Dead or Alive, You’re Coming With Me

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

The trailer for the remake of the sci-fi classic Robocop has hit the interwebz and the response seems to be, surprisingly, mostly positive. Now I’m not one to bash a remake. There are those people out there who love an original film so much that when a remake is proposed it’s like a slight against the Lord and a bitch slap to the face of their 80 year old grandmother or something. People rage uncontrollably when it’s announced that a remake is coming out. Especially now that we have the internet at our disposal to make said rage public.

(scans room with eyes)

To quote Ben Affleck performing a line written by Kevin Smith, “the internet has given the people a voice. And the people have chosen to use that voice to bitch about movies.” Case in point, the recent outcry over the aforementioned Affleck being cast as Batman and the similar fan distaste over the casting for the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. So when it was announced some time ago that there was going to be remake of Robocop it goes without saying that there were some rumblings on the web. Especially when the first set photo of the revised costume design was released.

Again, I’m not one to judge something by whether or not it’s a remake. There have been a number of remakes that I thoroughly enjoyed. In some, albeit rare, cases I enjoyed them more than their respective original. As much as I love John Carpenter’s Halloween for what it established for the genre, it has an incredible number of production and story flaws that don’t hold up over time. For that reason I think Rob Zombie’s version is a technically better film because it was higher quality and maintained it’s honest appreciation for the source material. Though it does lack some of the more ominously terrifying scenes and themes that made Carpenter’s version resonate with so many. Similarly the remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre are quality films in that they were well made and didn’t hide the fact that they owed a lot to their predecessors. One of the rare instances where I think the remake was actually better than any of the versions that came before it (and I know I’m a minority in this thought) was the remake of Friday the 13th. I consider that 2009 remake to be better in that it took everything that made the original franchise so intriguing (by which I mean the straight forward and unapologetic usage of graphic slasher violence and nudity) and made it less campy and more grounded with realism. It was a scenario that you could almost actually see happen vs most of the events in the original series.

Then you have your remakes like the 2012 version of Total Recall starring Colin Farrel, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale and Bryan Cranston. The original film, of course starring Arnold Schwarzenegger doing what he does best (kick ass and follow it up with a catchy one-liner), is a masterpiece of science fiction/action. Like most movies directed by Paul Verhoeven it was just as much a satire of certain topics and current events of the time as it was a science fiction adventure film. It also played with your mind and the perception of what was and wasn’t real the entire time. The 2012 version…well…it was definitely a movie…

I can’t say that I disliked the 2012 remake of Total Recall (directed by Len Wiseman). That would, in all honesty, be a bold faced lie. It was entertaining. To that end it served it’s purpose. But I also finished it not thinking much else or having a desire to go back and watch it again. Be it for further enjoyment or an examination of the underlying themes. A good movie –  bold movie if you will – doesn’t just shut your brain off with flashy imagery for two hours. It makes you think. It stimulates your senses on more than just the visual level. And maybe you walk away from it with a new perspective on something. However, the remake was nothing more than a generic, special effects induced, action spectacle. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Again…it was fun. I was entertained. And there was more than one surprising throwback to the original that I enjoyed catching. However, unlike the original, I have no desire to watch it again.

By now you might be asking what any of this has to do with the trailer for Robocop. Well, as a matter of fact, Total Recall is a very good segue because that movie as well as the remake of Robocop (both coincidentally based on Paul Verhoeven movies) look to be the same exact thing. Which is nothing more than a lifeless visual spectacle void of anything that makes you return for a second, third or twentieth viewing. The original Robocop wasn’t just an action flick about a dead cop turned machine. That was just the surface. The icing of the cake the drew you in. It was actually a humorous satire of consumerism, Corporate America and Reaganomics as well as, on a more serious and deeper level, the struggle for a man to remember who he is and why he does what he does. If your thinking to yourself right now that that doesn’t sound like the Robocop you remember then you didn’t watch it correctly…or maybe you’re thinking of Robocop 2 or (God forbid) Robocop 3. Go back and watch it again sometime. The constant use of television ads (especially for the aptly named 3000 SUX…go ahead…read that last part as a word). Tell me that isn’t a statement about how we value things. The evil corporation (OCP) buying and controlling the police department. Corporate America. A very common theme in the 80s (and a re-emerging theme today). Robocop was more than an action movie. It made you think about the state that we as a people were in. Crime was everywhere. Innocent people got the worst of it. And higher society only really cared about what they could get for themselves. But it didn’t lecture to you. It didn’t blatantly throw these themes and ideas into your face. It was funny. It made you think about them in way in which you were still entertained. But it also told the story of a man who just wanted to help. Do things right and be the person he needed to be. Not just for the city but for his family. And when that was taken away from him it became the story of how he fought to get it back. It’s a morality tale on so many levels you might not even realize it.

The remake is generic. It’s action. It’s visuals and spectacle. It’s Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton. And (at least based on the trailer that was released yesterday) it’s devoid of all the things that made the original what it was. There’s no humor. There’s no underlying subtext of current events. There’s no narrative about the world and the struggle for the main character to regain his humanity is actually muted by the forced direct involvement of his family. In the original you knew he had a family but you never saw them. They were told he was dead and they left town and moved on. Alex Murphy’s only connection to the world was his partner that he knew for less than a day. He had to fight for his humanity virtually on his own. Now his wife and son are being thrown into the frey so that he can make “conscious decisions.”

And I won’t really even make comments about the suit. It looks awful. A friend of mine earlier today said it reminded him more of an exosuit. And honestly, he’s right. The original Robocop was just a machine. He had Alex Murphy’s brain and face but he was a machine. You even had that cold hearted scene where Bob Morton told them to “lose the arm” making the case that, to them, he was just a product. This whole grafting a suit to the body and keeping his human right hand thing is not even in the same league as the crap they put the original Alex Murphy through.

However, the feedback of the trailer seems to be genuinely positive on the internet front. It took me be surprise how strongly it seems to be resonating. And yeah…it does look entertaining on the action and visual front the same way that Len Wisemean’s Total Recall was. But in the end that’s all it seems to be. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it will come out and I’ll watch it and I’ll be genuinely impressed by what I see. But will I actually pay the ticket price? Well…I have one simple answer to that question…

I’d buy that for a dollar.


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