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The Human Element: Looking at the old new Alex Murphy a.k.a Robocop (1987-2014)

Buzzing around the web the past couple hours, if you haven’t guessed it from the ridiculous long title for this post, has been the release of the trailer for the upcoming Robocop remake.  It surprises me how tuned-in folks (nerds) are in how this movie is developing. For some odd reason, I thought Robocop was for a different generation hell bent on watching hyperbolic violence and gratifying revenge plots. Was this not the Robocop of the 1980’s? Are people still interested in this kind of narrative? Or, more to the point, are we actually going to be getting the same old awkward “dead or alive, you’re coming with me” walking Robo-Murphy with this new rendition? Yes and no.

Coming into the office this morning, before I could even take a sip of coffee, news of Robocop’s first trailer since Comic-Con flooded my social media caucus (circus). Again, I was a little taken back with all the excitement with such an outdated movie trope, but perhaps I really shouldn’t be. Rumors regarding Robocop have been rather steady since news of production released sometime last year and have grown as photos and tweets have been teased across the web.  Folks are actually keeping a rather interested eye on how this movie is turning out. With this in mind, and after watching the newly released trailer and then watching the old school 1987 theatrical trailer, I thought I’d do a little first impressions analysis between the two films. Based from only the trailers for each film, you and I will need to examine the appearance, communication, and relevance for the two films and how they compare.

RoboCop 1987:

The synopsis follows for the first film. “Robocop, is an exceedingly violent blend of black comedy, science fiction, and crime thriller. Set in Detroit sometime in the near future, the film is about a policeman (Peter Weller) killed in the line of duty whom the department decides to resurrect as a half-human, half-robot supercop. The RoboCop is indestructible, and within a matter of weeks he has removed crime from the streets of Detroit. However, his human side is tortured by his past, and he wants revenge on the thugs who killed him” (Rotten Tomatoes). For those who’ve seen the original movie, keeping our impression of the film squarely within 1:27 min clip will be difficult. However, summer blockbusters like Robocop tend to give more of the story away in the first few seconds of the theatrical trailers than most movies anyhow. So even going off just the clip, we should have plenty of information to base a first impression on.  Here is the 1987 trailer for Robocop.

What did you think? Pretty classy, huh? The best part of most 80’s action thrillers were their complete lack of deep thought. You weren’t clamoring to the theaters to watch some expressionist film, you were going to see shit blow up! Simple plots; lots of action, blood, gore, and other nibbles of mayhem. The 1987 film version also packs a whooping MPAA R-rating. You don’t see much of the gore in the clip, but trust me, Murphy’s torturous demise alone would garner an R-rated from the trusted MPAA, even if the remaining film was all fluff and bunnies. The mood of the movie isn’t entirely far removed from reality. A good cop in a bad city gets brutally murdered and comes back as half-man, half-machine. He’s all cyborg and primary directive in the beginning, but as flashes of old memories invade his thoughts, his humanity seeps through. And what pray-tell is this “human element” that festers within the mind of our Detroit loving Robocop? An extreme thirst for vengeance for the scumbags that blew him away when he was still fully human. The desire for vengeance is a very relevant story, but we shouldn’t dig much further then the premise. This is, after all, an 80’s action flick.

Robocop 2014 (reportedly):

The synopsis for the new film follows. “[The] year is 2029 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the centre of robot technology. Their drones are winning American wars around the globe and now they want to bring this technology to the home front. Alex Murphy is a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit. After he is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp utilities their remarkable science of robotics to save Alex’s life. He returns to the streets of his beloved city with amazing new abilities, but with issues a regular man has never had to face before” (Bloody Disgusting). The remake has been blessed with a surprisingly long 2:20 min trailer provided below. But then again, keeping to the same summer-esk blockbuster tradition, producers want to give as much away as possible…because there really isn’t much to the story that we don’t already know anyhow…its an action film, not Rembrandt. Check it out for yourself below.

What are you’re first impressions with this new take? Better graphics, realistic and plausible future, and still the ever good cop verses the worst city imaginable, Detroit (sorry Detroit). But this time, instead of a brutal fire-squad murder, Murphy is taken out by a car bomb. Interesting. Despite some already generating negative nerd reactions buzzing on YouTube and other such sites, being able to see Murphy before his cybernetic transformation is shocking, as much as a PG-13 rating can give us anyhow. The impression his mangled form gave me was reminiscent of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan; where choices have been taken away by random and tragic acts of violence. There is a deeper question being asked here: “What will life be like for him…” asks, i’m assuming, his wife before his operation. The 87′ original showed us the face of humanity through the desire of revenge. This new 2014 version looks to be taking us somewhere else. As it seems to me, the place we’re being taken is something very human and real and surprisingly philosophical: the question of choice, free will and the human soul. The idea of free will and its illusion, again, based off this  2:20 min clip, seems to be driving the story. This will definitely beef up the value on this new Robocop film, making it something more than just another meaningless action thriller. Though, I doubt the supposed deeper story will take away from the CGI aided mayhem. If balanced effectively, we’ll get the best of both worlds. Something with pretty lights that we’ll end up thinking about on the drive home.

We’ll still have some time before the new Robocop hits theaters. As of now, the release date has been set for February 7th, 2014. Until then, action thriller genre loving fans will post regularly regarding how they feel about the new revamp. Some negativity has already been poised over the whole “just another remake” mantra. Some positive on the actually unexpected good quality of the film, that is, producers ar’nt entirely mucking it up. There are some cheesy CGI bits in the trailer, but for the most, the film looks as if it’ll be just as good as the original, be that, a little tamer.

RoboCop 2014

RoboCop 2014

RoboCop 1987

RoboCop 1987

Murphy 2014

Murphy 2014

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