For all it’s camp and cheesiness, the original “Death Race 2000” was actually a pretty good movie. And what’s more, for a 40 year-old film, it really stands up to the test of time.
However, “Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050” is only a few months old, and already positioned in the trash heap of history where it belongs, along with the separate, higher budget reboots with Jason Statham (a separate franchise). I know, it’s confusing.
Let’s pull this one out of the bin, dust it off and mock it mercilessly, shall we?
The premise of the movie is that, in a dystopian future, racers compete in an annual cross-country road race where they score points by killing pedestrians and on-lookers alike in the United Corporations of America. The basic premise is identical to the first movie and is drenched in satire like the original.
But, the new film manages to be far less entertaining and poignant than the original, choosing instead to focus almost exclusively on the cast of poorly fleshed-out and executed character concepts rather than a mixture of well-crafted characters and humorous social and political commentary.
The movie starts off where the first one did; at the beginning of the race as the racers approach their car. We are then treated to a fairly decent reenvisioning of our hero Frankenstein, with moderate acting chops to boot. However, the main rival racer (the character Sylvester Stallone portrayed hilariously in the first movie) is replaced with a horribly obnoxious and confusing character called Perfectus, the supposed pinnacle of genetic engineering.
Not only does Perfectus drag the rest of the movie down, but he tarnishes a role that had serious potential to be great, as it was in the original.
The rest of the racers are also far more annoying than they have any right to be. The only racer we found to be genuinely funny is the A.I. system aboard one of the race cars, and only after the car kills its awful co-pilot do we see this character shine, if only briefly. The role is sidelined for the boring rivalry between racers Minera and Tammy.
One of the great moments in the original takes place when it is revealed that Frankenstein’s intent upon winning the race is to kill the president so that society will revert back to the way it used to be. Instead, this Frankenstein’s goal is far less noble, he wants to clean the slate and get rid of everyone so they can start anew. Now, we are of the opinion that a reboot doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of the original so long as it is still good in its own right, and more specifically, a reboot can take a dramatically different approach as long as it is still good. However, the execution of this plotline is rushed and clunky, and it only really comes together toward the very end.
It feels as if the director thought “Fuck it, this sucks anyways, let’s just blow it all up!” And he did. And it sucked.
We could go on at length about the horrendous special effects, or the cringeworthy attempts at, well, ANY sort of humor to be honest, or the utterly bizarre idea to have Malcolm McDowell in a movie where he doesn’t speak with his amazing natural inflection, but you all get the idea. “Death Race 2050” is a blatantly unnecessary reboot to a great original that just leaves you feeling like they didn’t really try. Like, at all.
We award this pile of crap two cages, because we’re merciful, and the A.I. was having an existential crisis. That’s always good.
Main Author: Jared Kirk