Ready or not, here comes Sony and Screen Gems’ RoboCop reboot. And like every other studio in the world, they’ve taken to San Diegeo Comic-Con to hype their product, which hits theaters February 7, 2014. Just an aside, do they even allow comic books at Comic-Con anymore? Our lovely Internet sibling Cinema Blend was on hand for their panel, and updated us on what director Jose Padhila, and stars Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson, had to say about this thing that is happening whether we like it or not.
Instead of a traditional introduction where an announcer calls off a bunch of names, everyone claps, and each guest gets a moment to bask in fan adulation, the panel kicks off with a video of Samuel L. Jackson. On a newsfeed, his character, Novak, talks about the American machines that are being used to quell conflict at home and abroad. You get to see silver robots, both humanoid and larger, with sinister glowing red eyes patrolling the streets. The question of the day is why Americans are so “robophobic” that they don’t want these automatons patrolling their own cities. There’s an explosion, and now we’re at a hearing where Michael Keaton rails against robotic police officers, saying they feel nothing if they kill someone. Chaos escalates, and the feed cuts off.
That’s not a bad way to start off your panel, and the actors all chime in on their characters. Jackson calls Novak “Rush Sharpton,” which sounds like a promising combination of personality types. Keaton’s scientist is a pragmatist and big thinker. Cornish apparently fights for her man, whatever that means, and Kinnaman reveals one big difference between the remake and Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic. In this version, the Alex Murphy character doesn’t die. He gets exploded all to hell, but doesn’t actually expire, and over the span of the movie he struggles between “the artificial intelligence and his own soul and humanity.”
This difference is on display in the footage that follows. RoboCop is developed because people don’t want machines patrolling their streets, they want something with a consciousness and a face. When there is danger, his visor is down, but when there is no threat, or when he interacts with the public, the visor comes up. OmniCorp puts a “man in the machine,” rather than make a man into a machine. You see snippets of Murphy play with his family, get blown up by a car bomb, and arrive on the operating table. They decide to make his suit black, he shoots his gun, rides a motorcycle, and has red and black night vision. There’s also a key emotional moment where Cornish, who plays Murphy’s wife, attempts to talk to the machine that used to be her husband. He, of course, brushes her aside like he would anyone else.
This all sounds well and good, but we’re going to remain skeptical, at least until we can see the footage for ourselves. No matter what they do, you’re going to be hard pressed to convince me that the world really needs a RoboCop remake. Especially because this version is going to be PG-13. What the hell? We’re talking about an original that is, one, a classic, and two, was originally so violent that it originally scored an X rating. Now you’re going to water it down and take away any and all bite? God damn it. I actually like Kinnaman, he’s engaging and personable, and the only reason I even bother to watch AMC’s The Killing. But still, they’re not impressing me, and I can’t help but feel that this is another Total Recall style disaster.
Padhila talks about the moral ambiguities of automated law enforcement. For example, if an officer makes a mistake and shoots a kid, you can hold him responsible, but what about when a machine malfunctions with similar results? What then? Who is responsible? The director and the rest of the cast say they want their movie to explore this, and other, issues that surround the continual, exponential advancement of technology. We’ll see if it actually does.