Can greed, for lack of a better word, ever be good? Director Oliver Stone seems to think so as he has just begun production on his latest film, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. With this sequel to his Academy Award-winning film Wall Street, Stone attempts to prove just that.
Like the original film in the 1980s, Wall Street 2 highlights the turbulence of the stock market and how money can be lost just as easily as it can be made. Yet this time around, Stone chooses to comment on the fallout from the 2008 economic crisis instead of the insider trading scandals prevalent during the mid 1980s.
Greed, of course, will be the center of Stone’s latest film; but as it looks now, Stone is making extremely drastic changes to express this sentiment.
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” is at once the most famous and appropriate quote from Wall Street because it fully embodies the film’s true gem: the ruthless businessman Gordon Gekko, whom Michael Douglas earned an Oscar for portraying.
Gekko is the absolute example of 1980s materialism and excess. He mutilates the idea of the American Dream, and how capitalism can propel it by giving up all morality and concentrating solely on the notion of monetary gain. Gekko uses insider trading to make his millions and, as a result, he sleeps very comfortably at night.
Stone uses this personification of true capitalism to drive his 1987 classic, and Douglas conveys astonishingly well the determination of someone who is completely consumed by greed. Together, Stone and Douglas created an infamous persona whose lack of morality makes quite an impact.
All of that will most likely change with the film’s upcoming sequel.
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps presents an entirely different version of Gekko. As he subsequently goes to prison at the end of the first film for insider trading, the sequel picks up 20 years later with his release and reformation.
He leaves prison as a new man, and, according to Stone, Gekko “has to redefine himself, redefine his character. He’s looking for that second chance.”
Stone further elaborated that Gekko will now have a different force driving him: compassion. It is something that he would never have understood in the original Wall Street. The sequel has Gekko attempting to help the stock market before it inevitably crashes, as well as trying to reconnect with his daughter — actions that are seemingly out of place for Gekko’s character.
This is quite a paradox, one that has the possibility of not only tarnishing Stone’s newest film, but his Oscar-winning original as well. How can such a charismatic villain suddenly become the hero?
Stone is still portraying Gekko as somewhat of a radical, and has initiated the fact that Gekko is now being recognized as more of an anti-hero. It is very possible that Stone will maintain Gekko’s cutthroat determination, but his capitalist ethics are only applicably projected if Gekko is a villain.
As a villain, Gekko is infamous; as a hero, he will merely be a contradiction. His flare comes from his wickedness and his ferocity has made him famous, even if he is a corporate monster.
Stone himself is astonished at how much of a celebrity his fictional character has become in the business world.
“I can’t tell you how many young people have come up to me in these years and said, ‘I went to Wall Street because of that movie,’” Stone told the New York Times right before production began.
He’s right. Gekko made behaving badly irresistible, much like the overall excess he represents in Wall Street. He is characterized by his malevolent deeds; to take that all away from him now could quite easily cripple Gekko’s persona.
If he is practicing selflessness instead of Reaganomics, then he will just not be the same man. He is characterized a corporate shark that should not care about anything but money and regards endearing benevolence as a waste of time.
Time will tell if Stone can bring back the same passion of a greedy, self-absorbed WASP now that the character has reformed himself, while still holding on to the drive that made Gekko and Douglas so powerful in 1987. It is certainly possible, but the weariness surrounding Gekko’s transformation leaves too much room for skepticism.
But you can always trust a character like Gekko to not die without a fight — it is his business sense, really, that drives him — and he even validates his determination in Wall Street when he says, “Money never sleeps.” There is always a reassuring feeling when he says this because, like money, Gordon Gekko never sleeps.