'Shaft' Comic Writer Rails Against New Line's Movie Reboot Plans

Shaft Still - H 2015
<p>Shaft Still - H 2015</p>   |   Courtesy of Photofest
The studio misses the point of the character, argues David Walker, writer of 'Shaft's Revenge' and Dynamite Entertainment's 'Shaft' comic book series.

The news that New Line is developing a reboot of Blaxploitation hero Shaft with Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow writing was met with some mixed reaction when it broke Tuesday.

David Walker — writer of Dynamite Entertainment's Shaft comic book as well as this year's Shaft's Revenge, the first official Shaft novel in four decades authorized by creator Ernest Tidyman's estate — called the move a poor decision.

In an open letter published on his website, Walker (who also currently writes Cyborg for DC Entertainment) wrote that the decision to push Shaft in a comedic direction shows that the studio is "more interested in shitting the bed, than making a good Shaft movie," and that such a move will not only lead to a financial flop, but also "ruin the chances of there ever being a decent Shaft movie in the remainder of my lifetime."

He cited what he saw as similar movies that have failed to be massive box office successes — "the sort of comedy you’re likely to make does not have a good track record," he wrote, pointing to the box office takes of Low Down Dirty Shame, Bait and Undercover Brother. 

The writer likened the prospect of a comedic Shaft to 2009's Michael Jai White vehicle Black Dynamite, noting that movie made less than a million dollars in theaters. "By comparison," he continued, "The Equalizer earned over $190 million globally, and it was a serious action film, with a black man [Denzel Washington] in the lead role."

Walker went on to suggest that the current social climate in America creates a need for a non-comedic black action lead.

"Not since Ernest Tidyman created John Shaft back in 1970 has there been more of a need for someone just like him. And yet your solution is to take the most iconic hero in the history of black popular culture — something that is missing from the cinematic landscape right now — and turn him into some kind of comedic figure," he wrote. "Because God knows that what black people — as well as the rest of America — needs right now is ANOTHER black man cracking jokes to distract us from all that ails us. We can leave the superheroics to the white guys, but the black hero can only be heroic if he is wrapped in a comedic package."

Walker's full letter can be read here. New Line had no comment when contacted by THR.