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RoboCop and Total Recall Director Gives Candid View on Remake Failures


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Summary

  • Verhoeven criticizes the lack of mystery in the Total Recall remake, noting that the original ending left the audience questioning the truth.
  • Verhoeven believes that the remake of RoboCop made the character too tragic by giving him all his memories, whereas the original film left the character unaware of his past, making him more intriguing.
  • The original films by Verhoeven stood out due to their unique blend of social satire, pop culture references, and science fiction themes, which the remakes failed to capture.


Paul Verhoeven is a filmmaker with a very clear vision for his cinematic offerings. Usually flirting with controversy and gratuitous amounts of sex or violence, the Dutch director was responsible for the iconic sci-fi movies Total Recall and RoboCop. Recently he aired his honest thoughts on recent remakes of both movies, critiquing the lack of “mystery” and style-over-substance approach to both remakes.

Robocop

RoboCop

Release Date
July 17, 1987

Rating
R

Runtime
1hr 42min

Verhoeven first made a name for himself in Hollywood with the release of RoboCop in 1987, a film that quickly cemented his status as a must-watch filmmaker of the future. He followed this up with another hit, Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1990. However, the remakes of these films in 2012 and 2014 failed to achieve the same level of success as their predecessors and Verhoeven has shared his view on why neither movie could recapture the originals. Speaking to Metrograph, he said:

“I felt [2012’s Total Recall] had a lot of special effects, but this mystery—is it true or is it not true?—I just didn’t feel that anymore. The interesting thing about the original movie is that at the end, when Rachel Ticotin says, “Well, kiss me quick before you wake up,” you still don’t really know if it’s real. Also, we had a wonderful composer, Jerry Goldsmith. I was so pleased with the piano motifs. Without all that, what do you have?

The problem [with 2014’s RoboCop], I felt, was that he was really aware that he lost all his legs and arms. He knows it from the very beginning. The beautiful thing about the original RoboCop, what makes it not just pure tragedy or whatever, is that he really does not know anymore. He gets a couple of vague flashes of memory when he goes to his old house, but RoboCop is not a tragic figure. Yes, he’s killed in the most horrible way in the beginning. But when we see him again as a robot, he doesn’t feel that. In the new one, because he remembers everything, he’s much more tragic. We wanted you to accept him at the beginning as a robotic cop. That’s what they did to him. In my opinion, I thought it was a problem to make him more tragic.”

total recall

Total Recall

Release Date
June 1, 1990

Rating
R

Runtime
113

Writers
Philip K. Dick , Ronald Shusett , Dan O’Bannon , Jon Povill , Gary Goldman


Paul Verhoeven Was Willing to Take Chances With His Movies

paul-verhoeven-on-set-robocop
Orion Pictures

What set Verhoeven’s original films apart from the remakes is his unique approach to filmmaking. Despite being constrained by the special effects of the time, his movies captured the attention of audiences with social satire, pop culture references, and science fiction themes, all of which were combined with Verhoeven’s eye for an engaging narrative and a touch of controversy. The modern remakes of Verhoeven’s classics, despite a 30-year-advanced arsenal of CGI effects at their disposal, failed to capture the slight ridiculousness of the original movies, trying to make a serious sci-fi thriller out of a pulp fiction premise.

As a complaint that will likely have been made three decades ago by a wave of remakes of movies from the 1940s and 1950s, the cycle is certainly nothing new. However, while there are many remakes that serve to do nothing but disappoint, there are always exceptions to the rule – but usually only when the original movie is not one of the most memorable of a generation.

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