RoboCop has become a popular science-fiction mainstay since his original inception in the late 1980s. The part-man part-machine police officer represented the thin line that separates mankind from the weapons they craft to kill and destroy each other. When a cinematic reboot of the film franchise was first announced, many were skeptical as to whether RoboCop could be rebuilt for the modern world. The project took many years to get off the ground as filmmakers struggled to find the proper approach for the character. On February 12th, director Jose Padilha will release the twenty-first century version of RoboCop.
Originally released in July of 1987, director Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop exploded onto the scene. The film was made for a reported $13 million and went onto gross over $50 million during that summer. RoboCop tells the story of Alex Murphy, a Detroit, Michigan police officer that gets mortally wounded in the line of duty. Murphy’s lifeless body is then converted into the powerful cyborg by the brand name RoboCop by the Omni Consumer Products corporation. As RoboCop, Murphy tackles crime and corrupt machinations from OCP in the horribly decayed city of Detroit. The film was praised for its dark humor, over-the-top violence and smart satire. RoboCop would spawn two direct sequels as well as several television series, video games, and comic books.
In late 2005, Sony Pictures’ Screen Gems division first announced plans to revive RoboCop for the big screen. The studio tried for several years to get a script off the ground but none crossed their desks that felt right. In March of 2008, MGM declared that they were going to bring RoboCop to audiences in 2010. At the San Diego Comic Con in the summer of ’08, director Darren Aronofsky stated that he was going to direct the film with a script written by David Self. MGM was forced to delay the project due to scheduling conflicts the following year. Soon talks between the studio and the Black Swan director broke down resulting in Aronofsky walking away from the project. When MGM filed for bankruptcy, the project sunk further into development limbo.
Finally in March of 2011, Jose Pahilda was announced to replace Aronofsky and helm the reboot of RoboCop. Padhilda had critical success with his Elite Squad series and would make his English language debut with the science-fiction-action film. The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman was cast in the lead role of Alex Murphy after the studio reportedly failed to attract A-listers Tom Cruise, Keannu Reaves, Johnny Depp and Russell Crowe. Padhilda filled the supporting cast with familiar character actors like Gary Oldman, Michael K. Williams, Samuel L Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish and Jackie Earle Haley.
Production began in September of 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with filming also scheduled to take place in Hamilton and Detroit. Set photos of the RoboCop armor leaked after filming begun and received heavy criticisms online for its resemblance to Christian Bale’s Batman from The Dark Knight film franchise. Audiences became further worried when it was announced that this rebuilt for the modern world RoboCop would be Pg-13 rather than the expected hard R.
The response from critics to the remake has been mixed. Most have commented that while Pahilda’s film is far better than what it could have been, the film still fails to make any improvement over Verhoeven’s original. The filmmakers wisely took the overall concept and brought it forward into the new millennium but failed to make an indelible impression of their own. The film currently rests much better with audiences than critics on the review site “RottenTomatoes.com”.
It has taken the cybernetic police officer nearly a decade to receive his big screen reboot. It is too early to say for certain but the commercial reception to 2014’s RoboCop is looking positive as audiences seem eager to see more of this RoboCop rebuilt for the modern world.
By Benjamin Murray