It’s been almost a week since the unveiling of the new Robocop trailer and my inbox has been flooded with people asking me what my thoughts are on the reboot. Well the whole project has been an emotional roller coaster for the last year or so. It began when I first heard they were planning this reboot, I was terrified. Robocop is one of the most nostalgic franchises from my youth. If all things nostalgic were in peril and I had the power to save one.. it wouldn’t be Hulk Hogan & The WWF, nor would it be the Star Wars franchise, I would save Robocop.
I hated the idea.
Then a mock OCP (The company that built Robocop in the movie) website went live and I saw some pictures. I saw the new design and to be fair I don’t think it was all that bad. I was afraid it was just going to be a power suit and we were going to essentially end up with a movie like the new GI Joe’s, but the new black design didn’t fuel my nerd rage so I’m okay with it.
The new sleek design is something I expected because I figured with modern technology a robotic police officer would be a lot less bulky and clumsy than the original Robocop design. It violates my nostalgia but it makes sense considering the time we live in.
So, with the pictures I begin to feel a little bit better.
Fast forward to the launch of the official trailer. Oh boy. I don’t think I’ve ever been so conflicted with a trailer in my entire life. There are some things that work, and also so many betrayals to the series that I can’t forgive.
The long and short of it is that it’s still way too early to draw a conclusion as to whether this film is going to be a disappointment or not.
So what did I think of the trailer?
Joel Kinnaman is definitely no Peter Weller, not saying Weller is an amazing actor but his Alex Murphy was absolutely spot on. He was the perfect marriage of a believable human being and a cold, yet emotionally conflicted machine. Joel’s performance in the trailer and where it looks like the story is going makes me worry about this being just another cookie cutter dumb action popcorn flick with no depth.
Reboot’s are terrible cause a lot of the time the filmmakers seem to lose touch with what made the original so great. So instead of just complaining about the trailer and what it failed to show me, how about we talk about the key aspects that made Robocop the cult classic that it is?
Bare in mind that there will be considerable comparisons to the trailer made as each point is highlighted, and also I would like to mention that I’m referring to only the first Robocop movie. #3 was pretty terrible, and #2 was passable at best. I’ll probably go into detail about them some other day. But for now this is Robocop 1 vs Robocop 2014.
I will try to keep it as spoiler free as I can manage, but it’s a 26 year old movie. If you haven’t seen the original, go watch it. Now.
This is probably something many people overlook when watching the original Robocop. You don’t realize it when you’re watching it but the use of music throughout the film is masterful. The emotion they are trying to portray in each seen whether someone is getting killed, there’s a firefight, or even just walking through a home thinking about the past is all complimented so well by the score.
Weller does an incredible job showing the subtle emotions without betraying the fact that he’s essentially playing a machine, and in scenes when it is only Weller on the screen the score is his best friend. When you watch it just pay attention, the themes are great. We’re here 30 years later and that theme is still as timeless as ever.
I will brag up Peter Weller’s Robocop until the end of time, but I need to give proper due to Mr. Clarence Boddicker. Another timeless performance from a really talented actor, Kurtwood Smith. You might remember him as Red Foreman (the dad on that 70’s show). He’s such a believable crime boss you would swear the man himself has no moral compass, and when he’s getting his ass kicked by Robo you see the more vulnerable side. The interactions between him and the rest of the cast really round out this film.
Great antagonist have always been the backbone of these films. I think that’s why the third movie fell so short. Peter Weller did not reprise his role as Murphy, and McDaggett was no where near on par with Clarence from part one and Cain (Both the human and the robot) in part two.
Here is where I think it falls short in the trailer. In the original the internal conflict between whether or not Robocop is a machine or if he is just a resurrected Alex Murphy over flows subtlety throughout the movie. Up until the end of the second act when a character flat out tells him, “You thought you were a cop? You’re just OCP property.”
At no point in the movie do we ever get to really meet Alex Murphy’s wife. The closest we get is a single scene after Robo is reminded of the name “Murphy” and he begins to think about his death and his past. There is a scene that takes place in his old home where he’s walking through the empty house and having flashbacks of various family moments. It’s a heartbreaking scene that can be really touching, and from there we begin the main external conflict.
Robo goes after the gang that killed Murphy.
The third act especially when everything goes to shit for our protagonist is when we see the humanity coming out in Weller’s performance. Robocop has begun to realize that once upon a time there was a man named Alex Murphy, an honorable man who knew right from wrong and it’s from there that we find ourselves near the end of the film with one of the BEST EXIT LINES EVER.
Shown Not Told
The MAIN point that this movie has going for it is that they find other ways to tell you what’s going on than just telling you. The acting in the movie shows what is on the characters mind in complete silence some of the time. They tend to also use the “Media Break” scenes which I love, it’s a news cast that are usually pretty entertaining. It feels like a real news broadcast, right down to the commercials they show. (An aspect I doubt they’ll be keeping in the remake, but is something else that is pivotal to the feel of the franchise.)
I could really go on from here, but really I am struggling to not tell you specifically what parts make the movie great, so I’m going to say to just go and watch it. I haven’t decided yet how excited I am on this new movie, but I’m hoping to see more in the coming months.
I was okay when I first saw the trailer but the more I think about it the more it is bothering me.
Trailer vs Original
My main problems with the trailer can be summed up in two points. The first is that it seems like there’s going to be too much told and not shown. The original movie was paced great and it knew what to tell you and what to show you… more importantly it also knew WHEN to do so.
In the original you do not see Robocop without the helmet until 80 minutes in…. the movie’s runtime is only around 100mins. So for all but the last act we see Robocop as the robot makin his unmasking a big deal. As a kid I was pumped watching this to finally see what he looked like under the hood.
In the trailer it’s giving the impression that we’re going to see it as soon as the cyber-makeover happens. Of course this is a modern day movie and I guess subtlety has no more room in blockbusters. Alright I’ll try to let that go.
In the original Alex Murphy was dead. They mention that he signed a waiver allowing OCP to take his body post-mortem and use his brain to put in their machine. They decided to use his face as well and some other parts but essentially all they wanted was the brain. There is even a scene during the creation where one of the scientists looks at Robo’s creator and says “we’ve saved the arm!” He wants nothing to do with it. This leads to the central conflict between Murphy and his past life. Even in the second movie when his wife comes in tormented by this “machine” with her husbands face, she is turned away never to be seen anymore… because Murphy wasn’t just injured and repaired.. He died. Just like the family of an organ donor are not really allowed to go up to whoever got the organ hoping that their loved one has returned from the dead… neither can Mrs. Murphy lay claim to Robo.
In this trailer they specifically state, “he’s suffered 4th degree burns over 80 percent of his body. IF he survives he’ll be paralyzed from the waist down in a wheel chair.”
Granted I may be jumping the gun. Mrs. Murphy might actually respond to this by saying to pull the plug and let him go. But as for right now they are implying that he’s really severely and irreparably injured but not dead. If they do this Robo transformation to a man that isn’t dead than realistically it undermines the claim they have on him as property, instead of just a free man. I loved in the original how no one in OCP ever treated Robocop like he ever was a person, he was always an it. Only Anne Lewis, and the police precinct ever gave him respect as a comrade in arms.
Of course in the trailer we have the line, “When the machine fights, the system releases signals into Alex’s brain making him think he’s in control. But he’s not. It’s the illusion of free will.” – What the hell is this shit? You know what that description sounds like. It sounds like they have a lead actor that they don’t believe can accurately pull off the core character that made Robocop so timeless.
Alex Murphy didn’t have free will… he didn’t think he had free will… hell for the first half of the movie he didn’t know who Alex Murphy was (Robocop discovering Alex Murphy’s obituary on a police system is one of the more touching moments in the film). This isn’t a “we can rebuild him, we have the technology” moment. He isn’t supposed to be a badass inspector gadget. The Mrs. Murphy side of things was a single scene in the first movie, and maybe the first half hour of the second but that’s it.
Alex struggles with the conflict between “am I man or am I machine” throughout the entire series BUT that isn’t done on the backs of the love he has for his family, it’s done on the man himself.
Like I said, I’m not completely cementing my judgement on whether or not this is going to be good or bad yet. The changes they made could possibly be handled really well and make for a solid movie. It may not be the Robocop I remember, nor does it feel like it will have any of the identifying characteristics that made the original great but if I walk into it as a stand alone movie and try to pretend like they are not saying Alex Murphy and treat this as a movie in its own right maybe it wont simply be the generic, forgettable fluff that I see in this trailer.
….wait a minute. Officer Jack Lewis? Do you mean to tell me that Lewis is a guy in the remake? What the hell?