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Losing its religion


A couple of weeks ago, Disney released the trailer for its classic Escape to Witch Mountain remake, retitled and reworked in plot to now be a Race to Witch Mountain.

If you've read the novel or seen the 1975 film, you'll gather from the trailer above that this remake departs from the original film and novel in several ways. Witch Mountain is no longer the location of a hidden settlement of aliens who have made a new life on Earth as it was in the novel and 1975 film but a military installation where the kids' ship is being held. In the original novel (and, I think, the film), the kids were toddlers when their ship crashed, essentially leaving them orphans with little memory of who they are, where they came from, or the powers they have; in the remake, they are fully aware of their powers and who they are. In addition, there appears to be an impending alien invasion that can only be stopped by the kids, whereas in the original film and novel their only goal was to get back to their people and escape being exploited by wealthy, greedy and power-mongering folks.

An interesting aspect that the remake and original film adaptations share, however, is that they are devoid of the religious content of the novel. In the novel, Father O'Day (the man who helps the kids) is an inner city priest who ruminates on theological matters throughout the novel. I posted one excerpt from the novel earlier, and here's another that occurs at the end, a conversation between O'Day and the novel's villain Deranian after the children's ship has disappeared into the night sky:

Father O'Day was fingering his rosary, trying to compose his mind for a prayer, when he was interrupted by Lucas Deranian.

Deranian's face was grim. Through tight lips he bit out, "What was that thing?"

"You saw it," the big man told him. It was nothing from this world. They finally remembered how to contact it."

"You're a liar! I don't swallow that sort of tale. It's all some devilish trick of yours--"

Father O'Day stiffened. "Don't ever confuse your master with mine!" he thundered. "Do you think the Lord on high is so frail that this little planet, with its greedy little people, is all that he can do? Bah!" Abruptly his great hand swept out, seized Deranian by the coat collar, shook him, and hurled him into the midst of the other men. "Get out of my sight! Go tell the rest of your kind there are marvels in Creation far beyond their narrow dreaming."

That character loses its religious component in both the original film and the remake. In the 1975 film, Jason O'Day is a sad and cantankerous widower who travels around in a Winnebago. In the remake, the O'Day character is now Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson), a jaded Las Vegas cab driver.

While not nearly as dramatic, I kind of find this a bit like taking the faith and religion out of a novel and film adaptation like the classic Ben-Hur. Oh wait, maybe they're doing that, too.

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