The Robocop remake has been a point of contention amongst fans of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven film - as far back as the remake's announcement over half a decade ago. The road to theaters has been just as bumpy, with Brazilian director Jose Padilha (Elite Squad) having to battle studio demands in order to shape his vision of a modern-day Robocop story. Now fans are getting their first look at the Robocop remake trailer, but the reaction is likely to remain the same, given the footage.
While you may be familiar with the original, be sure to read the following synopsis for 2014 version, which will explore things from a different angle:
In RoboCop, the year is 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. Overseas, their drones have been used by the military for years - and it's meant billions for OmniCorp's bottom line. Now OmniCorp wants to bring their controversial technology to the home front, and they see a golden opportunity to do it. When Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) - a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit - is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine, pursuing justice.
The 1987 Robocop is one of those films that people can watch and take away very different interpretations and experiences. Like many of Verhoeven's films, it was a finely-tuned mix of conventional action movie tropes, gleefully trashy exploitation, and scathing social commentary and/or satire. It's that latter bit that some people overlook: Verhoeven's condemnation of American consumer culture, the rise of corporate oligarchy and an over-indulgence of violence within media entertainment is as relevant now as it was 26 years ago(!); however, Jose Padilha's film seems to be a different sort of machine.
THE TWO PHASES OF ROBOCOP
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If you couldn't tell from the trailer, the 2014 Robocop is a more philosophical tale, centering on the question of the nature of the soul, and what makes us "human." While Alex Murphy's fight to override central command programming was a minor plot-point in the original, it looks to be the major focal point of this new film. So the Robocop remake isn't without a brain - it's just a brain that is pondering thoughts and themes that other films - many other films - have covered before.
...And there doesn't seem to be anything revolutionary or new about how this new film will cover that material. Given that we're nearly 30 years on from the release of the original, it's somewhat disappointing to see that this trailer doesn't really offer anything new or interesting on either the visual, technological or directorial fronts. There are no neat concepts or thrilling action sequences introduced at all - beyond a Robocop armor upgrade we already knew was coming - and even appearances from actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch), Jay Baruchel (This Is the End), Gary Oldman or Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) inspire more "How did he/she lands in this?" question than excitement. (PS - Joel Kinnaman is not going to be able to touch the iconic performance of Peter Weller, if this trailer is anything to judge by...)
Unless they're holding back something great, this new Robocop feels like it will be yet another unnecessary remake (see also: the recent butchering of Verhoeven's Total Recall). By the way: Did you know the new Robocop comes with wifi and a PG-13 rating?
SILVER LINING: the original film will get dusted off and paraded around again as this remake nears theaters - so we can at least enjoy that much.
Robocop will be in theaters on February 7th, 2014 (not a good sign).