Here’s what’s cool about ‘Superfly’
Are you stoked for “Superfly”? The remake of the 1972 classic film hits theaters Wednesday. Here are five key things you should know before walking into the theater:
There’s Hollywood history around the original ‘Super Fly’
The new film, reimagined by Director X, has similar beats as the original “Super Fly.” That film was considered blaxploitation, a term coined to describe a slew of 1970s films that made African Americans protagonists of their own stories but were explicitly aimed at urban audiences with plots steeped in crime, violence and casual sex. The genre is seeing a renaissance in Hollywood, starting with Taraji P. Henson’s recent “Proud Mary,” soon to be followed by remakes of “Shaft” and “Cleopatra Jones.”
Fun facts: The new “Superfly” had a crazy turnaround, starting production just five months ago. Rick Ross cameos.
The new movie is rooted in the original
Like its predecessor, “Superfly” boasts a stellar soundtrack, this time manned by Atlanta-born rapper Future, one of the producers. (Fans of the original will note the use onscreen of that movie’s infamous “Pusherman” track.)
In the remake, Trevor Jackson (“Grown-ish”) takes over for Ron O’Neal as Priest, the morally centered drug lord. Both characters have epic hair, eschew getting blood on their hands and hatch an escape plan to leave the drug trade. But Jackson’s modern Priest has bigger dreams than his predecessor: He wants to get in bed with a Mexican cartel. Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”) takes over for Carl Lee as Priest’s right-hand man, Eddie.
The setting and the story have notable updates
No longer set in Harlem, “Superfly” moves to the streets of Atlanta, folding in contemporary culture and the socioeconomic challenges the African-American community continues to face. Priest now has more money and more problems: He’s beefing with a local gang called Snow Patrol while getting in too deep with his supplier across the border.
The Cadillacs and suave suits of 1972 have been traded for diamond chains and mink coats as hallmarks of wealth. And notably, compared to the original, there’s a substantial reduction in the screen time characters spend snorting coke, something the director has said he felt uncomfortable glamorizing. But this film is still a hard R, filled with violence, guns and sex.
Some themes still apply today
The original “Super Fly” folded in elements of the Black Panther movement, casting its lens on the poverty-stricken streets of Harlem, where dealing drugs was one of the few options for upward mobility, In Director X’s version, police brutality and Black Lives Matter are threaded into the story, with audiences exposed to Atlanta police shooting a black man during a routine traffic stop.
The comparisons basically stop there
Though the original “Super Fly” was heralded for its stylish composition and powerful social commentary, the new “Superfly” is aiming for a more commercial reception. Director X, known for directing music videos for Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar and Drake, has called his film a hip-hop remix of the original.
“It’s a black action movie,” he told Vulture. “We’re not looking to weigh you down and really make you contemplate this big, heavy thing. You don’t watch “The Fast and the Furious” and wonder about the socioeconomic statement that they’re making. You watch it to see a car drive off a (expletive) train and land on the space shuttle!”
So should you see the original “Super Fly” before hitting the theater? You don’t have to, but you’ll certainly groove with the nods to the 1972 film if you do.
Big Bank Black flashes the cash as leader of the Atlanta gang Snow Patrol in the remake.
Ron O’Neal is Priest, a drug dealer who seeks to go on the straight and narrow in the 1972 original. WARNER BROS.