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The difference between remaking Robocop and remaking Total Recall

The remake of Total Recall comes out in a couple of weeks and a remake of Robocop is on the way. Both of these are on my list of favorite of all-time favorite movies but I’m really only worried about one of them.

A lot people (like me) tend to poop on remakes, swearing that any updated version will ruin their childhood and is a sin to the current moving-going public. Most of the time this is true but it’s especially true when there is specific character design in a movie. Let me explain…

Arnold’s Total Recall is a classic action film that holds up pretty well shy of a few special effects that look really dated (and rightfully so). But the movie is a true Arnold move through and through. He plays the same character he plays in every one of his films…and we’re happy for that. The story is fun and sci-fi universe the movie created was quite a spectacle, but there’s very little specialized design in the film that would you upset if they were redesigned in a remake.

The new Total Recall most certainly has over-the-top special effects and action. So when you go and see it and you see that they’ve redesigned the cars, are you going to get mad? No. When you find out Kuato is a little different will you call foul? No. When the guns are better looking are you going to complain? No. None of these things made much of a impact in the original Total Recall. They all played a part to tell the story but can otherwise be replaced…and they will.

A remake Robocop, on the other hand, can’t succeed in the same way because a large part of what made Robocop so cool were the character designs. Robocop, ED-209, the 3000 SUX…they all had specific designs that played an important part in the movie. The designs *were* the character. Arnold is just, well, Arnold. When you replace him with Colin Farrel, you feel less insulted because Farrel isn’t trying to be Arnold. But when you redesign Robocop it’s a different story because when you see it on screen…it’s just NOT Robocop….it’s not ED-209.

Think about how you felt when the new Transformers movie came out and you saw the new Optimus Prime. Same thing. Part of what made Optimus, Robocop and all other such great characters was their design. How would you feel if they redesigned the Millennium Falcon? Or the Enterprise? That’s what I thought…the design IS the character.

I’m excited to see the Total Recall movie because in many ways I don’t see it as a remake of the original but just another version of the story. I know that sounds like the definition of a remake, but I think there’s a difference. And while I’m happy to see Robocop become popular again, when I see teasers that show the redesigned ED-209, it just makes me not want it.

In many ways I’m more accepting when new movies change stories and character personalities than when they start messing with major character designs. It’s a balance though, either way.