BEST REMAKES: #11 – RoboCop
The RoboCop remake is a perfect example of the “trashing something before you see it” mentality, a mentality I am as guilty of as the next guy. RoboCop (1987) is without a doubt my favorite science fiction film. Its humanistic theme, action, characters and satire make the movie (at least in my opinion) perfect, and perfect for its time of release. When I heard talk of a remake, I immediately met it with derision.
But here’s the crazy thing about the original 1987 RoboCop: it should’t work on any level. It is loaded to the hilt with too many ingredients. It’s science fiction, it’s action, it’s revenge and redemption; it’s satire, it’s spoof; it’s cartoonish but carries deep messages about the soul of one’s self and the corporate state we live in. It’s a retelling of the Christ story filtered through the tale of Frankenstein. There is no way in hell this thing should work. But it did. It succeeded so much, it spawned sequels, TV movies, books, novels, comics, toys and a Saturday morning cartoon (!)
So with the announcement of a remake, it was hard for me to wrap my head around it. How could the current Hollywood corporate machine (similar to the parent company of the Robo-verse) was capable of seeing the forest for the trees with the property.
I was wrong. The goal of any remake can’t be to wholly replicate its predecessor. First and foremost, it has to be its own animal — while still emulating some of the soul of the original. RoboCop (the remake) holds up as its own film, with its own structure, villains and motives. It has its own tone of satire, fit for our post 9/11 world. Fox style news editorials, corporate manipulation of politics and Big Brother spying are all up for scrutiny in the film. I particularly like that the corporation wants Robo to be more human at first (for demographic purposes), then quickly realize free will gets in the way of the bottom line. It’s got some great action, doesn’t rely too crazy on computer effects, and (most important) has a heart at the center of it. It had a feel to it that it wasn’t just a crass cash grab. It felt that the machine behind it actually had a conscious soul putting the pieces together.