Hollywood has been stuck in remake mode for years now, but recently they seem particularly focused on remaking the filmography of one particular guy: Dutch director Paul Verhoeven. This past summer saw a new version of Total Recall starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston. In February 2014, we’ll get to see director Jose Padilha’s take on Verhoeven’s RoboCop. There’s also a new version of Starship Troopers, based on the novel by Robert Heinlein, and which Verhoeven adapted into a campy, mega-violent film back in 1997. If you’re Paul Verhoeven, I’m not sure whether all these would seem like a compliment or a slap in the face. Thankfully, somebody decided to ask him.
The Playlist recently interviewed Verhoeven and took the time to ask him about all the remakes of his films. Asked about this past summer’s lackluster Total Recall remake, Verhoeven points out that “critics were a lot more complimentary to me and Arnold about the original after the remake came out than they had been been before it.” That’s a spot-on assessment of the differences between the two Total Recalls in my opinion. The remake was slick and pretty, but stripped of all the corniness and the outright weirdness of Verhoeven’s original, it just felt like a hollow and tedious exercise. The original Total Recall is batshit insane in a thousand different ways, but if you strip out all the Schwarzenegger one-liners and three-breasted hookers and psychic conjoined twins and ancient Martian terraforming machines, it turns out you’re left with not much. Watching the remake just made me appreciate the first Total Recall even more.
But what about RoboCop, a production that’s already been plagued by rumors of an unhappy director, a troubling shift in release date, and a new look for the cyborg that hasn’t exactly been embraced by the fans. Verhoeven sounds just as skeptical as the fans, saying, “It’s very difficult to make this story realistically.” Indeed, Jose Padilha’s RoboCop is already showing signs of succumbing to the same problems as the Total Recall remake: remaking a movie that’s not in need of a remake, and in the process stripping out the things that made it unique and a classic.
The Dutch director also wonders whether the chilly reception of Total Recall might hurt the chances of the Starship Troopers remake. Producers Neal Moritz and David Jaffe, who have the rights to Heinlein’s novel, but they were both also involved with Total Recall. It would be understanding if they became a little more deliberate in figuring how to remake Starship Troopers, or if it should be remade at all. Here’s Verhoeven:
I don’t know if they’re going to do Starship Troopers after the failure of Total Recall. Yes, they bought the rights, we know that, but I really thought they made a mistake when they did the remake by making it so serious. I’m not so sure [that approach] will work for Starship Troopers either. I think all of these films are accepted because they don’t take themselves so seriously. There’s a lightness, you believe it, but we also know it’s not true.
This is one area where I strongly disagree with Verhoeven. While his Starship Troopers was in many ways an enjoyable movie, it wasn’t a very good Starship Troopers movie. I know I’m not alone in saying I’ve been waiting literally decades for a Starship Troopers movie, and while Verhoeven’s movie was amusing, it’s no substitute for a more faithful, less campy version.