The long-awaited (?) Robocop re-vamp has finally come to life with this trailer for the 2014 release of Paul Verhoeven‘s mid-80s sci-fi cult classic. 25 years or so really is a long time, so we can’t begrudge a re-make on these terms (unlike say, Spiderman). But the original, much like Total Recall, is held in such high regard that it does beg the question of whether audiences need the remake at all.
At first glance, this looks great – clearly so much more can be done with a budget these days – so there won’t be that old-fashioned feel to the movie. And secondly, the cast is of course impressive: Samuel L Jackson, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish and even Miguel Ferrer. I’d watch it just because of Michael Keaton – a criminally under-used actor.
But what of the rest of the take-home from this trailer? A couple of things stand out for me right away: the more prominent role of the family and that he seems to know he’s human rather than robot, the inverse of the original where he has to figure out he is in fact human. Quite how these will affect the story, we can only speculate. There is also scope for comment on the military-industrial complex using machines in place of men. You only have to look at the recent wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan to know how real drones are and how much their use could increase in the future. How much this theme will be addressed may well have changed since the director gave a very positive interview back at the end of 2011. We can only hope he has retained a lot of control over his movie. Perhaps these will give the film a new dimension and give us something the original didn’t. On a basic level, I have to say I’m disappointed with him being painted black and riding a motorbike. But in the interests of a fair and balanced report, silver Robocop did end up looking pretty awful in some of the merch.
Oh and the retractable visor really ought to have been a no-no from the very start – what were they thinking? Director Jose Padhila, has form in the police sphere, having given us the Elite Squad movies. Both address police corruption, incompetence and bureaucracy (not that Robocop didn’t), so the omens are good. Possibly lacking however, will be a social commentary. The charm of the first is that there is more to it than meets the eye, lending itself to repeat viewings and making it so enduring.
This ad for the 6000SUX still makes me laugh.
I think it’s important to ask what a remake really can bring to the table – regardless of what is being re-made. Possibly not a fair comparison, but I’ll point out that operas / stage plays are typically only ever “revived”, not entirely re-worked. Sure the setting may change (e.g. Coriolinus a few years ago) and new directors and producers will bring their own touch, highlighting say one characteristic over another, but if Mozart wrote the music it won’t be replaced with a new score and if Noel Coward wrote the play there won’t be new dialogue added. So perhaps there is something to be learned from this. And maybe, just maybe, with such a great movie as Robocop, we could have had a restored print and Blu-Ray release on its 25th anniversary, celebrated with a “revival” on screen and in cinemas nationwide. Now I’d buy that for a dollar!