Director Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film RoboCop, like its namesake, is an amalgam of components; part sci-fi/action movie, part wry satire of American culture, set in a future where a half-robot man is (ironically) the most “human” character featured in the story. It’s the philosophical drama inherent to that premise – an ordinary person who becomes part machine – that acclaimed Brazilian filmmaker José Padilha (Elite Squad: The Enemy Within) has zeroed in on, with his Hollywood debut: a remake of Verhoeven’s 1980s cult classic.
The transformation of Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) in Padilha’s reboot of the RoboCop franchise is also the highlight of a newly-unveiled international trailer for the film, which is now available for online viewing. Here, we get but a small taste of the shocking mind-trip experience that Murphy undergoes; one minute, he’s walking out to his car in his driveway, the next he awakens to find that three months have passed and he no longer has a body that is fully his own.
Padilha’s RoboCop – based on a script (possibly, with uncredited revisions) by relative newcomer Joshua Zetumer – takes place in the year 2028, a time when the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp now has heavily-armed combat robots patrolling the streets of countries around the globe, save for the U.S. (blame the government’s robo-phobia). When Detroit cop Officer Murphy is permanently maimed, the OmniCorp braintrust – which includes overseers Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) and Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle) – see an opportunity to put a man inside the machine.
Arguably, this international RoboCop preview is the most promising yet, with regard to how it combines the stronger elements of previous trailers and clips – including the 2013 Comic-Con sizzle reel – with the previously under-wraps footage and dialogue that is taken from the scene where Alex Murphy is “reborn.” Certain aspects of the movie still feel a little dodgy (see: the physics of the digitally-enhanced action set pieces), but that might change when the final product is revealed in its entirety.
Thing is, Verhoeven’s original film frames satirical violence – constructed in the vein of the Judge Dredd comic books – with a series of fake advertisements that parody the U.S. consumer mentality; the director’s dry humor was key to pulling the balancing act off. So far, it appears that Padilha’s movie also mixed together several different ingredients, be it Murphy’s existential crisis, the slick action or the sociopolitical commentary (see: Samuel L. Jackson as a political news pundit) – but does it also have the wit to keep these parts oiled, so that they work in harmony?
We shall find out when RoboCop opens in regular and IMAX theaters on February 12th, 2014.