Paul Verhoeven is not a fan of the RoboCop and Total Recall remakes

Paul Verhoeven has some unfavorable thoughts on the remakes of both RoboCop and Total Recall, two of his finest films.

Last Updated on January 12, 2024

paul verhoeven robocop remake

As far as late ‘80s and early ‘90s sci-fi goes, it’s tough to top RoboCop and Total Recall, two wildly astute takes on what the current climate was and what we could expect in the future from major corporations and technology. Not surprisingly, studios felt the need to give “updates” to both in the 21st century. For the most part, both failed. But that’s not just us saying so, as original RoboCop and Total Recall director Paul Verhoeven has chimed in with his takes on both.

Regarding Robocop, Verhoeven took issue with the 2014 movie, which starred Joel Kinnaman – who himself knew his version was far removed from the 1987 original – over its lack of subtleties and nuances, in addition to how the filmmakers tried to develop the central character. “The problem there, 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.”

As for 2012’s Total Recall, in which Colin Farrell stepped into the role originated by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven thought the ambiguities were completely lost, which we feel may have been done for the sake of modern audiences. “I felt it 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.” He also praised Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which still stands as one of his most compelling works.

Undoubtedly both RoboCop and Total Recall remain close to Paul Verhoeven. Unfortunately, the director has stepped away from sci-fi significantly – not that his cinematic output has been prolific, having only helmed five movies this century, only one of which (Hollow Man, also his most recent Hollywood picture) hit on the genre. Still, he said he would go back to big-budget blockbusters if given a script as good as either one. At 85, we may not see Verhoeven go back into sci-fi, but those we do have (including the vastly underappreciated Starship Troopers) are well worth revisiting.

What is your favorite Paul Verhoeven movie? Do you hope to see the director take on another Hollywood picture? Let us know below!

Source: Metrograph

About the Author

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.