A Joint Review of Wall Street (1987) and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Oliver Stone says quite a lot in both of his Wall Street films. Though they give a similar message with similar themes, each resonates in a different way. The characters, again, are all quite similar and matchable between the films, but they are completely different at the same time. As much as they differ, both in positive and negative ways, I found the same admiration and solid approval towards them, neither better than the other.
Let's begin with the 1987 original. In it, a young stockbroker (Charlie Sheen) has aspirations to break out of his small company and work under the wing of one of the most elite financial figures in the business, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). The understudy, of sorts, begins to realize some of the illegal activities taking place in Gekko's company of corporate raiders, sending him into the whirl of personal secrets and, of course, irresistible greed.
In the recent sequel, Gekko, just finishing time in prison (an unintended spoiler of the first) welcomes in a whole new world where his illegal mastery in the world of money is now legal. An up-and-coming Wall Street trader (Shia LaBeouf), who happens to be engaged to Gordon's daughter (carey Mulligan), hears Gekko talk of the impending financial doom and is intrigued. After the suspected murder of a close friend, the young trader delves into the world of greed and conspiracy, all furthered by, you guessed it, greed.
Notice any similarities? These are very, very similar outlines. The pacing is near identical. The characters are seemingly copied. In the new movie, there is a sentimental side-story that, I suppose, "adds" something else ("adds" being an arguable term). Now I will, as clearly as possible, try to explain how remarkably different the films become.
Firstly, take Mr. Gekko himself. In the original, he IS the movie. The plot revolves around his understudy, but it only moves forward with Gekko. He controls the framework and stability of the picture, and it holds up well. He is complex because we aren't sure of what he is capable of and how he will use his power. But in 'Money Never Sleeps', Gekko is just a plot device. He is simply a man with all-too-clear motives and much too many fortune cookie sayings to confusingly spew into the movie. His character is rehashed, rather than rebuilt and studied. He is reduced (contradictorily enough) to a godly state in the sequel. I say reduced because there is no intrigue or suspense in a man that knows how to do everything flawlessly.
Michael Douglas plays his role perfectly in both movies, and the problem isn't in the acting, it lies in the screen-writing. As for the side characters, Charlie Sheen does a fantastic job in 'Wall Street' helping the audience along with the plot. Shia LaBeouf really stands out in 'Money Never Sleeps', giving one of his most mature performances to date.
We also have our favorite preacher, excuse me, director, behind the camera loudly directing the two films. He is so blatant in whatever he wants to say, and he has so much to say, that it is all overwhelming. In the original, Stone has a more level head. He directs the film smoothly and readably. In the sequel, he decides to preach at a country, which isn't a bad thing. He just has far too much to say to really make a poignant, coherent point in summation.
What does 'Wall Street' have that 'Money Never Sleeps' doesn't? It's more discernable, more direct, and more diluted. The characters are more accessible and the plot is wonderfully written and coherently scripted. There is a message behind the picture that really shines.
Let's reverse the question. 'Money Never Sleeps' is more sentimentally and personally made. The characters are more sympathetic. The camera-work is gorgeous. The sequel is better acted and more straightforward. Also, the messages it sends resonate better with the viewer because it is all current.
To rely on brevity to seal up this review (err..reviews? hmm...), I can say that 'Wall Street' is a solid drama with strong characters and good direction. 'Money Never Sleeps' has a more personal feel and it never feels like 'just another movie'. I had issues with both pictures. Neither is better than the other. These two don't even feel like sequels. It's as though 'Money Never Sleeps' was a remake of a good film that fixed what was wrong with the first while creating many new problems of its own.
I will admit, I watched the sequel before the original. I can say that it really made no difference. This is not a chronological franchise, but more of an elongated message. 'Wall Street' is a very solid collection of films.