New York – “Death Race 2050” has nothing to do with “Death Race” or “Death Race 2” or “Death Race: Inferno.” That would be silly. “Death Race 2050” is more aligned with “Death Race 2000,” while “Death Race” is a reboot/reimagining of the “2000” version, with the others acting as sequels to that movie. Of course, being more aligned with “2000” doesn’t necessarily make “2050” a sequel.
Confused? Don’t worry too much about it, we’ll get there.
At today’s New York City Comic Con panel, legendary producer Roger Corman referred to “2050” as “the new century version.” This notion was borne out by the 10 minutes of the film which played at the end of the panel, 10 minutes which—without giving away spoilers—seemed to not fully mesh with what occurs in “Death Race 2000,” even if it was in the same violent, over-the-top comedic, vein.
That though was the end of the panel. Where the whole thing started was with a trailer for the film, a trailer which instantly announced that this movie was indeed going to go back to the tradition of “2000,” attempting to steer a course between being a funny and violent film. Star Manu Bennett would later describe this entry as having “the satire of the original.” The panel moderator even got a taped introduction from the “2050” TV personalities, he, in turn, brought out Corman and Bennett and the panel was off to the races.
Keeping it in first gear for the moment, for the uninitiated, “Death Race 2050” is about an alternate version of the United States, one where it’s no longer the United States of America, but rather the United Corporations of America, with Malcolm McDowell playing the Chairman (seemingly, there is no President, as there was in “2000”).
In order to decrease the population, satiate the bloodlust of the populace, and just to be a generally good time, the Death Race is regularly held. Fiver racers, each with a navigator, take part in this cross country jaunt that sees the drivers get points not only for time but killing people as well. The exact number of points per death vary depending on the category of individual (young, old, nun) killed. Bennett plays the greatest driver ever, Frankenstein (David Carradine in “2000”), but there is the distinct sense that with this race his time is nearly at an end.
This was not one of those panels loaded with “scoops.” Instead, what we got were some thoughtful remarks from both Bennett and Corman on the characters, changes from the original, similarities to the original, and thoughts from Corman on his career as a whole (as was discussed, the man has something approaching 400 credits).
One of the big differences that fans of the original will notice are the drivers competing against Frankenstein. In “2050” there is a genetically engineered man, a car with AI, a singer, and a terrorist (right wing fundamentalist). As Corman explained things, these drivers better reflect the world we live in now than the ones depicted in “2000” (which arrived on the scene in 1975).
Naturally, as times have changed, so to has Frankenstein’s all-black outfit. However, just like “2000,” we will see Frankenstein take off his mask at some point. In fact, Bennett said that they filmed a scene one day in which Frankenstein rips off his mask and tosses it, with the mask winding up outside the car. What they never got was a shot where the mask doesn’t actually leave the vehicle – something that was only noticed the next day and which in turn dictated (for continuity’s sake) that Frankenstein not wear the mask for the remainder of the film.
Just how did this work? What will the reception be for this spiritual successor to the popular B-movie original?
“Death Race 2050,” directed by G.J. Echternkamp and produced by Roger Corman, will be out on Blu-ray on January 17th, so we’ll all see then. The trailer is below.
photo credit: Universal Home Entertainment