by: S. Scott Stanikmas
Not too long ago, it was revealed that New Line was working on getting a reboot of Shaft into theaters. Now some new information has come forward and it looks…iffy.
Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Goldbergs writer Alex Barnow have been tapped to tackle scripting duties on the film, according to Deadline. And it’s also being reported that the film will now be shifted from gritty urban-action thriller to action comedy.
The original film from 1971 starred Richard Roundtree as the badass P.I. and spawned two sequels. It’s considered one of the earliest examples of Blaxplotation cinema and also kind-of a classic. Fans thought the 2000 reboot with Sam Jackson as the nephew of the original Shaft as sacrilege until they saw that Jackson and director John Singleton treated the property with some reverence.
This new version is already being met with resistance. One very vocal opponent is current Shaft comic book writer David F. Walker. The writer recently penned an open letter to express his dislike of the announced direction the film may take:
… [Y]our solution is to take the most iconic hero in the history of black popular culture—something that is missing from the cinematic landscape right now—and turn him into some kind of comedic figure. Congratulations for your forward thinking, New Line and Mr. Davis. Because God knows that what black people—as well as the rest of America—needs right now is ANOTHER black man cracking jokes to distract us from all that ails us. We can leave the superheroics to the white guys, but the black hero can only be heroic if he is wrapped in a comedic package. I believe I speak for many people when I say, “No thanks, and fuck you.”
Wow. Tell us how you really feel!
Seriously though, I get where Walker is coming from. He feels like the studio is taking what should be a strong icon for the black community and turning him into a joke. It works for some franchises, to take their premise and go goofy as a kind of commentary on culture today. And while Barris has been known to tackle sensitive racial issues on Black-ish with respect and a sense of humor, I don’t think that is what’s needed for a Shaft film.
No movie ever makes everyone truly happy. But right now, this seems like a film that is going to divide audience’s right down the middle.