Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Batman, Wolverine and Robocop, or why Darren Aronofsky should make a blockbuster

 As you are probably aware, Jose Padhila's Robocop reboot of Robocop opens in the UK on Friday, and I for one can barely contain my apathy. It's important to point out that I haven't seen the film yet, and early reviews have been surprisingly positive, so perhaps I'm being overly harsh.

The point is, though, that there was a time that I was genuinely excited about this movie - about four years ago when it was first in pre-production. The reason I lost my excitement had little to do with the Batman-wearing-a-cycle-helmet redesign, and more to do with the change of director. Robocop 2014 was originally going to be shot by Darren Aronofsky, the visionary film maker behind Black Swan and Requiem For A Dream.

Aronofsky seemed the perfect choice. Ever since his debut, Pi, his films have had an unsettling element of body horror (think of the pounding migraines of Pi's lead character, or the close ups of the protagonists abused and twisted bodies in The Wrestler or Black Swan). The thought of what Aronofsky could do with a half-man, half machine (all cop) protagonist was trouser-tentingly exciting. Clearly, however, Aronofsky's ideas were too terrifying (and presumably too R-rated) for Hollywood executives, who passed on his vision in favour of a relative unknown.

This isn't the first time Aronofsky has developed a tentpole movie, only to fail to see it through to the end. A couple of years ago he was involved in development on The Wolverine. Hugh Jackman reported they wanted to do a stand alone, R-rated Wolverine movie set in Vietnam in the '70s. Once again, the idea of what Aronofsky could do with an immortal character in an R-rated film is impossibly tempting. Fast forward to 2013 and The Wolverine is a fairly generic 12A superhero movie set in modern day Japan.

Finally, the best known unmade Aronofsky movie must be Batman: Year One – the film which eventually became Batman Begins. Although the original comic book doesn't exactly lend itself to body horror there are plenty of Batman villains I would love to see Aronofsky take a crack at (Two Face, Killer Croc, and Bane to name just three).

Perhaps Aronofsky's true place is at the fringes of the mainstream. As a director he arguably has the best and most exciting oeuvre of the twentieth century, and if he had been distracted by these blockbuster movies we might never have had classics like Black Swan and The Wrestler. It's also entirely possible that, had he stuck at them, his versions of Batman, Wolverine and Robocop would have been turgid, generic, compromised mush, ruined by studio meddling and bereft of any of the style and intelligence that he has brought to the films that he has made. 

By God, though, I would like to have seen what he could have done with these iconic characters. Please, someone, give this man a blockbuster.

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