Paul Verhoeven’s “RoboCop” still holds up today. It blends the sci-fi and action genres in an extremely affective way that, from a personal standpoint, is more satisfactory than “The Terminator” despite its RottenTomatoes scores (“The Terminator” sits at a perfect 100% while “RoboCop” stands at a solid 88%). Time has actually worked in the favor of “RoboCop” as the nearly 20 year old film still features some impressive special effects, a surprisingly human story, and is shockingly violent in the best of ways. “RoboCop” is a near perfect action film that’s chock full of nostalgic greatness.
Dating all the way back to being in development since 2005, production being halted in late 2006 and put on hold again in 2011, a release date bumped from 2010 to 2011, director Darren Aronofsky signing on and then dropping out due to scheduling conflicts and creative disagreements, the meager financial state MGM found itself in, and actor Hugh Laurie being a part of the cast before eventually dropping out, the road to a “RoboCop” remake has been paved, demolished, and reconstructed nearly half a dozen times. Rather than focus on why anyone would want to remake “RoboCop,” analyzing what we have presented in front of us is much more productive. Why question why when we’re going to receive the product regardless?
Jose Padilha (“Elite Squad,” “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within”) directed the “RoboCop” remake due in theaters Febrary 7 of next year and the first official trailer hit the web last week. The film is rumored to be rated PG-13 and will be released in IMAX in addition to conventional theaters. The all-star cast, which is extremely impressive, includes Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, and Jay Baruchel.
Judging by responses over the internet, most people are under the impression that the film looks surprisingly good. However, the trailer seems to hint at stripping the film of something that made the original so great; how human RoboCop remains to be even after being put into the suit. Being brutally shot to death by one of the most ruthless thugs in town isn’t an option for what will likely be a softer (in tone) film, but that also softens Alex Murphy’s quest for revenge especially when he’s blown up in a car explosion instead. OmniCorp telling Murphy’s wife Clara (played by Abbie Cornish in the remake) up front about the ability to rebuild Murphy’s broken body rather than letting her think Murphy died which eventually allows her to move on with her life feels selfish on OmniCorp’s part. It takes the remake in a different direction, but at the same time makes you wonder how far it can actually go. It seems as though the remake is stripping the film of its humanity and is purposely softening its impact.
Michael Keaton looks to be completely channeling Miguel Ferrer. Should this be seen as homage or laziness? Only time will tell. They dump the the original suit for a completely black one to completely drown the film in a sea of “Batman Begins” comparisons. Admiring what Christopher Nolan did with the Batman franchise is one thing and wanting to make PG-13 remakes follow in the same footsteps is another, but if you make these films too similar then they’ll never be able to shine in the spotlight on their own and will be stuck in Batman’s shadow forever. The special effects sequences after the suit change in the trailer even seem to mimic Batman’s city-wide sonar tracking device to locate The Joker in “The Dark Knight.”
The action sequences for “RoboCop” look extremely sleek and not unlike the way the “Total Recall” remake looked as a whole. This is somewhat disappointing as the desire to see Padilha bring that raw ferocity from his “Elite Squad” films into “RoboCop” is what made the remake potentially exciting. Murphy reenacting with his family after becoming RoboCop feels awkward, too. The absence of them, Murphy’s desire for closure or to just see his wife and son one last time, and the gun spinning trick from “T.J. Lazer” will be lost on the current generation of moviegoers. Unless the remake replaces all of that with something else, which will make fans of the original clench their fists in anger and/or violently ravage their movie patrons.
Based on word of mouth, Jose Padilha had an incredible vision for a “RoboCop” remake. However, this is the Brazilian director’s first American film and his first encounter with Hollywood. Did he stick to his guns and make the bold film he envisioned or did he give into the studio and let them call most, if not all, of the shots? We won’t find out until next February, but it currently doesn’t look very promising.
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