I remember the original Robocop, back in the eighties, which featured Peter Weller in the now iconic role as Murphy, the down to earth cop who was unwittingly made into a police cyborg. The film was so brilliant that I went to the cinema a total of ten times to see it. I’ve never done that with any other film since. So what was so great about the first Robocop? Well, in a word, everything. The story, which hit on a real zeitgeist moment in history, when we had fought against such impositions as the introduction of the Poll Tax, and the miners strike which split the nation; there was a real sense of not trusting the police and of a ‘them and us’ scenario. That is one aspect of the film you cannot recreate.
The second reason Robocop was so great was the innovative use of the cameras. We take it for granted now that the camera is used to portray the protagonist in a film, but this method of shooting from the main character’s angle had never been done before. Or if it had, never as well. That jaw dropping scene when this technique was first used, when they switched Murphy ‘on’ for the first time, and you could see the through his eyes, is just unbeatable for a film scene. And this has been copied now by the most memorable films, probably the best example being Terminator, when you realised that Arnie’s character was a robot, all because you could now see ‘through his eyes’.
Other excellent moments in Robocop include those awful, commercial and politically unsound adverts. The way television was used in the film to show you exactly how far human nature had fallen, in terms of morality, just by keying in a few adverts in amongst the terrible news items of policemen dying. It was just inspired. No forcing the story down your throat, in a subtle and memorable way, you realised you were now living in a world where profit was king and human cost was just collateral damage. Brilliant!
And then we were shown exactly what that human cost was, when Murphy went back to his old home, and relived some of his memories with his family. There are so many stand out scenes in this film, it is hard to just talk about one or two. The opening scene where Murphy gets his hand blown off. That iconic scene where you hear his footsteps thumping through the precinct, and you are dying to get a look at him, then you catch a glimpse of him turning a corner and that is all you can see.
The moment when his screen brings up the ‘fourth directive’ and you know something has been programmed into him by the corporation. The scene in the carpark when all the police are shooting at him and he falls, but raises one hand for help. I could go on. The one last thing that’s amazing about RoboCop is the wonderfully uplifting music by Basil Poledouris. This film had and still has such a special resonance with me, that to see a remake of it in action, is such a shame. They should have left it alone.
But I digress. I have no doubt that actor Joel Kinnaman, will make the best of this role, if his performance in The Killing is anything to go by. He has recently been spotted wearing the new Robocop outfit, which looks more Batman than Robocop but there you go. For those of you who are interested, Michael Keaton will play the role of Raymond Sellars, who is the CEO of the corporation, and Gary Oldman, Samuel L Jackson and Abbie Cornish also star in the new version which is directed by Jose Padilha. In an interview with MTV, Kinnaman said: “The RoboCop reboot is going to be a lot more human. The original is one of my favorite movies. I love it. Of course, [director Paul Verhoeven] has that very special tone, and the reboot is not going to have that tone. It’s a re-imagination of it. There’s a lot of stuff from the original. There are some details and throwbacks, but this version is a much better acting piece, for Alex Murphy and especially when he is RoboCop. It’s much more challenging. I’m such a huge fan of the original. I think I’ve seen the first ‘RoboCop’, 15 or 20 times. I’m like a kid, that way. And, I love all of [Paul] Verhoeven’s movies. He has a very special tone. I love ‘Starship Troopers’, too.”
Talking about the new Robocop outfit, Kinnaman adds: “It’s not going to be jaw action. They’re still working on the suit and how it’s going to look, but the visor is going to be see-through. You’re going to see his eyes. There’s not going to be any twitchy robot, our vision of how a robot is going to be in 2046, it’s going to be a very human skin, it’s gonna look very human. I’m going to be able to put my signature on the body language, too from an acting standpoint, walking around just moving your jaw, it’s not so interesting. So this is going to be an opportunity to really bring a full performance to it.”
The new Robocop will be released on August 9, 2013.