Sunday, September 8, 2013

I've Got A Slightly Less Bad, But Still Ominous Feeling About This: The Robocop Remake Trailer

Well, for good or ill the trailer for the upcoming RoboCop remake premiered this week.

RoboCop is a movie that doesn't need to be remade. The original film is as close to perfect as a movie can be. Sure it's full of action, explosions and over-the-top violence, but it has its share of smart moments as well-- it's a thinking man's action film. Murphy's horrifying transformation and his attempts to reconnect with his lost humanity, the depiction of the downfall of American industry and plenty of sharp, social satire (most of which is found in the ubiquitous TV commercials interspersed throughout the film) all work to make it a cut above the usual action fare. I don't see any way to improve it.

Back in May I blogged about the first on-set photos of the new RoboCop suit and how awful I thought it looked. I hated the black, generic Iron Man-like armor and the incongruous sight of actor Joel Kinnaman's baby face sticking uncovered out of the helmet. Everything about it screamed "a ten on the absolute and unqualified disaster Richter scale" to me.

The trailer has calmed my fears slightly. After seeing it I now have a small, atom-thick scrap of hope that it won't be the complete and utter waste of time that it probably will be.

It's slickly produced, the pieces are all there and it has a surprisingly excellent cast. It appears to hit all the same beats as the original (making me wonder "why bother?") with few or no surprises, and worst of all, the satire, humor and humanity all seem to be missing. I see no evidence of any kind of the social commentary that made the original so much fun to watch.

Let's dissect this trailer and give it far, far, more obsessive attention than it deserves, shall we?

As the trailer opens we see a run-down, decrepit city in the year 2028. 

OK, already here's something I don't like-- setting the film in a specific year. 2028 is only fifteen short years from now. Will we really have the technology to put a man's brain inside a robot in fifteen years? I doubt it. You're just asking for trouble when you lock your film into a specific time period. Either the things you predict won't have come true by then or they'll have happened way before then. Either way you and your film just end up looking stupid.

The original movie didn't specify any date. It was vaguely set "in the near future," which is a much smarter move.

OK, back to the run-down, decrepit city. Is this supposed to be Detroit, where the original film was set? Is there a large mountain range like that anywhere near Detroit? I'm thinking nope. This looks more like someplace in the Middle East.

Note that there are what appear to be ED-209 enforcement droids, as well as several RoboCops, patrolling the streets.

From this I'm assuming that this world has all-robotic RoboCop drones that perform less than perfectly or lack human judgement and Alex Murphy will become the first human/robotic hybrid.

Well now this is definitely Detroit! And it could be the present day, not 2028.

Hey, hey, don't send hate mail, Detroit residents (if there are any left). I kid because I love.

Oh boy, another futuristic computer interface that uses broad, sweeping physical gestures to move files around instead of a mouse. I'll bet everyone in all these recent sci-fi movies has tremendous upper-body strength after hurling their computer files to and fro all day.

Is she watching Frank Sinatra while she's supposed to be looking at RoboCop's CAT-Scan? I guess Ol' Blue Eyes still has fans in 2028.

Hey, Iron Man! How's it going?

Samuel L. Jackson!!! What in the name of ill-conceived remakes is he doing here?

I assume he's the equivalent of The Old Man character
(played by Dan O'Herlihy in the original)? Except here his name's "Pat Novak." Yawn.

I have an ominous feeling that the "Samuel L. Jackson Hair Rule" may be in full effect here. What's that, you ask? As a general rule, the quality of a film is inversely proportional to how much hair SLJ has and how oddly its styled. If he's completely bald in a film then it's more likely to be good (see The Avengers). If he's got weird hair, well then you're in for a bad time (see The Spirit)

It doesn't work every time (he had hair in Django Unchained and that one was pretty good), but it's true more often than not.

Gary Oldman!!! I'll say this for it, this gilded turd has an impressive cast. If nothing else it'll be amusing to watch and try to decide whose career it'll damage the most.

Apparently he'll be playing the doctor who puts Murphy back together again.

Well I'll be... Michael Keaton apparently wandered onto the set while the cameras were rolling. Doesn't it look for all the world like they're filming him during the script read-through?

He's supposedly playing the head of OminCorp, so I guess he's the equivalent of the Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) character from the original.

Jay Baruchel, no!!! I'm betting he'll be the Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) analog.

This is the scene in which the remake craps all over the legacy of the original film. Keaton and Baruchel are seen here critiquing the RoboCop design. Note that the image on the screen is clearly the original 1987 version, and Keaton is saying he doesn't like it and wants it to look more tactical and to make it black. Har, har.

This is obviously meant to be a shout out or a little in-joke, but to me it just comes off as a big F-U to the fans of the original movie.

Aw, look. Alex Murphy's got the perfect family. A beautiful wife, an adorable kid... things couldn't be any better. Nothing could ever possibly go wrong.

Err... um, Murphy, maybe you shouldn't...

Oh Sweet Jesus!

This marks a fundamental difference from the original. There Murphy was personally tortured and slaughtered (with gusto!) by Clarence Boddicker and his gang. This put a face on those who took everything from him and gave Murphy a nemesis he could hunt down. 

It also gave us one of the best villains in all of moviedom. 

I'm not seeing anyone in this trailer who appears to be a Boddicker analog. I suppose it's possible they just didn't have time to cram everyone into it and had to leave him out, but his absence is making me think that in this version, the person responsible for Murphy's slaughter and the creation of RoboCop is supposed to be a secret and will be part of a big reveal in the third act.

So who orders the hit? My guess is one of the above.

Of course I'm basing this theory on scenes from one measly trailer and I could be way, way off, so take all this with a large grain of salt.

I thought MGM went bankrupt a few years ago? Isn't that why The Hobbit was delayed for a decade or so? I guess they must have got better.

"We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better. Stronger. Faster."

Although it sounds weird, Gary Oldman's statement that Murphy suffers from FOURTH degree burns is technically accurate. You don't hear about them often, but there really is such a thing. Of course a fourth degree burn affects tissues well below the skin, such as muscle and even bone, which isn't evident here. His burns look like third degree at most.

Also note the x-ray at the right. It shows Murphy's left leg terminating just above the knee, but his entire leg seems to be gone as we see him lying on the bed. Whoops!

"Why in the name of Data's Pasty Bumhole would you leave me with one flesh and blood hand?"

Indeed. Why would you give a robot a real hand? What possible advantage would there be? So he can use palm scanners to enter buildings?

Note that in the original movie the Bob Morton character was inspecting RoboCop during his construction and noticed that he still had a flesh and blood arm. When he asked why, a medical technician said something about how they were able to save it and Morton barked, "Lose the arm!" 

Is the real arm in this film some kind of weird homage to that scene? 

And even if for some bizarre reason you decided to leave him with a real arm, why the hell would you leave his hand totally unprotected? Do they not have armored gloves in 2028?

And how the hell would that even work? Is it a robotic arm with a flesh and blood hand stuck to the wrist?

The real arm heavily implies that in this remake Murphy's mutilated body is somehow stuffed inside the robotic suit. This was definitely not the case in the original. There RoboCop had a completely robotic body, not a suit. The only parts of Murphy that remained were his brain, a couple of internal organs and the skin of his face that was stretched over his robotic skull.

"What do you mean they cancelled True Blood? Who's responsible for this? Tell me!!!"

OK, I have to admit that he looks pretty cool when his helmet finally slams down in place. So why do I have a feeling that he's gonna spend most of the movie with it up?

When I first saw this on-set photo, it appeared that he wouldn't be wearing any kind of protective visor, which I thought was a monumentally stupid idea. But after seeing the trailer it appears that the two red dots at the top of his helmet are most likely CGI markers so they can add a visor in post production-- I guess because it would be too hard for Kinnaman to see through the extremely narrow slit?

So it looks like RoboCop will have several different looks throughout the film. If I had to guess I'd say he starts out his proper silver color here-- which again looks pretty cool and fairly close to the original-- and then gets a glossy black paint job near the end of the film.

I much prefer the original silver coloring, but that said I admit the black doesn't look too awfully bad (in this scene at least), especially with the infrared eye slit.

"Michael, I'm detecting a felony in the area."

"Thanks, KITT!"

"Also Michael, when are you going to take me in for an oil change? I'm way past the 5 month or 5,000 mile due date."

Here's the OmniCorp building. I guess they're no longer OCP, Omni Consumer Products. Not sure why they would bother to change something minor like that, but there you go.

Here's another huge deviation from the original: it appears that Murphy's wife knows what happened (she even authorizes the robofication procedure!) and interacts with him after his transformation. In the original his wife and son only appeared in flashbacks.

I can't tell yet if this is a good thing or a stupid thing.


"Yes, son."

"Um... why did they leave your right arm and hand intact?"

"To provide me with a link to my former humanity, so I don't become a soulless machine. Understand, buddy?"

"Uh-huh. But isn't a flesh and blood arm a weakness? Doesn't it make you less strong?"

"No, sport. It makes me stronger on the inside. In my heart. Now how about you? How are you holding up?"

"It's just... you're supposed to be this unstoppable killing machine but they give you an unprotected and vulnerable..."

"JESUS JETSKIING CHRIST, will you forget about the goddamned arm for five seconds? I swear if you ask me about it one more time I will snap your neck with BOTH hands, human AND robot!"

 Jackie Earle Haley? Jesus, how'd they manage to get an amazing cast like this? Blackmail?

Here's RoboCop practicing his "land in an iconic Iron Man pose" jump.

RoboCop apparently battles a couple of ED-209s during the film. 

"Hey, if they liked him fighting one in the original, they'll LOVE him fighting two in the remake!"

Once again I like this silver suit. It pays homage to the original while updating it.

Man Or Machine? Original catchphrase, or horribly trite cliche?

Here's a better look at the ED-209 or whatever they're calling it here. I don't have any problems with this new design. It looks like a decent update to me.

Look at that stop sign in the background though. Where exactly is this scene taking place? That's definitely not English. It looks a lot like Arabic or something similar. Is there a "Little Bagdad" in Detroit in 2028?

I'm guessing part of the film takes place in Iraq. Apparently the filmmakers believe we'll still have troops there in 2028 (which given the way things are going, isn't all that crazy a notion).

I'm not exactly sure what we're looking at here. Is this RoboCop? I don't think it is-- it doesn't quite look like any of his suits from the other scenes. It almost looks like this suit has desert camouflage. I think this is most likely one of the RoboDrones.

Here we see some of Tony Stark's extra suits from Iron Man 3 attacking. Or perhaps it's a squad of all-robot RoboDrones (with no human brains inside) that apparently clash with RoboCop.

If you look closely you'll see those are RoboDrones on the scaffolding and the real RoboCop is down there on the ground, posing in the middle of the screen. 

I'm guessing the RoboDrones are guarding and protecting the Big Bad of the film (Michael Keaton?) and RoboCop has to fight his way through them to get to him.

RoboCop using a RoboDrone as a shield. Um... isn't he an armor-clad robot? Why's he need a shield? To protect his ridiculous flesh and blood arm, maybe?

Another good look at the RoboDrones. 

I'm kind of wondering if they're in the film so that RoboCop can massacre scores of them instead of real people, ensuring the film a more lucrative PG-13 rating instead of an R? I hope not, but it would not surprise me.

Nope, I'm not liking the black paint job. Can't really put my finger on why; I just don't. The black helmet looks cool, but the rest of the suit leaves me cold.

"Dead Or Alive, You're Coming With Me!"

You didn't think they film a remake without saying that, did you?

The title card  looks pretty familiar, doesn't it? If it ain't broke, don't redesign it I guess. 

So there's the RoboCop remake trailer. I have to say it looks better than I expected. I still don't believe there's any way it'll be better than the original though. There seems to be little or nothing new being brought to the table and worst of all, it looks completely humorless and totally lacking the social satire that made the original so much fun to watch.

It doesn't look like a complete and utter debacle like the horrible Total Recall remake, but it still doesn't look particularly good. We'll find out for sure sometime next year.

1 comment:

  1. Another exception to your Samuel L. Jackson Hair rule might be Jackie Brown.


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