One of the interesting little bits of news to come out of San Diego Comic-Con was the fact that the RoboCop remake was going for a PG-13 rating, which over here translates to a 12 certificate. The original Total Recall was an 18 and the remake was a 12 which equated to R and a PG13 over in the US so the logic holds. That news made me wonder exactly why the film was being remade.
Remember RoboCop ? It was about an everyday police officer who is brutally killed in the line of duty and brought back as an android police officer. Made in 1987 by Paul Verhoeven, it was a graphically violent film with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek as it parodied the idea of corporate-run public services and the rise of the multinationals.
As a teen I was a big fan of the film; lots of my friends were too. When I first watched the film it was all about the violence and a few flashes of boob – hey, I was in my teens! We loved that sort of thing. As I got older the deeper ideas filtered through; the plight of Murphy as he tries to understand what he’s become and mourns what he’s lost. The idea of essential services being turned into business and the thought that that is probably a bad thing. It’s a film I loved as a teen and one I can still watch happily today as an adult. Remaking it with a lower rating and the idea of getting as many people to see it as possible strikes me as not really understanding the original film.
I’m not saying PG-13/12 doesn’t have its place. There have been some great low certificate films of late. And I can understand the film companies wanting to market their wares to as big an audience as possible. And I’m not saying you can’t make a decent adult-themed film without violence. But I do think sometimes when your original film has very adult themes or graphic violence in the very DNA of its production then you’re maybe missing the point of the film and you’re not the person to be remaking it.
When I heard that there was a remake on the cards I was intrigued; a remake of RoboCop for the 21st century? What could they do with that? I was optimistic. Sure most remakes of films I loved when I was younger have been a waste of time; the original is invariably better but you’ve gotta have the optimism haven’t you? Now I’ve heard it’s going to be a PG13/12 I’ve pretty much lost interest.
Most remakes are not rubbish exactly, just a bit pointless; they often leave me wondering exactly why they’ve been made. What the remake was supposed to bring to the table? Just look at the Total Recall remake from last year. It took everything that was good about the original and changed it to produce an unnecessarily complicated film which wasn’t sure exactly what it was doing. Further back there’s the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still . A stone-cold classic from the 1950s and they managed to make a pointless mess of a remake. I can understand the idea of a remake updating a film or a filmmaker thinking they can add something to an original, it might be a little conceited but sometimes you’ve got to have vision. Unfortunately they very often fall far short of the mark. Most remakes just make me want to go home and watch the original.
Sure, some of these remakes do well at the box office, but for me doing well at the box office means very little. It means someone paid money, sat down and watched the film. Not whether they enjoyed it; paying to watch a film and liking it are two very different things but in the steady race to have the “biggest box office ever” it’s just the cash receipts that count. You have to pay your money first; I’ve seen plenty of films which I thought were utter crap but I still had to pay my money and get in the cinema to watch them before I could decide this so my money has helped make rubbish films look like success stories. That’s just the way it goes.
As I said; the move to making more films as PG-13/12 is understandable. The film companies want to target as wide a demographic as possible when they release films. But sometimes I think the films they’re making are being forced into their certifications like square pegs in round holes especially when it comes to remakes. Sometimes I think they need to realise that a higher certificate might be a better idea if they want to keep the spirit of the film they’re remaking alive.
So my question is what is going wrong with remakes? Are the people remaking classic films not getting what made those films work or is it the effort to remake them for a wider, younger audience which lets the process down? Or are we just going to have to accept a watering down of films because the trend seems to be “go for the biggest audience possible” rather than tell different and interesting stories and market each one in the manner best suited to the film being made?