Another '80s classic is trying its luck a second time around.
1987's "RoboCop," set for a reboot in February 2014, released a trailer Friday showing off a sleek robot cop suit, star-studded cast (including Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, and Joel Kinnaman), and an eerily realistic story line that has die-hard fans and movie buffs buzzing about its possibilities. Can it break the remake curse by satisfying both critics and the box office? Let’s take a look at the reboot.
There are some key differences between the new film and the original. First off, in the 2014 version, cop Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) doesn’t die and gets new life as a robot cop. Instead he is burned beyond recovery in a car bomb and is fused with a robot shell. He retains his human emotions and memories – they’re just now competing with his machine half.
The trailer tagline is “Man or machine?” Think a technological Jekyll and Hyde, which alludes to our increasing dependence on technology and the moral questions this begs. Certainly a provocative (and relevant) theme that could win over critics. But will it bring in audiences?
Second, the film has only grown more topical with time, and Brazilian director Jose Padhila is embracing the political nature with open arms. “What we did was nowadays, we are so close to a time when the issues tackled in “RoboCop” are already taking place,” says Padhila in an interview with the LA Times. “Ten years from now, this is going to be a reality. We’re going to have to argue about it, whether we want automatic law enforcement or not, robots can be in wars or not.”
Drones, surveillance, robots as soldiers, even the setting in 2028 crime-ridden Detroit (whose real-life counterpart recently filed for bankruptcy), puts this film in the not too distant future. This could appeal to an audience looking for an action movie that has depth beyond cool extended fight scenes.
Third, the film is looking to go less cult-classic and more mainstream classic. The smooth, dark suit is a modern redesign of the clunky original. This could upset the loyal fan base but appease wider audiences looking for a high-tech, 40-foot jumping, "Transformers"-like cop. The gore of the original will also likely be gone – the 2014 remake is aiming for a PG-13 rating in order to draw in a wider audience.
But nothing can compare with the original, say die-hard fans of cult-classic films everywhere. And lately, this has proved true.
"Total Recall," a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger hit, bombed in the box office (and with critics) in 2012, only seizing $25 million its opening weekend and grossing $2 million short of its $200 million budget. Another dystopic classic, "Dredd" made $32 million at the box office in 2012 off a $50 million budget, despite good reviews. Superman went through another evolution with "Man of Steel" in 2013, which performed well at the box office but only got mediocre reviews.
"Total Recall," "Dredd," and "Man of Steel" had some of the same things going, and yet they still couldn’t capture box-office gold and critics' hearts. Can "RoboCop" change all that?
The film doesn’t come out for six more months, so there is plenty of time for further deliberation. But with a story stripped from the headlines and star-studded cast on top of a preexisting fan base, this could be the remake that brings "RoboCop" to the 21st century.