Oldboy was, and is, easily one of my favorite films of the last decade, and I try not to throw around accolades of that magnitude if I can help it. But Lee is also one of the few American filmmakers who takes real risks with his material (25th Hour, Clockers, Do the Right Thing), to the point where even when I don't like the way his films come out (She Hate Me, Summer of Sam) I like the fact he isn't taking the easy way with them.
Some people seem to hate his work intensely, for no particular reason other than that they simply feel no connection to it. I remember reading one review of He Got Game that seemed to focus on the fact that it was about basketball, a sport the reviewer had no interest in, and therefore the movie was bad because it didn't figure out how to make the sport interesting to a non-fan. That's about as inept a criticism as any you are likely to come across, and further proof that just because someone calls themselves a critic doesn't mean they've earned the label.
And yet here he is, involved with the Hollywood remake — er, re-adaptation — of a project that is very close to my heart, something that I will either find to be cause for celebration or staving a hole in the wall with my head. Word has it the filmmakers (which include screenwriter Mark Protosevitch) went back to the manga moreso than the earlier film, which tells me they decided they didn't need to ape the film point-for-point to be successful. Good move. Now they just need to not copy the parts of the manga that I found frankly silly — to deviate from it as creatively as Chan-wook Park did, and to put their own weight on its back.
I'm not automatically against remakes. I'm against remakes as being a lazy way to shove material into a production pipeline. There is no earthly reason to remake Carrie, or Psycho, or any number of other films that were not flawed because they didn't happen to be shot in color or sport a copyright date beginning with "2". But those films are not being remade because there was something "wrong" with them in the first place, or even because someone has an interesting interpretation of the source material. By and large they're being remade because someone wants to capitalize on the familiarity of the name with an audience just indifferent enough to pay money to see something sporting said name. They are a two-hour marketing strategy, which is a fine complement for an age that has come to enshrine marketing and advertising in a place of greater distinction than that of actual creation.
Sum of comment: if Oldboy sucks, it's only because the odds of it not being that way were so abysmally low.
[Addendum: A sneak preview courtesy of JoBlow.]