5 Reasons Why We Need a 'Princess Bride' Remake
The case for relaunching a beloved classic
It’s been kind of funny to monitor social media lately and witness the hysteria over the proposed remake of The Princess Bride. If memes are to be believed, people are losing their mind over the idea that anyone other than Cary Elwes plays the man in black, or anyone other than Chris Sarandon plays the evil Prince Humperdinck.
Wait a minute... who?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the 1987 film, and I watch it regularly with my kids. It’s just that, I’m not like the rest of you. I did not get to know Inigo Montoya or Princess Buttercup through the film. I’m one of those people that read William Goldman’s book before it ever became a movie, and after watching the film, my initial thought was, “Well, that was okay... but it’s not exactly what I hoped for.”
The main thing the film had going for it was that William Goldman also wrote the screenplay. And why not? Goldman is one of the most famous Hollywood screenwriters of all time. The guy did Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, that alone makes him a legend.
The film version of the book does a lot to capture the whimsy of the novel. If you haven’t read it, go out and do so. It’s one of the funniest books ever written. But the thing is, I feel the movie embraces the silly just a bit too much. There are serious elements in The Princess Bride, and it would be fun to see a version more focused on that, and a little less focused on the slapstick humor.
People complain that there’s too much dark stuff out these days, but when you embrace the dark, the light seems lighter, and it would be interesting to see the emotional highs and lows you can squeeze out of The Princess Bride. Anyway, without further ado, here are five justifications for a Princess Bride remake.
1. Prince Humperdinck is a Twit .
Let’s face it, Prince Humperdinck is a joke in the 1987 version of the film. He’s poofy, he’s silly, he’s ridiculous, he’s impossible to take seriously. From the moment he comes striding out in his purple tights and his terrible hair, you can’t help but grumble and just wait for him to be over.
I know, I know, some of you are going to argue that makes him a good villain. You’re supposed to dislike the villain, that's why they call him a VILLAN. However, I would contend that it’s easier to dislike a villain when he’s not a total joke.
You see, in the book, Prince Humperdinck is a beast. In the film they mention in passing that Humperdinck is a great hunter, but that’s downplayed. There’s the moment when Humperdinck does a little spin and says, “There was a mighty duel,” and that’s all you see of his tracking ability. Go watch it again, it'll make you wince.
In the book, Goldman describes Humperdinck as a barrel-chested man who kind of scuttles around like a crab, because he’s always on guard to kill something. In one of the early scenes, he’s wrestling with an orangutan, and he kills it by breaking its neck. That’s pretty impressive.
In the book, Prince Humperdinck is scary, and you don’t think the man in black will be able to defeat him. He’s like all three of the super powered criminals wrapped up into one, and he doesn’t go through a day without killing something in his Zoo of Death (I’ll tell you more about that later).
By making Prince Humperdinck the cold-blooded, terrifying murderer that he is in the book, you up the stakes for the whole film. Westley’s bluff becomes a far more tense and concerning moment. The whole film elevates. Just consider somebody like Michael Shannon or Dave Bautista in the role of Prince Humperdink... c’mon, that alone justifies a remake.
2. The Backstory of the Criminals
As I sat in the theater in 1987, watching the film version of The Princess Bride, I think the part I was looking forward to the most comes right before the duel on the top of the Cliffs of Insanity. In the book, as Inigo is waiting for the man in black to ascend, he reflects on his life and how he became a master swordsman.
I expected the filmmakers to show us a young Inigo Montoya, watching his father slain by the vicious Count Rugen. There’d be a scene where he’s standing there, blood running down his cheeks, holding the body of his beloved father. But instead of crying, his eyes would harden, and you’d see a resolve settle in.
Then there would be a montage where we see Inigo begin his training. In the book, he spends a whole year on a beach squeezing rocks to make his wrists strong. That kind of thing is cool. He’s just out there, squeezing rocks, and he goes about his whole training with the same diligence.
Next he travels the world, training with all the greatest sword masters who are alive. And when he is done, he’s hardened his pain, his rage, his impudence into a diamond that makes him the greatest swordsman in the world.
Imagine my disappointment when instead of this beautiful sequence, we got a brief moment where Mandy Patinkin looks at the screen and tells two or three lines from his life. Now, Patinkin gives an all time great performance as Montoya... but man, I NEED to see that flashback scene.
Oh, and all THREE of the criminals have a scene like that. The Sicilian, Fezzik, and Inigo. And when you get to SEE those scenes, the victory of the man in black seems even more impressive.
3. The Sets
Yeah, the 1987 film is a beloved classic, but c’mon, the sets are terrible. The movie looks like it was filmed in the fantasy trolley land from Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood. You only don’t see it anymore because you like the film.
But imagine if they actually played with lighting a little bit? Imagine if they zoomed in on people’s eyes and did some fades to other scenes, or double exposure? The 1987 version of The Princess Bride is just a hair better quality than a video copy of a local stage production. It’s very basic filmmaking, and dang it, I want something better.
4. Bad Music
“My love is like a storybook story, but it’s as real as the feelings I feel.”
That’s an actual line from the movie’s theme. It’s bad.
5. Zoo of Death
I said I’d say more about this didn’t I? In the book it’s not ‘The Pit of Despair’ it’s ‘The Zoo of Death,’ and it’s way cooler than what we get in the film.
Also, in the book, there’s not the silly “father, guide my sword” scene where Inigo closes his eyes and follows his sword, swaying back and forth like he’s using a divining rod. I forget how they find the Zoo of Death in the book honestly, I’ve only just started re-reading this to my kids, but I remember it was cooler than the cringeworthy “guide my sword” scene.
C’mon man, Inigo is too awesome a character to subject him to a moment like that. Again, Mandy, I love you, great performance, the blame is on the director in this instance.
So, there you have it. Are you convinced? Are you at least curious to go and check out the book? Yes, the 1987 film is a beloved classic, but filming a new version isn’t going to cause all the old ones to suddenly evaporate into smoke and disappear from the Earth. I’m telling you there’s a lot, A LOT to the story of The Princess Bride that didn’t make it to the original film.
However, any time there is a remake, you do risk that Hollywood will just ignore the source material entirely in favor of a giant, steaming turd, so I concede that point.
But man... what if they brought a new, GOOD PARTS version of The Princes Bride to the silver screen? Don’t you want to see it? Don’t you want to see a NEW TAKE on a BELOVED CLASSIC? I don’t know about you, but if some producer is out there, willing to spend some money to send us all on a trip back to the epic world of Florin and Guilder, I find I’m much less likely to say, “Boo!” and more inclined to go with, “As you wish.”
And while they’re at it, they should also remake The Last Jedi, talk about a steaming pile of Sith.