Identity and Humanity: Robocop remake trailer analysis


The day has finally come: the first trailer for the Robocop remake has debuted. Predictably, I dropped the bean burrito that was in my grubby mitts and watched the trailer two or three times. As Flixist’s Senior Robocopologist, I feel like it is my duty to you, the reader, to offer some insight and commentary.

Whatever, you just came here to see me glub about RoboCop. Let’s get started, shall we?

Let’s get this straight, RoboCop (1987) and RoboCop (2014) are two completely different movies. One is a surprisingly complex social satire of 80’s corporate culture, an analysis of the Western genre, and a near-retelling of the Jesus’ crucifixion. The other seems to be a character study in what it means to be a human, and battling human identity against technological “improvements.”

This remake isn’t trying to be the original, which is a great first step. To me, the main problem with remakes is that the new always tries to emulate the old in an almost condescending way. Look at the shameless attempt to remake The Fog to see what I mean. With RoboCop, director José Padilha respects and nods to the source material, but is crafting his own interpretation of the character. It’s the same thing that happens in so many superhero comics. You can’t really compare Dick Grayson’s Robin to Damian Wayne’s interpretation of the sidekick.

Let’s talk for a moment about the action pieces shown in the trailer. This is going to be a modern action movie, through and through. MTV edits? You betcha. Gobs of CGI? Look at that drone flying through the air in the beginning of the trailer. A Robocop that can run? Huh. Yeah, I guess that’s happening now. But these modernisms of action filmmaking further separate the source material from this new interpretation and help this remake craft an identity of its own.

The most interesting aspect of this new movie, to me, are the personal ramifications of Murphy becoming Robocop. In the original, Morton and OCP completely stripped Murphy of his identity, and thus his humanity. See the scene where Morton tells the doctors to “Lose the arm.” It took Murphy’s strength to overcome corporate and electronic dominance over who he was to find his humanity. By the end of the film, Alex Murphy is Robocop in name only. This new Murphy, however, still has a lot of his body salvaged after his near-death incident (including his shooting hand). The powers that be at OmniCorp allowed him the illusion of free will, with Murphy still being controlled by his programming. And that, to me, is the ultimate betrayal. Murphy has the illusion of humanity and free will, and he’s entirely conscious of it. That sounds like the ultimate Hell to me.

The only thing that I’m not looking forward to with the remake is the inevitable internet backlash. And it’s already started, too. Just a quick look down my Twitter timeline and I can find so many people ready to take a proverbial dump on this movie without giving it a chance. People just don’t seem to understand that the source material is always there. Folks see a remake as a betrayal of the characters, themes, and ideas they’re used to. Yet I know some of these people really enjoy superhero comics and the continual retelling/remaking of entire worlds, characters, and plots. If that sounds like hypocrisy, it’s because it is.

And to the people shouting nay at the notion of a PG-13 RoboCop? Robocop isn’t just about the old ultra-violence. It’s a staple of the original, sure, but that level of violence may not be acceptable in this new interpretation. Before you start wondering if I’m as naive as I seem, I’m well aware that the PG-13 rating is a studio dictation. But for the benefit of the doubt, let’s hope the crew crafted a great movie within that limitation.

RoboCop (1987) is my favorite movie, and I’m just glad to see something new that presents entirely new ideas of what Robocop can be. Bring it on, Mr. Padilha.