Like it or not, in this day and age remakes have become the norm in Hollywood. When we look back at movies that inspired, entertained and provoked some serious discussion you can guarantee that some studio somewhere has set their sights on bringing it back for a modern audience. Nearly every single day we are hearing about another classic with a fresh coat of paint and some groovy new effects. And recently, we got the first glimpse at ROBOCOP 2014 starring Joel Kinnaman (TV’s “The Killing”) as Alex Murphy, the police officer turned into a crime fighting machine. As much as I would love to embrace this stylish looking flick with a ton of A-list talent, I have to say that I might not buy that for a dollar.
In the new trailer for ROBOCOP 2014, we see the very likable Kinnaman as Murphy, a cop, husband and father and he sure seems like a great guy. Soon however, he opens his car door and BOOM… the dude is toast. Unlike the original film, our hero is critically injured with forth degree burns over eighty percent of his body after the attack as opposed to dead. Needless to say he is f*cked either way. Next thing you know Michael Keaton’s company has this injured police officer all decked out as ROBOCOP with a decent new look. That is until Keaton’s character wants to give him an upgrade and make him look, “… tactical… let’s go with black.” And then we see Alex Murphy as the man in black, and it’s pretty damn boring.
It’s not that the trailer is necessarily the worst thing I’ve seen. There is nothing really terrible – aside from the suit upgrade – yet it feels like simply a glossy looking superhero movie. The cast is beyond impressive with the previously mentioned Kinnaman and Keaton. Add to that a slew of grade-A talent including Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Jay Baruchel, Jackie Earle Haley and Abbie Cornish. Yet after re-watching this first trailer a handful of times there is nothing all that compelling about it either. In the current version, KinnamanCop is dealing with his wife and child and he is still very “humanistic” in the suit. The deal this time around is that his responses have been programmed and it looks like the man still missing his family is trying to override his programming and get a glimpse of who the real bad guys are. This isn’t all that far removed from the original film necessarily.
The thing is, ROBOCOP worked when it wasn’t sleek and stylish. It was gritty, dark, funny and violent with a purpose. When Peter Weller’s Alex Murphy is brutally killed by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his gang, it is arguably one of the most vicious on-screen kills ever. Murphy is freaking dead! These guys destroy this poor cop by blowing off his limbs and letting him feel each and every second of torturous pain as the bullets ripe him apart. His Frankenstein-esque awakening is especially chilling as he sees everything as one would through a video monitor. Weller truly becomes a machine with his face stretched out to hold some mechanical brain with only a few lingering memories. It is a disturbing image when he removes his helmet and tells his partner, Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) that she may not like what she is going to see. From the looks of it in the update, they did some decent facial reconstruction for the guy because Kinnaman looks a whole lot better.
Even when a low on the totem pole employee at Security Concepts OCP is taken out in the original film, it is with such ruthless force this this flick would most assuredly earn a hard-R rating by even today’s standards. When Kinney (Kevin Page) gets to play pretend bad guy with the companies brand spanking new toy, the ED 209, it is one hell of a ferocious scene. After a serious malfunction, the damn robot goes haywire and literally pumps the poor guy full of ammo in the middle of a conference room with horrified witnesses. It is all the more disturbing when his co-worker Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer who is also featured in the remake) treats his untimely death as just another day in the office. From the new trailer, I have doubt that there will be a single more intense moment that even remotely compares.
What is it that made the classic Sci-Fi flick work so well in the first place? Simply put, it was a smart satirical look at a violent and twisted version of Detroit. The use of T.V. commercials and shows featuring a really creepy guy wearing glasses or a very modern (and pretty freaky) board game where you can blow up your family with a missile strike was brilliant. The use of news reports and the violent footage of the savage criminal side of Detroit gave ROBOCOP an edge that is near forgotten in modern cinema. Director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner had a whole lot to say in what is essentially a revenge story with a heavy dose of biting satire.
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but from the trailer, this new and improved ROBOCOP movie is simply new and in no way improved. With a February release date in 2014 and its all-star cast, this looks to lack much of what made the original great. Verhoeven’s classic was a smartly crafted examination of a violent society gone wrong. It featured an incredible cast of B-movie actors and it was an R-rated flick even by today’s standards. I can’t help but thinking somehow the new film will even have a happy ending where ROBOCOP can somehow reconnect with his family and all will be well again. This is the first trailer so I’ll be reserving final judgment until I can actually see what director Jose Padilha has in store. Perhaps it will be better than the two ROBOCOP sequels or at least be escapist fun, but thus far I’d rather re-visit the original in all its gutsy glory. That I’d buy for a dollar!