Although we would like to believe that American filmmakers are totally free to make any kind of films they want, looking at this summer's lineup suggests something different. Where are the lyrical films, the love stories, the musicals? Where are the films that reflect the generosity and tolerance of America?
As budgets rise so does an insidious form of de facto censorship, determining what is made and what is rejected. (Peter Rainer commentary, "Assembly-Line Work--No Artists Need Apply," June 28.) Films are risky and big bucks are hard to come by. How can an executive be faulted for doing a film with a big star, young audience value and a summer release that has all the ingredients for fast success?
Certainly there is nothing wrong with making films that make lots of money. When films now cost as much as they do because of extraordinary action, special effects and astronomical salaries, then business becomes the prime consideration. A race for summer box office takes place: The picture must be on the screen by a certain date, preferably on a clear weekend free of competition, on or before July 4th. Enormous amounts of money are spent to ensure being there on time with the most bang for the buck, aimed at getting the kids into the seats, hopefully, for more than one viewing.
A fine line is invisibly drawn, to entertain without offending. As if entertainment for children (or adults) should be mindless, noisy and generally without any contemporary insights that might disturb.
When I agreed to make "RoboCop 2," I had misgivings. "RoboCop" was entertaining and stylish, but depended on violence and shock effect. I knew that if I made "RoboCop 2," the film would have to satisfy the anticipation of the audience. I decided to use a comic-strip style to tell a seriocomic fairy tale that would reflect a cautionary note for today.
We tried to create situations and characters that would show social breakdown, drugs, the city gone bad, big business jumping into a social vacuum, eager to satisfy its greed and lust for power. RoboCop is a walking gun, and Robo 2 is an even bigger gun. Officials, from our own President on down, tell us what the evil corporate head reiterates in the film--that we need more firepower to solve the crime and drug problems. Manufacturing guns provides jobs and will make us prosper and proud to make "made in America mean something again."
RoboCop becomes a hero when he risks his life to destroy the programming that the corporation used to enslave him. Once free he doesn't walk away from the evil around him, but stays to risk his life to destroy Robo 2. By doing his duty he is giving purpose to his existence. For children, RoboCop is a wonderful invention, a courageous, armored policeman who is incorruptible, only using force when he is shot at.
I wanted to make a film that reflects the present and what we are becoming. I wanted an ending that reverberates and is disquieting. Our hero triumphs over his immediate opponent but the guys at the top get away with murder. I wanted the film to be about corruption and to operate on two levels: a comic strip with all the action kids expect, and on the next level to shock the more mature but complacent adults who have become indifferent to the horrors around us: guns used as solutions to problems, drug-related brutality and corporate greed. When a society becomes corrupt, so are its children. Children are civilized and conditioned by their culture. The trigger finger of a child is as effective as that of an adult.
I find that I can more easily accept pornography and obscenities than I can the lies born of self-interest and greed. For example, nuclear pollution of ground and water by private and governmental agencies, the S & L scandal, strip cutting the last great ancient temperate forest in the Western Hemisphere with government subsidy and encouragement, the "lawful" manufacturing and sale of semi-automatic weapons in the United States . . . on and on. To me these crimes are much worse than anything that could be done by some poor bastard in a dark alley.
I wanted "RoboCop 2" to create an allegorical vision of tomorrow, playing within the rules of an entertaining action film that would be exciting, colorful and comedic with contemporary relevance.
According to the critics, I failed!