Happy Valentine’s Day! Hollywood got you not one but three different 80s remakes in a single weekend, like they were programming a festival or something. The most recognizable is probably Robocop, because the 1987 Paul Verhoeven original is, to quote movie-geek scripture, a masterwork of satirical sci-fi, and because it was also marketed to children and spawned two sans-Verhoeven sequels. Its true follow-ups are the other two Verhoeven sci-fi pictures: Total Recall and Starship Troopers. Recall already got a toothless remake back in 2012; a redo of Starship Troopers (based more on the book, blah blah blah) has been in the works for years. Right now, we have to contend not just with a new Robocop but the idea that it might not be so bad; our own Steve Macfarlane devil’s-advocates that maybe Verhoeven’s movie isn’t so great in the first place.
I probably do prefer Starship Troopers for Verhoeven’s patented mix of thrills, gore, and snark, but the original Robocop did do it better, and I’ll save my tiny allotment of Verhoeven-bashing for Basic Instinct, which can’t steadicam its way out of unproductive, sour-spirited trashiness. Robocop is tricky because even a movie that retains its social satire (as the 2014 model apparently does) risks heavy-handed seriousness that Verhoeven, for all of his R-rated obsessions, can’t abide. The Michael Keaton/Sam Jackson/Gary Oldman combo will get me in the theater, but it runs the risk of depressing me when those guys can’t match the comparatively lower-wattage Peter Weller and Nancy Allen from the original.