Robocop - Ripe for a Reboot
It's no secret that Hollywood today thrives on sequels, reboots and re-imaginings of franchises and film properties that are already well established enough to bring in a built-in fan demographic. This, in some ways, has led to a backlash of film nerds crying foul about how Hollywood can't come up with anything new. That's not the issue I want to deal with here. Though arguably Hollywood is hard-pressed for new ideas I do think there are a great deal of films that could be rebooted/remade without totally sucking.
Thus I'm introducing a new hub series that will focus on films and television which is tentatively entitled Ripe for a Reboot (though it will deal with sequels, prequels and films in general as well). For the first installment, the 1987 Sci-Fi classic Robocop. Some spoilers ahead (but really if you haven't seen Robocop where have you been since 1987?).
Analysis of the Original
For the uninitiated Robocop is the story of police officer Alex Murphy who is shot down in cold blood by a group of bad-guys in a war-torn crime infested future version of Detroit. Through the work of the corporation OCP (Omni Consumer Products) Murphy is resurrected into Robocop, part man, part machine. The film features gratuitous swearing and violence and yet has one of the best and most nuanced plots of any film I can think of.
Robocop, on the base level, is a revenge film as Murphy must track down the men who killed him and be sure they get what's coming to them. On the other hand the film is one of the best satire's in film history as it lampoons the news, the media, corporations, and the 1980s era Cold War BIGGER IS BETTER mentality. Just take this collection of satirical commercials from the film into consideration.
And all of that WITHIN a film about a cybernetic cop rediscovering his own identity and unraveling the mystery of his own death. He's also coming to terms with the fact that while he is regaining his personality and memory he can never truly regain the life he once had. When I was a kid I watched this film for the explosions, but as an adult every time I re-watch it I'm astounded by the depth of the story.
Many may wonder, if the original is so damn good why bother with a reboot? Here are a few reasons why I think any upcoming Robocop reboot could be just as good as the original.
- There's just as much about society to make fun of: In the original it was big business and 1980s decadence and crime. In the 21st Century we have the internet, we are all glued to our cell phones all the time and the news media is eerily close to what was depicted in the original Robocop (especially given the 24 hour news cycle). Our society and our culture here in America are just as screwed up today as they were in the 80s and there is NO SHORTAGE to what could be parodied, exaggerated and lampooned.
- CGI blended with practical effects: Part of what made films like Iron Man and Spider-Man a success was the near seamless blend between the practical and digital effects. In fact Iron Man borrows quite a bit, story wise, from Robocop though it keeps a FAR FAR more lighthearted tone. A man nearing death who, in order to survive, is reborn as a robot, that's Iron Man and Robocop. The key to a good reboot will be to blend CGI with an actual guy in a Robocop suit. Plus imagine ED-209 done in high-end CGI instead of stop-motion, now imagine how awesome the fight between ED-209 and Robocop could be if CGI were used in conjunction with other effects techniques.
- Improve upon the story: While the story in the original film is excellent there are aspects about it that still bother me. For one we don't spend much time with Murphy before the transformation, those elements of the story that make us feel truly sympathetic toward the character come later on after he's become Robocop. The audience receives very little face time with Murphy to learn who he was and why we should care when he gets torn to shit by Boddicker and the gang. I suppose the ultra-violent way he dies automatically makes the audience care however I'd like to spend some more time with Murphy. One of the only good parts about the Prime Directives mini-series that came out at the turn of the 21st Century was that it went into more detail about Murphy before he transferred.
And then there's the villains, Boddicker and his group of associates seem absolutely crazed. In fact their motivation to act the way they do seems missing. I know they are criminals working under the protection of OCP and thus they have little to fear but they seem entirely unrelatable. Most criminals at least have motivations or twisted versions of a moral compass, Boddicker and his gang come off as cackling sociopaths who want to kill everything that movies reminiscent of the Joker. It's not really a flaw for a film to have bad guys who are just plain bad but there could have been more depth to these villains.
Director of Iron Man Jon Favreau...
And the Cons?
Those are just some of the reasons why I think the film is ripe for a reboot but there are pitfalls to beware of that the movie-makers who set out to remake the film need to be aware of. Any of the following could kill a reboot of Robocop's chances of being anywhere near the same quality as the original.
- A PG-13 Rating: We've seen it happen before in this very same franchise. Robocop 3 dropped to a PG-13 rating (though honestly it wasn't the PG-13 rating that made that movie suck). PG-13 seems like a brilliantly marketable idea on paper as you can bring in the key 13-17 year old demographic that otherwise would have to bring a parent or other adult along to gain access to the movie. Here's the thing though most kids that age have no idea who the hell Robocop is and those that do probably have parents who are fans of the film. There is NO reason to water-down Robocop's ultra-violent nature for the reboot.
- Releasing it in 3D: In the past five years or so 3D has made a massive come back but now, according to many statistics about movie-ticket sales, the gimmick has run its course. While it's true that the style of 3D done in films like Avatar shows some promise for films shot entirely in 3D most films released in 3D are converted to it in post-production. Releasing Robocop in 3D would be absolutely pointless, if anything there should be scenes in the film MAKING FUN of people being duped by 3D a second time.
- Low Budgets, Poor Directors, Bad Actors, Too Many Writers: I'm stuffing this category full of stuff because I want to wrap this up soon. Anyone of these factors could endanger a reboot of Robocop. In recent days many movies have too many hands in the proverbial honey-pot. Whenever there's more than 1-3 writers attached to a film project I get nervous that said project will suck. As a writer myself I understand the desire to collaborate but sometimes having too many creative interests pulling in different directions can lead to really shitty screen-plays.
When I say Bad Actors I'm not necessarily referring to actors who are actually bad at acting, I trust that whoever they hire they will be adequate actors. What I'm referring to as miss castings. Some of the content I've read about rumored Robocop reboots actually being in the works suggest actors like Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise being considered for the role of Alex Murphy. I nearly want to throw up when I read this. Now I have nothing in general against either of those actors but neither of them are spring chickens. Cruise and Reeves are past their prime as actors, people might as well be suggesting Bruce Willis (who is too old and too accustomed to playing a cop).
As for low budgets and bad directors, I think that speaks for itself. We don't want to get someone who has no love for the actual source material to create a watered down PG-13 piece of crap that pleases teenagers who've never seen the originals and pisses off everyone else (I'm looking at you McG).
There are some movies and some franchises that I believe are ready to be rebooted if we can find the right people for the job. People who care about the source material but also have new elements to bring to the table to deliver remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels that stand toe-to-toe with or even surpass the originals (great example John Carpenter's THE THING). While Hollywood may be overzealous about such things that doesn't change the fact that some films are ripe for a reboot.