Coming off the back of the Lord of the Rings series, the Hobbit was always going to have to live up to high expectations. Still, it was was a disconcerting when the reviews for An Unexpected Journey first started rolling in. In the end the film attained a measly score of 58 on Metacritic, nothing short of a disaster. Indeed, even in private the film was much derided. A number of my own friends oft ridicule it. Myself, I thought the film was flawed, sometimes cheesy, sometimes slow, but there is no denying I enjoyed watching it.
While The Desolation of Smaug is generally getting better reviews than its predecessor, the consensus is still pretty disappointing. It’s strange because many of the problems that I see critics list are just as prevalent in the Lord of the Ring‘s films. After all, these are all Peter Jackson movies. So the question is, why is there such a gulf between the reverant reception to which the Lord of the Rings was released and the deriscion to which the Hobbit was?
In a world where reboots, remakes and sequels make up 80% of Hollywood releases , it may seem short sighted to pick out one directors work as off limits. However, not all reboots and remakes are without merit. Take the most recent incarnation of the Evil Dead for example, or go further back and look at The Fly, or John Carpenter’s The Thing. Despite the majority of reboots and remakes being lazy cash ins (I’d say around 80%), it would be foolish to write of every one. So why, you may ask, do I pick out Paul Verhoeven for special treatment?
I should first say that my knowledge of Verhoeven extends to only 4 films, Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Starship Troopers. Admittedly none of them rank particularly highly in my list of favourite films, although Starship Troopers holds a certain nostalgic charm for me. His films are not without charm, their unique mix of drama and humour is distinctly that of Verhoeven, making his films easy to identify, and herein lies the problem.
What enjoyment I did get out of Robocop, Starship Troopers, and Total Recall, often comes from Verhoeven’s signature style. I believe that these films have attained their classic status because of the tongue in cheek humour that consistently under cuts the action. They are silly films, it is undeniable, and Verhoeven is aware of that. Thanks to his direction everyone is in on the joke. They become fun and breezy experiences, easy to digest and
Here is the problem with modern day reboots of his films. In a post-9/11, post-economic crash, post-Dark Knight world, every action film must be dark and brooding. This is hardly a revelation. The problem is that we’re still being fed the same ridiculous plot, but this time without the overriding satire. So what do we end up with?
A film so intent on cashing in on popular trends it strips the original of everything that made it different. No humour, no social satire. Cardboard characters, standing in sterile environments, played by “safe” actors.
Maybe it’s too early to call. But doesn’t it look rather like history repeating itself? The suit itself sums it up. Instead of going with the less fashionable grey design, or even, god forbid, something completely original, we get the “more tactical” black. Remind you of anyone?
And now I hear rumour of a Starship Trooper remake. This could be the most tragic of them all. Starship Troopers, if taken as a straight faced action film, is fucking horrible. What makes it good is the satirical take on the rampant flag waving and propaganda that surrounds the military. In this more than any Verhoeven film, the satire is central to the films appeal. Now imagine a remake where all of that is stripped away. It becomes just another bog standard Hollywood action film. Please, God, let Robocop tank so that this idea dies in the water.
(I will however allow a remake of Showgirls)