Good Ideas, Not So Good Movies

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Take the remake of Robocop


Good Ideas



Themes present in the original regarding free will and the obsolescence of the human actors are still there, but the new film is updated with themes regarding our anxiety about drone warfare, the panoptic power of electronic surveillance, and the disinformation of modern media outlets.


ED 209s are mixing it up on the battlefield before Robocop hits the streets. The machines are already deployed and effective, but people don't quite trust them yet. This fits with our modern fear of self-driving cars and self-piloted planes. We want a person to be in control in crucial situations. It was for this reason that elevator operators were still employed, years after technology making automatic elevators had arrive. A great new twist is that we don't NEED a Robocop, but the only way to get the public to approve Omnicorp products on American streets is to have a person in the machine. The twist is that Robocop is a step backwards, the equivalent of the elevator operator.



The other twist is that Murphy is given the illusion of free will in combat mode. He "feels" as if he is doing all that cool combat by his own initiative, but the truth is that the system takes over in these moments because as a human, he's too slow to perform adequately.



Not So Good Movie


Unfortunately, our window into modern media is just Sam Jackson as a sort of Rush Limbaugh character, a sort of Fox News pundit. The bandwidth here is very narrow. Instead of inter-cutting with clever advertisements and news clips that flesh out the world and offer jaded comic relief, we only get Sam Jackson in a bad suit.


Overall, the film lacks the biting satire of the original. The first film isn't that smart, but it knows that it needs to entertain an audience. The original had fun. The remake is maudlin and cruel to Murphy and doesn't really give us any joy of watching Murphy being Robocop.



If you've got Keaton, Jackson, and Oldman and what comes off the screen is flat, the problem is not with your actors, but your movie.



Iím not sure Iím interpreting the thread exactly the way you intended it, but I agree that itís a very real problem. That said, Iíve almost seen too many to name here. Itís very often that I watch something and think the concept is fantastic but the execution ended up being lame. Somehow this tends to apply to sci-fi more than other genres, as diegetic coherence is arguably more of an issue in sci-fi due to the ďscienceĒ than in other genres.

Off the top of my head, Every Time I Die (2019) was one where my mind was blown when I read the synopsis, I envisioned something quite high-concept and Moorhead&Bensonesque, but it just ended up unimaginative in the way that it portrayed the transfer of consciousness and its ideas. I thought it was a real shame. An Unquiet Grave (2020, admittedly, this is horror) was one where I thought the concept was fascinating and the execution not exactly poor, but inferior to it. It could have done much more with the idea that identical twins are, genetically at least, the same person (in which sense the husbandís idea to transfer his dead wifeís consciousness into her twin sister is more nefarious than if it had been a random personís body, as he initially tries to convince her that everything is fine, the body is hers and she never died). I felt like it should have been much braver in exploring whether the person in her twinís body is the same person or the twin, and what personhood means, etc.

The Trouble With Being Born (2017) had a very interesting Lolita-inspired concept but did next to nothing with it. I love soft/understated sci-fi and tend to prefer it to hard sci-fi, but this one just didnít do anything with the concept, didnít interrogate it or create any challenges (does the robot have the mind of a child? What if it mimics the thinking of adults, is more sexually experienced than its owner, suggests doing things in bed owner hadnít even heard of, thus exacerbating the contrast between what it really is and the dead child, etc.)

More broadly, I feel like most science fiction films (if not most unsuccessful films in general) fail exactly because they lack the ability/maturity/depth/whatever it is to execute their perfectly fine ideas well enough (thatís certainly my main beef with most films I donít like).

Iím not sure the Robocop remake necessarily qualifies (imo), as to me a remake is always a struggle in terms of reconciling the concept of the original with whatever context itís being remade for, which is always an uneasy alliance.

Anyway, in my view, there are many more, and itís a very common thing to have a bold concept undermined by weak execution.



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I wish this thread was made years ago... I see these kinds of movies all the time lately.

Some movie with "Leo" and Emma Thompson. If they found talented writers and a better lead male actor (not that she was great), and a few changes, it could have been good.



I wish this thread was made years ago... I see these kinds of movies all the time lately.

Some movie with "Leo" and Emma Thompson. If they found talented writers and a better lead male actor (not that she was great), and a few changes, it could have been good.
Yeah, that could have been a lot deeper.



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Jeepers Creepers

Interesting Ideas

A demon that returns once every 23 years to feed on man, replacing it's organs with fresh human organs and wreaking havoc until someone stops it. Nice concept. You can see how the creature would be mythological (it only appears once a generation) and the idea of a demon using the human world as a pick-a-part junkyard is change-up. It has to find the right parts, so it isn't targeting everyone (thus we can have specific pursuit of characters we meet and care about) and we get a motivation for the monster apart from "general evil."

Stripping down do the beast. We meet the creeper as an evil truck (is there anyone even in it?). And then things start getting stripped away. We see a dark character clad in a long coat. It's not until the end of the movie that the beast is fully unveiled, revealing a demon with wings and claws. That's a cool idea. This is a slow reveal and the beast becomes more proximate as a threat as outer layers are taken away.

Not-so-great

The detail work on the truck isn't quite right. You can tell that bits have been spray-painted to look old. It's heavily modified to look menacing, but this robs the evil truck of the menace of the familiar (e.g., what Duel did so well -- it's just a truck). Kinda a cool looking, but veering into Scooby-Doo territory. Still, the first part of the film hangs together pretty well.

The reviewers gave this film 5/10, 2/5, "C-", etc., ratings. Not great. Not terrible. Not really good. The movie is kinda campy, kinda serious. The more the baddie is revealed, the more he looks like a cross between Enemy Mine and alien-of-the-week from Star Trek.

What might have been a Pumpkin Head cult classic instead fell flat. A sort of "meh." Does the film move too fast in revealing the villain? Should they have got Stan Winston to design it? Too many jump scares? It's hard to say exactly why the film doesn't work, but the critical consensus was that it doesn't. It's been years since I saw the film, but I had the same impression. I didn't have any sympathy for the film until I watched the director's commentary on the film and could see the planning, effort, and design that went into the film.



Splice (2009)

The idea of genetic manipulation is fraught with potential for fascinating medical, sci-fi and horror stories.
Not that Splice was awful, but just seemed a bit limited with the story it ended up telling.



Splice (2009)

The idea of genetic manipulation is fraught with potential for fascinating medical, sci-fi and horror stories.
Not that Splice was awful, but just seemed a bit limited with the story it ended up telling.
Agreed. I thought it had a lot of potential.



There's an Irish film I saw a while ago called The Cured that I think fits this to a T. It is set in an alternate timeline, in the aftermath of a "zombie apocalypse" where a cure has been found for those "infected", but it results in fear, paranoia, and discrimination against those that once were "infected", which I think makes a lot of sense in the wake of something like that, but that can also lend itself to some interesting social commentary. I think it raises some interesting questions during the first half as we see past "zombies" struggling to reintegrate society and reconnect with their loved ones. Unfortunately, the film drops the thought-provoking nature of the story halfway through and trades it for easy scares and clumsy characterizations, while also leaving a good bunch of subplots half-dealt with. It isn't a complete waste of time, as I still think it is a competently made film with solid performances, but just don't walk in expecting the compelling film that the synopsis sells.
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Victim of The Night
Splice (2009)

The idea of genetic manipulation is fraught with potential for fascinating medical, sci-fi and horror stories.
Not that Splice was awful, but just seemed a bit limited with the story it ended up telling.
God, that movie sucked.



Interesting topic - several Stephen King movies come to mind.



I wish this thread was made years ago... I see these kinds of movies all the time lately.

Some movie with "Leo" and Emma Thompson. If they found talented writers and a better lead male actor (not that she was great), and a few changes, it could have been good.
Oh I couldn't finish watching that movie. I was expecting something light and it was just sad and not in a good way. I missed the part where she starts stalking him. I watched a Youtube video by Jennie Gender who spoke about why she found it problematic. That video was interesting.



Maybe too soon to call this one out, but I feel like Nope (2022) is close to this category for me...



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Maybe too soon to call this one out, but I feel like Nope (2022) is close to this category for me...

I was much more taken with the story of the monkey than anything else. They should have focused on this and the terror of Joe Rogan facing their muscles of corded steel.





I always wished for a proper screenplay of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slapstick". One of my favorite reads and disgusted by Steven Paul's "Slapstick of Another Kind". Insult to injury casting Jerry Lewis, Madeline Kahn Marty Feldman, Jim Backus, Merv Griffin, Pat Morita is basically crapping on the cover and wiping with the first chapter.





I was much more taken with the story of the monkey than anything else. They should have focused on this and the terror of Joe Rogan facing their muscles of corded steel.
Thatís so true! Iíve done a ridiculous amount of research on the monkey, itís likely based on the Charla Nash case, and I did wish the film delved deeper into that.

https://nymag.com/news/features/70830/



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Thatís so true! Iíve done a ridiculous amount of research on the monkey, itís likely based on the Charla Nash case, and I did wish the film delved deeper into that.

https://nymag.com/news/features/70830/
With large and powerful animals there is a kind of "uncanny valley" of trust. "We have a relationship and we're good, but you could kill me at any moment." I wonder if there is some sort of death-attraction/death-denial involved with people who take on wild animals as pets (e.g, smoking cigarettes, dating "Fonzies," racing cars).

I think that the animal attraction/repulsion is a nice source of horror, because it is something rather comical (a chimp in a diaper, not too big, seemingly child-like) which can turn on a dime and rip your face off, literally (Sorry, Charla!). Add to this the turn of having it happen on an old sit-com and it's even more menacing by the incongruity. There is a native humor to the situation which Key and Peele used to balance well on their old show. They went to some dark places.
This is the film he should have made. The background should have been the foreground. Could have been a great horror comedy.