When I first saw the original version of The Manchurian Candidate, I cried for Raymond Shaw for half an hour afterward--serious, heartbroken crying. I was upset for a couple of days afterward, whenever I would think of him.
This new version does't hold a candle to that.
The basic plot is mostly the same, though it's been updated to the 1990's, and the war is Desert Storm in Kuwait, instead of Vietnam or whatever it was in the original film. The bad guys in this film are a mega-corporation using micro-chips, rather than the VC or actual Manchurians using good, old-fashioned brainwashing.
Raymond Shaw is the son of Senator Eleanor Prentiss-Shaw, played brilliantly by Meryl Streep. She does Angela Lansbury, only more so, and looks vaguely like Hillary Clinton. Supposedly, Streep based the role on Clinton, but I know nothing of that. As far as I'm concerned, it was Angela Lansbury, all the way, but even better!
The actor playing Shaw, unfortunately, does not give this role half the fire that Lawrence Harvey did. The new Shaw has pretty much buckled under his mother's dominance and is letting her run his life; Lawrence Harvey's Shaw loathed his mother with an unbridled passion and was anything but obedient to her. In this new movie, he is running for Vice-President. Mama's goal (and maybe the corporation's, also) is to assassinate the presidential candidate on election night, so that Shaw will become president.
The bit with Captain Marco is pretty much the same as it was in the original film, and Denzel Washington does an adequate job with it. He's having weird dreams, and so are the few surviving members of his unit. Shaw has been given the Congressional Medal of Honor in this film, as in the original. There's a neat twist, though--Rosie, Marco's love interest, turns out to be an FBI agent. I thought that was rather cool.
Good points about the movie--Go, Meryl!!! Also, combining the roles of Mama and Senator Eisland was a good idea. Eisland in the original movie was too stupid for words and really, a useless character.
But the whole plot with Josie, which is what made the original film so gut-wrenching, has been almost completely excised from this film. There's mention that Raymond and Josie had a romantic summer ten or 15 years ago, which Mama ruined. Raymond tells Josie now that he has had no real relationships since then, and Josie is mildly sorry for him, but that's about it. When he kills her and her father, the emotional impact is just not there. There's no visible grief from Raymond, even--not really. In the original film, when he shot them both, all I could think was, "Oh, you poor, poor man!" In this movie, I felt nothing, whatsoever. it was just an expected part of the plot.
The ending is also not nearly as heart-wrenching. It is so plainly telegraphed that there is no surprise, at all. I remember being devastated by the realization that, at the end, Shaw knew he had absolutely nothing left to live for. Taking his own life was literally the only real option he had--either that or live not knowing whether he might be used against his will in the future, at any time, with no warning. That ending was powerful; the ending to this movie just wasn't, at all.
This film might be okay if viewed by someone who has never seen the original, but if you sat on the edge of your seat through the original movie, this remake will be a vast disappointment.
Take my advice, and go rent the original. This version is just crap with only some minor improvements.