Monday, 30 May 2011

Paul Verhoeven Film Restrospective offshoot - Basic Instinct 2

What has surprised me about Paul Verhoeven's career is that all of his Hollywood films have sported sequels or remakes. Robocop had the abysmal parts 2 and 3 as well as a spin-off TV series and cartoon. Total Recall spawned a short lived TV series and a remake is currently in the works. Hollow Man and Starship Troopers both had Direct-To-DVD sequels. Even Showgirls has a sequel that no-one has seen. Of all these sequels, Basic Instinct 2 is the most famous, and as it turned out, one of the lowest earning sequels of all time.

Why Basic Instinct 2 flopped is difficult to say, as it's not that bad a film. Don't get me wrong, it's not a great film, but there are some serious flaws that outweigh any of the good stuff, and there is a lot of good stuff there.

The sequel was, at one time, due to be directed by David Cronenberg. When asked why he would do a sequel to Basic Instinct, he responded that the film had an amazingly good script. He wasn't wrong. The script is really good, with a great twist, and had that script not been turned into a sequel to Basic Instinct, but was instead allowed to become a film in it's own right, it could have been a great film.

The direction isn't that bad either. It's director, Michael Canton Jones, has directed some great film such as Scandal, Doc Hollywood and the under-rated This Boys Life, with a young Leonardo DiCaprio more than holding his own against Robert De Niro. His direction of this film oozes seriousness and quality, and you get the feeling that he is trying to make a really good film out of this really good script.

Unfortunately, the reasons this film fails is because it's a sequel to Basic Instinct. As I said, if it had been a stand alone film, it could have been really good, but it constantly reminds you of the first one in the way it name-checks the characters of that film, and re-uses it's famous Jerry Goldsmith score. All these name checks do is remind you how much fun the first film is, but in his attempt at making the sequel something good and classy, much of that fun is missing resulting in a film that is surprisingly dull.

Also, by having it as a sequel, you are forced to buy a 50 year old Sharon Stone as a sex goddess that a famous psychiatrist would risk ruining his career over. Although she looks surprisingly good for her age (again, down to surgical enhancements), her sex scenes come across as a bit embarrassing, in the same way that Madonna is when she tries to act like a 30 year old in her videos. Instead of having someone create another great character, Sharon Stone seems to be doing a bad impersonation of Catherine Trammell, still trying to shock like she did in her youth.

Those moments of this film where they try to shock come across as forced, which is again down to them trying to re-create the shocks of it's predecessor. Had they made the film sooner, then maybe it would not have turned out too badly. Stone famously got a Play Or Pay deal for this film, meaning she still would have got paid even if they didn't make it, and when they almost didn't make it, she took the film studio to court for breach of contract. Had they have just given her the money, things may have turned out better for everyone.

IMDB currently gives Basic Instinct 2 a shockingly low 3.9, but I'd has to give it a slightly more generous 4.5. There's some good stuff in there and a great script screaming to get out, but by making it a sequel to a hugely successful erotic thriller from 20 years earlier, it has turned into a huge failure.

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