When I was a very young kid in the early 1990s, I was fascinated by the forbidden fruit of an action adventure film. Growing up on a hefty diet of the likes of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Wolverine, this curious-looking robotic masked man definitely piqued my interest. Not too long after my first exposure to the first film’s poster in a local video store, a short-lived TV version of the character hit the screen. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I was never around when it started being broadcast. When I asked my parents if we could rent RoboCop I received a vehement “no.” Although my parents had let me see both Terminator films before I had even hit Kindergarten (don’t worry, I turned out all right), they seemed a bit more alarmed when I started asking for a closer look at “the Future of Law Enforcement.”
A couple of years later, they finally relented, but warned me about how it would likely be the most gruesome movie I’d ever seen. Although that scared me a bit, I wanted to know what this guy was all about. I watched every moment, from ED-209’s terrible malfunction in the OCP board room, to officer Alex Murphy’s brutal murder at the hands of Clarence Boddicker, Leon Nash, and the others. Today I’m convinced that when the experience was all said and done, RoboCop unlocked something inside my head. While I was far too young to understand all of its complexities (of which there are many), I definitely felt for the man who’d been taken from the jaws of death and changed against his will. As cool as RoboCop was, I understood that his creation was a violation of a good man’s existence.
Over the course of the next 15 years, on up until today, I revisited RoboCop often, and began to truly grasp what it was. I’d always loved it, and every time I watched it with new eyes, I’d see things that I’d never known: themes of what constitutes life and bondage, themes of control and the road to dystopia, and the dangers of giving ourselves over completely to machines (both literal and societal/corporate).
As a result, RoboCop has become one of my all-time favorite sci-fi action films, and one of my absolute favorite satirical films. One of my favorite things about it is that it’s a very smart film that vigorously pretends to be as dumb as a rock. It’s a damn good movie, basically. So, when I heard that there was going to be a reboot, naturally, skepticism creeped into my head. Very much the same way that cast and crew of the original film recall the trailer getting laughs in the theater, I wrote a remake off as if it could never work.
Then, last night, a trailer for the 2014 film hit the internet, and it seems like the reaction has been equally lauding and critical.
As a big fan of the original film, I wanted to keep an open mind. When I first learned to navigate the internet for movie news, my quest for new information on beloved franchises focused on Batman, Superman, and RoboCop. My hope for a RoboCop 4 only completely vanished when I heard that the remake was coming, but I found it pretty easy to temper my expectations. For all the rage over the recent slew of remakes that movie audiences have been treated to, the fact is that we’ll always have the originals to enjoy. No remake should ever retroactively diminish your enjoyment of the original.
That being said, it looks like the 2014 RoboCop has a surprising amount of potential. While we’re still five months away from release, the new trailer decided to put the “action” foot forward first. The visuals it promised seemed to be very dynamic, and the vision for the film’s new world looks very interesting, and I’m finding it very difficult to argue with the casting. Not only do you have a very interesting choice in Joel Kinnaman as the title character, but when you have actors like Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, and Gary Oldman all in one project, chances are it’ll be worth watching.
The trailer reveals some noticeable changes to the old story. Instead of being shot, Alex Murphy apparently survives a terrible explosion that necessitates the full body prosthesis that turns him into RoboCop. As a result, this Robo isn’t a mindwiped automaton upon activation: he knows who he is, and he’s horrified at what he’s become. While it’s definitely intriguing, it also fundamentally changes the course of the story, going away from the original’s more muted quest of self-discovery with only fragments of memory from his former life. The trailer does, however, hint at a new exploration of man vs. machine. Gary Oldman’s character of Robo’s designer hints at a method of suppressing the free will of the mind encased in the suit, without that mind ever being aware of it. The trailer later drops a hint about an ability of the human mind his robotics couldn’t anticipate: the drive to overcome those limitations.
All in all, I think it looks more promising than I anticipated. As with any remake of an even remotely beloved work, though, it has a great deal to live up to. Hopefully by the time a second trailer is revealed, we’ll get some greater hints at other, perhaps quieter areas of the story it will aim to tell. Director Jose Padilha once described the crux of the story to ScreenRant as, “a man being turned into a product by a corporation.” To me, that sounds like the essence of a story worth telling.
To the RoboCop remake, there’s only one thing to be said:
“Your move, creep.”
RoboCop opens in theaters on February 7th, 2014.
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