It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the 1987 cult hit Robocop. Honestly, I wear it like a badge of pride. Despite all of it’s flaws, poor acting, choppy plot, and terrible effects, I still hold it so near and dear to my heart. So, when it was announced that Columbia Pictures was planning on remaking my beloved film with Jose Padilha (a director who’s worked mainly with documentaries) you could believe that I wasn’t very happy about it.
Although this new incarnation shares a surprisingly similar story with it’s source, there are a few changes that had me thinking. As you know, the story of Robocop is actually the story of a man, Detective Alex Murphy of the Detroit PD. In the new film, Murphy is an undercover officer who had his cover blown when a police department insider tipped off crime boss and drug lord Antoine Vallon (named Clarence Boddicker in the original film). After he survives a gun fight with Vallon’s men, Murphy is nearly killed in a car bomb attack. With two limbs missing and his life hanging in the balance, Murphy’s wife Clara (named Ellen in the original film) decides to give her husband a second chance, and let OmniCorp’s Dr. Dennett Norton (named Bob Morton in the original film) turn him into a cyborg.
While the effects and the story were definitely an upgrade from the ’87 classic, there were still some things that I felt the old film did right that the new film passed by in their haste to make a “better” movie:
1. No Close Family Relationship
What made the original Robocop a heartbreaking tale in a sense was that he could never go home to his wife and son again. In the film, Murphy is killed in the line of duty, but his brain is spared for the Robocop project. His wife didn’t sign him over, because she didn’t even know he was still alive. So, throughout three films, we see Robocop grow more and more human again, even going back to his old home to spy on his wife and son from time to time.
In the end, you can’t imagine how hard it must be to live with a robot for a husband, no matter how many human parts he has under that armor. The ’87 filmmakers were right to separate Murphy’s family away from him. It would cause too much unwanted drama, heartache, and woe. Also, if no one knows that Robocop is Murphy and that Murphy is still “alive,” none of his enemies would be able to use his family against him, which is something we saw in the new film, and will probably see again in the sequel (if they get one).
Robocop will always be able to protect his family from a distance, and without their knowing it while allowing them to move on and have a somewhat normal life. Honestly, any loving husband wouldn’t want any more. He will stand always as their secret knight in shining armor.
2. Murphy Should Have Died
In this film, OCP, the parent company of OmniCorp, did not own the police department. But, Robocop was still OCP property. I sat there and wondered how or why the Detroit PD would let him just stroll on into their building and start policing everything and everyone. In the original, OCP owned the police department, so Robocop could just move on in without an argument.
All of this comes back to a point I touched on in the previous point: ALEX MURPHY WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE. By serving as an officer in the police department, Murphy had signed himself away to where OCP could use his body if needs be. It was capitalism at it’s finest. OCP, the biggest corporation in Murphy’s dystopian world, not only controlled what you’d do, but they also controlled you. Period.
3. Peter Weller
With all that being said, I still enjoyed the new film. Joel Kinnaman made a good Alex Murphy, especially when it came to his ability to seem robotic and human at the same time in his emotions when his character reunites with his son after months apart. The writers also did very well transitioning this story into the 21st century. That included:
- Having OCP build Robocop in China. You know, like most good American companies do now.
- The idea of Delta City was gone. The company now focuses on trying to strengthen and rebuild Detroit instead of wiping it off the face of the earth..
- They integrated the use of sensationalist news media to help push the story along, but the silly TV ads were a sad deletion (Who wouldn’t buy those for a dollar?).
- The inclusion of the Middle East and how that was OCP’s way of gaining favor in the U.S.; keep the soldiers out of harms way from a military occupation that never ends.
In the end, this film is much like the original. It’s the story of a man trapped inside a robotic body, and who’s trying his best to not only fight the bad guys, but those who “saved” his life. And, no matter how you look at it or however the story is told, it will always be the story of a man who is trying to be human again, despite how stacked the odds are against him. Just remember, it’s never a good idea to put a man in a robot’s body, especially if you’re a crook and that man’s name is Alex Murphy.