Nineteen years (at the time of writing this) have passed since RoboCop 3 opened in theaters to a poor critical reception and a paltry $10 million domestic gross. While news of an impending franchise reboot - which will essentially amount to a remake of the original 1987 RoboCop movie - has not gone over well, it's not so unusual, in this day and age, for Hollywood to revisit a former cash-cow that ended its run on a sour note (as far as its theatrical release goes).
Most of the creative talent behind the slew of upcoming 1980s movie reboots/remakes (Total Recall, Evil Dead, Commando, etc.) have been selling their projects as being grittier and more realistic in design than their predecessors. However, the director behind the new RoboCop flick, José Padilha, has been largely focused on promoting his film's thematic qualities.
Padilha has previously talked about how his Robocop movie will focus on the eponymous character's personal conflict - not only in terms of how he is a pawn controlled by corporate interests, but how former human cop Alex Murphy copes with being transformed into a human/machine hybrid.
In an interview with Bleeding Cool, Padilha even succinctly summed up the basic premise behind his RoboCop movie:
"[It involves] a man being turned into a product by a corporation."
The idea of an individual both being manipulated by greater powers and struggling to handle his own personal demons is one that Padilha has tackled before, most recently in the police/crime drama sequel Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. However, with RoboCop, the filmmaker says he plans to also examine certain issues more pertinent to modern-age warfare tactics and the use of technology for purposes of defense/attack.
Here is how Padilha describes one of the central philosophical dilemmas that will be explored in his RoboCop reboot:
"Wars in the future are going to be fought with drones. We won’t send a plane with a pilot in, it will be drone. It’s getting that way now and ten years from now that’s how wars are going to be fought. But what if a drone goes wrong – who is to blame then? Do you blame the drone? And that problem asks if you can you consider a robot guilty of a crime. Or is it the corporation that made the robot that is guilty? How do you fight back against drones when you don’t have drones?"
Director Paul Verhoeven did touch on existential issues related to the very idea of a "RoboCop" in the original 1987 film, but he placed a significantly greater focus on social commentary concerning the post-modern mindset (ex. how people value organic life in comparison to manufactured goods or technology). Most people would agree that Verhoeven managed to do that quite well - and within the context of an often violent and action-packed sci-fi thriller, at that.
However, it does sound like Padilha is more interested in the philosophical issues that Verhoeven's RoboCop did not tackle so head-on, largely because they are (as he has pointed out) even more relevant today than they were over two decades ago. Honestly, if there's any approach that could both ensure that the RoboCop reboot does not stray too far from the franchise's classic themes - and also manages to also avoid feeling like an "update" that doesn't really bring anything new to the table - that's probably it. If nothing else, it's reason enough for fans to at least give this project a shot, for the time being.
Now Padilha needs to assemble a worthy creative team (he says he already has a director of photography and production designer in mind) and find a decent leading man, in order to keep his RoboCop reboot moving in the right direction. Hiring an actor of Michael Fassbender's caliber would definitely be another wise decision on Padilha's part - though, that particular casting is easier said than done, given the actor's current popularity...
We will continue to keep you posted on the status of the RoboCop reboot as the story develops.