Jose Padilla is an enormously talented filmmaker. Let’s just get that out of the way up front. I want to believe that he’s going to take “Robocop” and make something special of it. I want to believe that he’s going to successfully navigate the Hollywood system and make something that is worth his time.
Earlier this year, I unintentionally stirred up a fair amount of noise when I commented on the script for the remake while I was reading it. I was on Twitter one night and having a hard time believing what I was reading, and I may have been unkind about the project. But as even the licensing reel that showed up online today notes, the original still regularly shows up on lists of the best of the genre, and for good reason. The alchemy that went into that film has proven impossible to reproduce with any of the sequels or the TV shows, and it seems to me that they’re making some big weird choices in trying to get “Robocop” right.
This video is the sort of thing that is produced to try to get licensing partners onboard, and I’m guessing that MGM is aiming for toys and books and games and a million other tie-ins. You can get a good idea of the sort of film they’re making from this and you can also see the way they’re approaching the design of Robocop himself. As I mentioned when I read the script, they start with something that looks reminiscent of the original film’s suit, and then thanks to focus groups with the public, they decide that it’s too stupid and dated to use. I’m not sure I’d agree based on what they show here, but since selling toys is important, they upgrade him to a suit that “every single kid will want to own,” according to the producer of the film. Sure, the original film was a hard-R with a blisteringly angry satirical edge to it, so uber-violent that they had to fight to keep it from being rated X, but I guess they’re aiming for a different crowd this time.
I’ll be honest… even with the cast they mention and even with fancy concept art that seems extra-shiny, I’m not buying it. Maybe I’m just going to have to sit this one out because I don’t see the point in the remake, nor do I think “Robocop” is just another noisy action franchise. The one thing that gives me any hope here is that Jose Padilla’s two “Elite Squad” movies manage to mix harsh political commentary with genuinely nerve-jangling action, and at least on paper, he’s the right choice to step into Paul Verhoeven’s shoes.
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So tell me… are you sold? Is that enough to make you think this is a worthwhile remake? Or is this just another shoddy imitation of a fondly-remembered original, designed for an opening weekend and nothing more?
We’ll see when “Robocop” enters arrest mode on February 7, 2014.