Okay, so I’m looking forward to the 2014 “Robocop” remake as much as I’m looking forward to a root canal. Paul Verhoeven’s original “Robocop” from 1987 wasn’t just a great sci-fi/action movie, but it was also a moving tale of a man resurrected as well as a scathing satire of the corporate world. It worked on so many levels and still holds up more than twenty years after its release, so the thought of remaking it for a new generation seems utterly pointless and futile. If it were up to me, the filmmakers would be remaking “Robocop 2” which remains one of the most frustrating and disappointing sequels ever made in the history of mankind.
Well, despite all the pleas from fans to not remake this classic film, MGM went ahead because they were running out of other movies to redo or reboot, and on September 5, 2013, we got the first trailer to the new “Robocop.” Now many people I know didn’t hesitate to vent their rage over how much they hated this trailer, and one of my friends even described it as a bad dream and wondered if it was worse than how the Pittsburgh Steelers played on the first day of the new NFL season. As for myself, my feelings towards the trailer are rather mixed. It’s a little too easy to hate a reboot like this, but some parts of it I found surprisingly fascinating.
What really pissed me off about “Robocop 2” was that it had the opportunity to explore the human side of the main character more extensively, and it abandoned that concept almost right from the beginning. But with this remake (or reboot if you will), you get to see Alex Murphy (played here by Joel Kinnaman) still have some connection with his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) and their son. Seeing how they will react to Alex’s transformation from man to machine will be intriguing to witness.
Another interesting concept introduced in this trailer is when Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), the creator of Robocop, introduces a way to give Alex the illusion that he has free will while OCP maintains full control over his actions. But of course, Alex finds a way to subvert the corporation’s control over him and overrides his programming. From there, it looks like he will exact a nasty revenge on whoever decided to turn him into a human shish kabob.
I don’t know much about Kinnaman other than the fact that he stars on the AMC series “The Killing.” A Swedish actor, he is best known overseas for his roles in “Easy Money” and the “Johan Falk” film series. At one point, he was considered to be a serious contender for the lead roles in “Thor” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” From this trailer, it looks like he will acquit himself well in the role of a man turned into a machine, but considering how good Peter Weller was in the original, he has some big shoes to fill.
As for the rest of the cast, I think Samuel L. Jackson is kind of a funny choice to play media mogul Pat Novak. Not that I think he will be bad, but seeing him here has me thinking of “Snakes on a Plane,” and now part of me is thinking that this movie will have him saying, “It’s time to get this mother---ing cyborg out of this mother---ing building!”
I’m glad to see that they cast Michael Keaton as the CEO of OCP, Raymond Sellars, as he’s a great actor we don’t see enough of in movies these days. I think it’ll also be interesting to see Jay Baruchel, fresh off this summer’s hilarious comedy “This is the End,” playing a corporate marketing executive as it’ll be quite a contrast to the characters he usually plays. And while we only see him in the trailer for about two seconds, I’m stoked to see that Jackie Earle Haley is in this film because he is truly brilliant in each role he takes on.
Having said all that, here are some of the things that really bothered me about this “Robocop” trailer. In this reboot, Alex ends up getting seriously disfigured after a car bomb explosion instead of getting viciously gunned down by a gang. There is something about this scenario that strikes me as infinitely lame as the scene is made to look like he shouldn’t even be going near his damn car in the first place. Looking at Alex’s face, it’s like he suspects that something bad is going to happen, and that just makes him seem like an idiot for getting himself all burned up.
Then there’s the issue with the suit. At first it still looks a bit like the one in the original, but then Keaton’s character decides that Alex’s suit will look better in black. What we end up with is a suit that looks far too retro to exist in a futuristic world like the one presented here. With the glowing mask, it looks like it was stolen from “Tron: Legacy.” The great thing about the suit in the original “Robocop” was that, even when you watch the movie today, it never looks dated. But the suit in the reboot looks like yesterday’s news, and I’m afraid this is going to come back to haunt the filmmakers when this remake comes out.
It is said that this version of “Robocop” takes place in the Detroit of 2028, but since that’s only 14 years after this movie is released, I’m thinking that things look a little more futuristic here than they need to. The trailer opens with some sort of flying plane that looks more like a spaceship, and we’re not getting any closer to having spaceships like that in our time. Or maybe I’m just having a problem with Detroit looking this good considering all that it’s been through in the past and more recently with its bankruptcy filing.
There was a brief moment when a “Robocop” remake was very intriguing to me, and that was mainly because Darren Aronofsky was originally signed on to direct it. But then the project got delayed and he ended up dropping out, and in his place we have José Padilha, a director whose work I am not familiar with. Padilha is originally from Brazil, and his first feature film was “Bus 174,” a documentary about Sandro do Nascimento who, after messing up a robbery, ends up holding the passengers on a bus hostage for four hours. After that, he made “Elite Squad” which went on to become one of the most popular films in Brazilian history.
Perhaps, as Orion Pictures did with Verhoeven, MGM wanted to bring a foreign sensibility to the American action movie as it has worked wonders in the past. At the very least, looking at Padilha’s resume makes me more confident about what he can bring to this version of a classic movie.
I don’t know, I’m still pretty iffy about this remake/reboot of “Robocop.” In some ways, having seen this trailer, I feel a bit better about it as the filmmakers are clearly not out to do a shot for shot remake of the original. But let’s be honest, Verhoeven’s movie is going to be incredibly hard to top in terms of action and quality. Hollywood already remade one of his classics from the 1990’s with “Total Recall,” and that proved to be a critical and commercial disappointment. Hopefully Padilha and company will have some fun with material instead of trying to make this franchise look like “The Dark Knight.” As much as I loved Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman, not every movie needs to be like that one.