In 1987 director Paul Verhoeven introduced audiences to a new kind of law enforcement officer in a crime ridden, futuristic Detroit.
RoboCop, starring Peter Weller as the cyborg cop, was, and remains, a classic replete with social commentary. Officer Alex Murphy is mortally wounded and then turned into a cyborg super-cop to clean up Detroit.
Next year, Brazilian director Jose Padilha will introduce a new generation to an updated version of the archetypal character. Starring Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman as the title character, this reboot promises cutting edge special effects and a deliberate political and social content on the ethics of using robots and drones in warfare and law enforcement.
We’ll also see a “right wing” media figure play a key role in the story.
According to Padilha’s interview at The LA Times’ Hero Complex, his concept is that in the future robots are sent to war, so soldiers don’t die in war, and so there’s no impedance to end wars. However, while it’s legal to utilize robots in the rest of the world, in the U.S. it’s not allowed.
“Because Americans won’t accept that a robot can pull the trigger, that the robot can decide to take or not to take a person’s life in law enforcement.” So to get around this the CEO of OmniCorp (Michael Keaton) decides, “Let’s put a man in the machine and sell that.”
Of course as any good sci-fi geek knows, once you put a man in the machine you have a cyborg, not a robot. Cyborgs have different issues than robots. You can program a robot and it follows its programming. But a cyborg, with a human brain and all the emotions that go along with it, can go beyond its programming and that’s what makes RoboCop–old or new–interesting.
As Padilha points out, “The thing that distinguishes ‘RoboCop’ from most superhero movies is if you look at a movie like ‘Spider-Man’ or ‘Iron Man’, every kid wants to be” those characters. But even Alex Murphy doesn’t want to be ‘RoboCop.’ Sure he has super strength and can’t be harmed physically, but he also can’t touch his wife and child or relate to his fellow cops the way he could before.”
Just as in the original the updated RoboCop has social messages embedded within it. Instead of the satirical commercials that were a signature part of the 1987 version, the reboot uses conservative media mogul Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) to provide commentaries–although the trailer doesn’t give us any indication of what that might be.
Surely the irony of such a left-wing actor and supporter of President Barack Obama playing such a right-wing character won’t be lost on audiences.
RoboCop is in post-production and is slated for a Feb. 2014 release but has been plagued by delays. Will it be a hit like the 1987 film that captured audience’s imaginations? Only time will tell. But if the trailer is any indication (and often they’re not), it would seem to have great potential.
As a huge fan of the original–I had a life-sized, 3D poster hanging on my wall for years–I’m always skeptical of remakes of movies that don’t on the surface seem to need to be remade. But I have to admit I’m looking forward to seeing this film when it hits theatres next year.