First of all, let’s talk about what happened in the original Robocop. Alex Murphy was blown to bits by a bunch of scary insane thugs. When I saw Clarence Boddicker tracing his shotgun in Murphy’s face and going ning-ning-ning-ning, I was gripping my seat and thinking, “No…please, no…” The giddy hyenas he had for cronies were delighted to have a cop in their grips. It’s far more terrifying to see heartless criminals laughing in delight than it is to see them trying to be tough and scary for the same reason that we fear the Joker in Batman: they’re off their goddamned rocker and you don’t know just how deep their depravity runs.
In the Robocop remake, we see that the new Alex Murphy gets burned by a car bomb. This is problematic for several reasons. First of all, there’s nothing more gut wrenching than being torn to shreds by a volley of point-blank shotgun blasts and being dismembered like the first Alex Murphy was. In the original Robocop, we had an entire gang of faces to attach this villainy to. In the remake, Murphy’s death is impersonal. His death is triggered remotely, by some faceless button-pusher. Let’s face it: even if we see some evil genius push a button to trigger the explosion that will kill Alex Murphy, it’s nowhere as gut-wrenching as the aforementioned horrific dismemberment.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a masochist: I don’t want to see Murphy getting torn to bits just for fun. It’s just that it’s important to feel the pain that we do in the first RoboCop. Seeing the criminals revel in the gory violent death of a police officer and family man is great drama. It gives us that feeling of righteous anger, and that feeling makes us root for RoboCop for the rest of the movie. Our attachment to RoboCop’s success is commensurate with how much of his pain we feel.
Then there’s the new RoboCop suit. The original RoboCop was a massive hulking mass of steel. His footsteps were heavy, and he moved rigidly. Like Darth Vader, who also lumbered around stiffly, this kind of movement made him feel less human, which makes his quest to find his humanity all the more dramatic. The new RoboCop is sleek, streamlined, and he leaps off buildings with ease; he seems to be superhuman. The result is that we may end up forgetting that he is supposed to be more machine than man. In a metaphorical way, the stiff movements of RoboCop and Darth Vader are almost an embodiment of the burden of losing their humanity. By giving the new RoboCop such freedom of movement, it’s almost as if we are liberating him from the limitations of the human body. In which case, why would anyone want to keep their human body? The effect of losing your body is lessened because you gain all this agility and strength. Granted, the original RoboCop gains strength too, but it doesn’t look like it’d be much fun to walk around as that RoboCop as it would be the new one.
Finally, there’s the the line, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.” For me, the original RoboCop’s delivery was more effective: Peter Weller’s baritone delivery sounded more like a statement of truth. Joel Kinnaman’s delivery just doesn’t seem to measure up. It seems like Kinnaman pauses too much after saying “dead or alive,” as if he’s dramatizing the statement for the camera, or for fans. Weller’s rendition is straightforward, as if it’s a matter of fact, which is unnerving for the criminal.
Still, the trailer hints at some interesting motifs like free will and how elements of human nature will “interfere with the system.” I certainly hope that the remake will be as good as the original. It’s not fair to judge the movie by its trailer at this point, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.