Should I be worried that they are remaking two films by one of the world's greatest living directors?
Paul Verhoeven may not top everybody's list of great film directors, but to me he is a living god. Over a decade he directed an incredible run of striking, vivid and subversive blockbusters starting with Robocop in 1987 and coming to a close with the remarkable Starship Troopers in 1997. Along the way he also directed Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Okay, that last film didn't achieve what it set out to do, but I have never laughed so hard in a cinema.
His films are a gloriously heady mix of the profound and the profane. Only Verhoeven could make a film about alien killer bugs that is actually about fascism or a film about a robot cop that is actually about Jesus or a glossy erotic thriller that is actually a dizzying postmodern take on sexual politics.
I can also recommend Verhoeven's director commentaries on the DVDs. He spends half the film breathlessly explaining the visual effects and the rest of the time breathlessly unpicking the political and religious subtext. It is very entertaining.
A typical moment in the Starship Troopers commentary goes something like this:
"That is CGI Johnny, that is real Johnny, CGI Johnny again. But, of course this battle scene is about how the capitalist war machine devours our young. That's real Johnny, but a CGI arm.''
So, just to be clear, I love Paul Verhoeven. Even the critical and commercial flop, Hollow Man, is interesting for its unique take on the invisible man legend. Sadly, that film marked the end of Verhoeven's Hollywood run, but the Dutch-language wartime thriller Black Book in 2006 proved he has still got it.
So, now two of Verhoeven's most hallowed texts, Robocop and Total Recall, are being remade. How should I feel about this?
Well, remakes, reboots and sequels are not a bad thing per se. Look at Rise of the Planet of the Apes, that was great. Classic films can be rethought and reinterpreted for a new age.
Total Recall and Robocop are full of incredibly strong ideas that could easily be reinterpreted in interesting ways. With Total Recall you can always go back to the original Philip K Dick book, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, and with Robocop there are countless new directions to follow.
Of the two remakes, Robocop looks better on paper. Total Recall, which comes out in September, stars Colin Farrell (groan) and is directed by the man who brought us Underworld and Live Free or Die Hard. Robocop comes out next year and, interestingly, is being helmed by Elite Squad director Jose Padilha. It stars Gary Oldman and Samuel L Jackson.
I suppose these remakes will only be a problem if they stink. When that happens, the stink from the remake unjustly tends to linger around the original. When you are talking about the film you have to keep saying: "The original one, obviously...'' It colours your understanding and perception of the original. Each scene is a reminder of how they screwed it up in the remake.
Also, wouldn't it be better to give the money to Verhoeven and let him make a brand new film, rather than retread one of his classics? The man is still alive and, on the evidence of Black Book, still on form.
But, what do you think? Should I be worried about these remakes? Am I gripping to the past like some sad old man, unable to dance to the hip new music?
And another thing, why do these kids wear such baggy trousers? And why won't they stay off my lawn?
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