Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: Reacting to Robocop's new look

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The original Robocop isn't a character that should be messed with. Photo / Supplied
The original Robocop isn't a character that should be messed with. Photo / Supplied

When I discovered next year's Robocop reboot was being made as a PG13 rated movie - which would appear to prevent the kind of extreme filmmaking that defined the original - my heart sank a little.

Now that the film has started shooting and pictures have emerged of Robo himself, I'm going through another mild wave of panic.

I generally try to stay pretty positive regarding remakes and reboots - it's all too easy to dismiss these films outright, and there are plenty of good examples.

But there are few films closer to my heart than Paul Verhoeven's original 1987 Robocop.

The effortless blend of hardcore sci-fi action and razor-sharp social and political satire rendered Robocop an instant classic. Every year that goes by makes the film seem more and more prescient.

In my mind, the only two films made since that have lived up to Robocop's unique charms are Verhoeven's initially misunderstood 1997 sci-fi epic Starship Troopers (made with Robocop screenwriter Edward Neumeier) and Neil Blomkamp's down-and-dirty 2009 masterpiece District 9.

It feels kinda crude to say it, but the freedom to portray brutal violence feels totally inherent to this kind of storytelling. Lots of swearing helps too.

Alas, the studio behind the Robocop reboot has made the all-too-common-these-days decision to ostensibly widen the audience by ensuring a younger-skewing rating, but it's difficult to see this as anything but a further homogenisation of the story.

Putting the rating aside for a moment, there are some reasons to get excited about the reboot. The cast is awesome - lead Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) has a great wiry presence that would appear to suit being encased in robotics. And any film that lines up Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L Jackson and Michael K Williams (Omar in The Wire!) for its supporting cast is doing something right.

Even though he has a couple of well-regarded Brazilian action thrillers under his belt, José Padilha is unproven in Hollywood, making him an interesting choice for director. His hiring suggests that the studio isn't looking for something totally conventional with this film, which is encouraging.

Plus the viral teaser trailer released a few months back (which doesn't feature Robo himself) indicated that they were going to try and employ some of the consumerist commentary that so elevated the original.

Which brings us to the suit. While at first glance the basic all-black design is pretty unexciting, I must admit I was expecting something much closer to the look of the original. This expectation was based on how similar the new ED-209 robot glimpsed in the viral teaser resembled the original.

If there's one thing you can say about the new Robocop suit, it's nothing like the original. And that's a good thing in theory. Plus The Daily What says that the suit glimpsed in the on-set photos is only one of many that will be worn throughout the film.

So I really shouldn't panic. It's just that staring at that suit makes me worry about what they might have Robo doing in the film. The sleek Batman-ish vibe of the design makes me worry that he'll be all ninja-like, doing flips and dodging bullets and stuff. God I hope that doesn't happen. One thing I loved about the original Robocop is that he was more or less a tank - in no way agile, and prone to smashing through walls and walking directly into a hail of bullets.

If the new Robo starts dancing all over the place, I don't know if I'll be able to take it.

There's a new poster just out for the film too, from which very little can be discerned. Looks kinda cool though.

Apart from the endearingly over-the-top Robocop 2, every single subsequent project featuring the character (including another sequel, a cartoon series, a TV show and a mini-series) has softened the character. PG13 rating or not, it's imperative that the new film reverses this trend.

As I said, I try to remain positive about such enterprises, but I have my work cut out for me with this one. Let's just pray it turns out to be something that we'd all buy for a dollar.

* Are you freaking out about the Robocop reboot? Does it need to be violent to be awesome? What do you think of the suit? What other films would you lump in with Robocop in terms of overall awesomeness? Comment below!

Follow Dominic Corry on Twitter.

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