To borrow an Internet meme, if you try to remake a Paul Verhoeven movie, you're gonna have a bad time. That's not to say unequivocally that any remakes of any Verhoeven movies cannot work, but when you're talking about piggybacking off the works of a man whose films were popularized because of their jaw-slackening excess - both in elaborate production design and buckets of blood on set - it's probably not a good idea to talk about how you're toning everything down. And yet that's exactly what Totall Recall and Starship Troopers remake producer Toby Jaffe recently told Empire Magazine.
"The more expensive a film is, the harder it is now to make it that violent. With Recall in particular, we made a conscious choice to keep it tonally closer to something like Minority Report. It gives the studio, and us as producers, the opportunity to reintroduce it in a new way."
On the one, more positive hand, an effort to reintroduce something in a new way is slightly reassuring. No one wants a bald, beat-for-beat remake these days, and the need to make a profitable and marketable movie is not lost here. It's easy to imagine that the remake will be filled with more of what's above, bugs burst wide open and fluids that aren't red blood. But surely there's some middle ground between a new take and keeping with tradition. Hopefully the remake will understand that the cartoonish gore of the bugs in Verhoeven's version only serves to make the human gore all the more shocking. When people think Starship Troopers, they don't think nerf guns, they think people getting ripped limb from limb by giant, ravenous space bugs. And to that same end, when they think Total Recall, they think mutants and muscles and a weird Martian future, not Minority Report without the psychics.
The neutered violence isn't the only disheartening thing Jaffe had to say about Starship Troopers, either.
"Working in a visual-effects renaissance as we are, we have the ability to do so much more now. We can do the Jump Suits [armoured exoskeletons from Heinlein's novel], for example, which I don't think they could have done before."
First off, he's right. As Troopers effects master Phil Tippett told us, they could only afford to do either the power suits or the bugs, and Verhoeven chose bugs. But "visual-effects renaissance" just sounds like code for "we can CGI anything we want these days." And if that's the case, Starship Troopers: Invasion is already using power suits and CGI, so it's still not an entirely new way.
And yes, I realize my negativity here is very fanboyish, but that's because I'm an unapologetic lover of Starship Troopers, and all of Verhoeven's films for that matter. Remake them and rake in those built-in dollars if you must, but at least honor them. What's next, a Basic Instinct remake with no sex?
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