Yesterday I caught the remake of The Flight of the Phoenix, now retitled to simply Flight of the Phoenix. This is a movie that probably didn't need to be remade. The 1965 original is something of a minor classic and a late night TV staple. The storyline is engaging, the characters are well played, and it's only real flaw is that it's a bit too long. Even though I've seen it several times, I'm always deeply drawn into the story. It's good adventure entertainment.
Dennis Quaid (a favorite actor of mine) plays the pilot of a cargo plane flying an oil exploration / drilling team out of Mongolia. A sandstorm develops in their path, and when they attempt to fly over it, their overly heavy plane is caught by the wind and crashes, leaving the survivors stranded in the Gobi.
What I think I enjoy most in the original is how the conflicts are internal to the group of crash survivors. The interpersonal conflicts and character clashes provide the dramatic tension. The desert itself is uncaring and unrelenting. It doesn't care if the men live or die. It doesn't intercede to hasten their deaths or relent to allow their survival.
In the remake these internal dangers are replaced in large part by external dangers. The story becomes less about "a group of survivors learning to work together to save themselves" and more about "a group of survivors fighting against a common enemy".
There are two foes: one is the desert itself, which seems to much more actively malevolent, what with all the sandstorms whipping up at a moments notice. The second foe is laughably improbable: "desert nomads" that appear also at plot-critical moments.
I was laughing out loud at the ending sequence. I'm sure the director intended this as a dramatic climax, and it might have been had it not been for the bandits on horseback.
I must say that the crash sequence is amazing - it has to be the most harrowing plane crash ever created. I can't really recommend paying $8 just to see that, but I'm tempted.
So if the ads for this movie tempt you, I recommend you rent the original instead. It's a better movie.