Remaking Paul Verhoeven Without A Hint Of Paul Verhoeven

So you wait for a Paul Verhoeven remake for years, dagnabbit, and then three of ‘em come along all at once.  Give or take a year or two.  First there was Total Recall, in which Arnie ‘the Governator’ Schwarzenegger has a brain fart during a memory implant procedure and wakes up wondering what’s up with that Sharon Stone all of a sudden and then something happens in Mars and maybe it was all in his head.  Philip K. Dick’s short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, was a thought provoker of sorts concerned with the notion of the human self, and whether you’d still be you if you had different memories.  Verhoeven beefed it up with an act set on Mars and a bird with three knockers, then decided to build the movie around Arnie’s idiosyncratic acting qualities, in case anyone had worked out what they were. 

Obviously it was a film clamouring for a remake – who wouldn’t want another instalment of such a camp classic, all testosterone and shouting and buckets of claret?

So was the remake any good?  Colin Farrell.  ‘Nuff said. 

Did you see him in that one with the future-telling mutant people and Tom Cruise as a predictive-text detective who locks people up before they commit crimes but it’s ok because it’s a Spielberg film and besides they were preordained to do the crime anyway because it’s a deterministic universe, yo, until it got predicted that Cruise would off some guy he’d never even met?  Minority Report, that’s the puppy.  Colin Farell + same look from Minority Report + Jessica Biel in typically smug form + no humour – Arnie = Totall Recall 2012.

And then there was Robocop, Verhoeven’s anti-corporate morality satire in which the police is being privatised, ED-209 gives you 20 seconds to comply and LOTS. OF. SHIT. EXPLODES.  With adverts and everything.  The film is ostensibly about Peter Weller’s corpse becoming a cybernetic policeman with repressed memories, but really it’s about cheap laughs and cartoon violence.  It’s essentially a fairground mirror held up to the 1980s, but with less taste and more people with bits being shot off in widescreen.  Totes amazeballs, I think you’ll agree.  The advert in which a would be car hijacker gets electrocuted is a personal highlight.  

The remake’s scheduled for 2013.

Have you seen the new Robocop outfit?  Go on, Google it.  I’ll wait.

Looks like a Power Ranger, right?  Only worse.


Style of thing.

And then finally, stepping lightly round Showgirls, we come to Starship Troopers, the Hugo Award-winning Robert A. Heinlein military novel about future soldiers fighting an interstellar war against big-ass insects.  Heinlein wrote about the delights of an arguably fascistic, definitely militarised society and the joys of war as seen from the perspective of someone who’d never actually experienced active combat duty.  Naturally, Verhoeven read it and thought to himself “A-ha! This is so camp and child-like it must be an ironic satire!  Better get on the phone to my fake blood man; I feel a film coming on.”  Even if he didn’t think anything like that, that is in fact what he did with the film.  Here’s a clue for the dubious non-believers of that claim – it’s got Neil Patrick Harris in it.  And he’s clearly having a blast.  

The film’s a beauty – Denise Richards and Casper Van Dien competing to see who can play the less convincing human being, the simple-minded politics played so straight you can’t help but laugh at them (which is, you know, the point), the simple, boorish gore, Neil Patrick Harris explaining the mathematics of shooting a bug – shoot it in the leg and it’s still 86% effective, or whatever; Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown.

The remake is rumoured to be a more faithful adaptation of the original novel. 

Assuming that’s true, nothing more need be said.  Except that I for one hope it loses its financing.

But here’s the question that everyone’s already asked and answered ages ago.  Did we want any of these remakes in the first place?  Obviously no, but if we are to be subjected to them, what’s the value in stripping all the Paul Verhoeven-ness?  Because let’s be honest here, none of these vehicles would be much cop if they hadn’t had Verhoeven’s clenched fist at the wheel.

It is of course unfair to stick the knife into Robocop and Starship Troopers given that they’ve not been finished, and chances are that Starship Troopers will be quietly shelved after a period of pre-production purgatory.  On the other hand the reason I started writing this in the first place is because I saw the Robocop pictures about four hours ago and I’m still laughing.  

 And from everything we’ve read, heard and seen, it seems likely that Robocop and Starship Troopers will follow Total Recall’s lead, will be similarly ‘updated’ and anodyne.

Total Recall looked tired, ditched the sense of mad-cap fun, toned down the blood and was ultimately anonymous.  It needed a pungent, highly individualistic director to break it out of the mouldy, safe sci-fi mould.  It needed someone who speaks in outrageous visual effects.  It needed someone to give it some energy.  It needed someone to give a potentially worthy subject a sense of fun.  It sickens me to say it, but maybe it needed Michael Bay. 

 And on that chilling thought, it’s time to take one more look at the Robocop snaps.

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