprise there. Please send me any remakes that are better than the source material? But this remake put up a decent fight, at least. If you gotta pick one, go with the champ. But Junior ain’t so bad.

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