The original post for my review of The Flight of the Phoenix can be read on Vulturehound HERE. The following post is where I will be comparing the two films rather than reviewing them.
I saw the remake of The Flight of the Phoenix some years ago after I bought it in Woolworths. That should put a date on things. I bought it for a few quid along with Zoolander. I bought it because Giovanni Gibisi was in it and that’s all I can remember.
I was bored during the film as I was getting fed up with the characters and the dynamics. To me it was hopeless cause where a group of people were trying to survive a terrible situation but they don’t give up and in the end succeed. There is a scene that sums up the remake, where the remaining crew and passengers are eating BBQ listening to music (as I recall) in the middle of the day in the desert. There are no moments like this in the original. Things are far more desperate, everyone glistening in sweat and always on edge. The characters in the 2004 version are at ease which makes the film less understandable or enjoyable.
The two films follow a similar story, based on the book of the same name by Elleston Trevor. A group of people travelling across a desert by plane crash land, miles off course. They eventually agree to rebuild the plane to a design but the outsider of the group in order to get to civilisation. There are deaths along the way and plenty of angry arguments but eventually the phoenix does fly.
The central confrontation between James Stewart’s Frank Towns is with Heinrich Dorfmann, the so called aeronautical engineer, but in the remake Dennis Quaid’s Towns is with a character similar to himself, Miranda Otto’s oil rig worker/leader AND Giovanni Ribisi’s Elliot who stands in as the plane designer. These dynamics between characters are different, maybe due to the times the films are set. In 1965, the plane is made up of passengers from an oil rig in Libya and jumps straight into the terrifying crash. In 2004 there are a few scenes before setting up the situation the characters are in. The oil rig is being shut down and everyone is being transported out. This rig is in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. A change of location and a shuffle of characters makes the obvious differences.
Events play out differently in the remake, not for the change in time but for the dramatic effect. For example in 1965 version, when (characters names) decide to confront the raiders for help, they disappear. The rest of the group later discover their bodies, throats slit. But in 2004 version, the raiders attack, killing a member of the crew. The former was far more dramatic and sinister, the later plays on ‘shock and surprise’ even though you could see it was going to happen.
Ultimately I think that 1965 wins over 2004, despite the fact that I don’t think I enjoyed either. The 1965 film had the grit and desperation that the remake glossed over and felt like it was an echo of what we seen before. I was certain that the original would be better when I saw the remake. Both films failed at the box office and it’s not hard to see why, for different reasons. The 1965 version became a cult hit whereas most have forgotten there was remake, just adding to the fact there is a clear winner.