Last night, during some rare-ish downtime, I happened to bump into the original 1987 Robocop on cable, and was once again amazed at how good a movie it actually is.  Peter Weller delivers a powerful, understated performance, the choreography is joyfully over-the-top, and the visual effects (admittedly showing their age) are still effective.  Most interestingly, I got another chance to compare it to the newest version of the film, and recognized where I feel the remakers (is that a word?) went astray.  Rather than the kickass, sleek action/adventure hero role of the 2014 film, the original Robocop is a character derived more from Frankenstein than from Batman. Alex Murphy’s cyborg form is bulky and weirdly angled, and the “powers” that he exhibits are brutal and full of body horror.  The sight of Murphy’s face painfully stretched across the circuitry of his robot head is tinged with horror, making us wonder if there *is* any of Alex left, leaving us with a moment designed to shock and repulse.  (It’s one of the few “unmasking” scenes in a quasi-superhero movie that I actually agree needed to be there.)  ‘Course, this isn’t the first time producers missed the mark on reworking an existing property, which leads us into today’s query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) still can’t watch the “helmet screws” sequence with cringing, even 25 years down the line, asking: What remake, reboot or relaunch most missed the mark?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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19 Comments

  1. April 3, 2014 at 11:40 am — Reply

    The latest Thief game was horrible. I was a big fan of the first two, but the magic was completely absent from these last two. Especially this last one though… It was a poor man’s Dishonored without any of the charm. Buggy throughout, and drab. It made me sad that I wasted my time and money.

  2. April 3, 2014 at 11:55 am — Reply

    I’m not sure if they count as relaunches, but the 2 live action G.I.Joe movies are wrong-headed that I can’t even understand what source material they used. I don’t think it was the comics, the cartoons, or the toys.

    The only thing those 2 movies did good was to be terrible in 2 completely different ways: Rise of Cobra is stupid, while Retaliation is boring.

    And now the same guys are making Jem the Movie?

    Might as well add that to the list right now.

    -c

    • Arbor Day
      April 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm — Reply

      To be fair, the military and war itself don’t mean the same thing they did back when G.I. Joe originally came out. I doubt your could set it in modern times while holding true to the source material without seeming archaic or fantastic.

  3. Rome
    April 3, 2014 at 11:58 am — Reply

    Wolverine since about 2001.

    A huge part of Wolverine’s allure was the “wild man with a mysterious past” schtick. The mystery was an integral part of the character. We had hints of danger in his past. We got peeks at him in Japan, WWII, and in the Weapon X project, which were pretty damn good ‘origins’ in their own right, that still retained some mystery about where this character was from and what that would imply.

    Then with Origin, we get all the answers. And they are sooooo boring. And in 6 issues his whole mystery persona gets flushed for a pampered Canadian aristocratic child. But actually any origin would have been just as detrimental to the character, because it was the mystery surrounding the origin that made him interesting from the start.

    Looks like they’re about to do that with Deadpool now too.

  4. Frank
    April 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm — Reply

    Pretty much every Hasbro-related movie missed the mark as far as genre fans go.
    The one I cringe the most at is “Starship Troopers”. The end product did not resemble the book. The animated series “Roughnecks” was much better than the first movie.

    • Doctor Dinosaur
      April 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm — Reply

      Unless you enjoy Heinlein less than Verhoeven… and we’re back to the top image.

      Full circle!

    • April 3, 2014 at 2:53 pm — Reply

      I admit I enjoy the first “Starship Troopers” movie, but certainly not as an adaptation of the source material. I’m hoping a true adaptation shows up sooner or later.

    • litanyofthieves
      April 3, 2014 at 8:51 pm — Reply

      I love Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. Heinlein is a decent writer but Starship Troopers, and a lot of his other writing, is disturbingly jingoistic and xenophobic without any sort of indication that it’s a meta-statement. There’s a reason Verhoeven deliberately chose to evoke Triumph of the Will and other facist propaganda campaigns in his shot construction and production design.

      Plus the twist of the Father suddenly seeing the “error of his ways” and joining is pretty awful, I’d cut that from any adaptation.

  5. Starks Scraps
    April 3, 2014 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    Lawnmower Man

  6. gary
    April 3, 2014 at 2:03 pm — Reply

    Starship Troopers and Lawnmower Man are both miserable failures of adaptations from literature. Lawnmower Man probably missed the mark more, but Starship Troopers was by far more beloved overall, so I have to give the edge to it.

    I’m also not at all a fan of the new Hobbit movies. They are trying too hard to be prequels to the LOTR movies, something the Hobbit book did not try to do for the LOTR books. As a result, they lose a lot of the charm the original Hobbit has.

    Still got to give the edge to Starship Troopers!

  7. Luis Dantas
    April 3, 2014 at 2:26 pm — Reply

    The Wild West. Unless “The Lone Ranger” (the recent movie) qualifies. “Charlie’s Angels” is a runner-up.

  8. April 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm — Reply

    I still think the “Godzilla” movie with Matthew Broderick was the worst remake of all time, but I’ve gotten a little less hostile toward it ever since Toho sorta retconned it to be merely another beast that was mistaken for Godzilla (and has renamed it simply Zilla). Still a terrible movie, but now I don’t want to break something every time it is on.

    Plus, we got to see Godzilla put the smackdown on Zilla in “Godzilla: Final Wars”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIcExdpsEcQ

    • April 3, 2014 at 5:49 pm — Reply

      I thought Hank Azaria did an okay job in the remake. Also Jean Reno, but I guess that speaks volumes about how bad the monster was when all I can remember fondly are the supporting actors.

  9. Kirby
    April 3, 2014 at 6:29 pm — Reply

    Red Dawn remake, besides just failing from basic story structure & movie making stand points, it takes the whole wrong tone. The original is a bleak, almost nihilistic approach about the futilities of war. We grow attached to the children, only to see them die horrifically. The remake had none of that.

  10. Frank
    April 3, 2014 at 8:08 pm — Reply

    @gary: I enjoy the Hobbit movies more if I think of them as parallel to the books. As an adaptation of the book, they are poor. As a movie, they are enjoyable.

    Another movie that comes to mind as a decent movie, but terrible adaptation: I, Robot. Other than a nod or two to the short stories, it had little to do with Azimov’s book.

    • gary
      April 3, 2014 at 8:40 pm — Reply

      Yeah, I see them as decent movies in and of themselves – they even seem to be hitting the high points in terms of plot. The big problem for me is that The Hobbit is really a different genre than LOTR and that’s not evident in the movies. LOTR is sort of traditional high fantasy. Hobbit is really a set of interconnected fairy tales lightly wrapped in some of the fantasy trappings. The feel of the new movies isn’t even close to that. I’m OK with fairly liberal plot adjustments (hence my like of the Scott Pilgrim movie), but I don’t like when the tenor of the whole work changes.

  11. litanyofthieves
    April 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm — Reply

    Watchmen. Talk about missing the forest for the trees. Right from the get go you have an insane amount of subplots that need to get axed in order for the film not to get bogged down, but those subplots are a big part of what makes the comics so enjoyable. Not to mention there’s no way that Watchmen: The Movie could ever achieve what Watchmen: The Comic did because it couldn’t play with the form and medium the way the comic did. So there goes a good portion of the charm and power.

    And IMO, Snyder had no idea how to shade those characters. They were 2-dimensional cutouts of the actual characters from the book. It felt like Snyder genuinely believed Rorschach was the hero(in every sense of the word), and that unfortunately destroys most of the sympathy for the other characters, especially Night Owl, who absolutely needs your sympathy for being so pathetic.

    To be fair, the Opening Credits really were fantastic, probably the best part of the movie. If Snyder had gotten that experimental with the rest of the movie maybe it could have been closer in spirit, instead of in letter, to what Watchmen in Graphic Novel form was.

  12. Oldcomicfan
    April 4, 2014 at 7:40 am — Reply

    The potential list is long, because nearly every superhero movie made before the current crop of Marvel movies qualifies, as do every single movie that has remade an old television show, every movie based on a video game, and just about every remake of a classic movie except for True Grit, where the original movie “didn’t get it”, casting a 22 year old woman in the role of a 14 year old girl, and a popular singer who couldn’t act in the secondary lead role, and then completely changing the ending of the novel so that Mattie didn’t lose her arm and the John Wayne character didn’t kick the bucket in the end – but the recent “remake” did the job right and actually followed the story in the original novel.

    But I guess my biggest loser would be the movie “2010” – the sequel to “2001”. The novel is one of Arthur C. Clarke’s best, but the movie makers jettisoned half the plot of the novel – the part about the Chinese racing the Russians and Americans (who were friends and cooperating in the venture) to reach Jupiter and suffering a great disaster – and then adding a made-up conflict between the Russians and Americans in Central America in order to restore the tension to the story they jettisoned along with the Chinese portion of the plot. This is one case where I wish they would remake the flipping movie, and this time follow the plot of the novel, which was far superior to the dreadful movie.

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