Hey, kids! Here comes another franchise reboot no one wanted. Robocop returns in 2014 taking new form played by The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman.
The new take looks to resume the original’s political satire by leveraging concern over domestic spying and the use of drone technology by law enforcement. In retrospect, the original film deserves a lot of credit for anticipating the modern convergence of military technology and domestic law enforcement. The Verge reports:
“We are more and more in a country where Robocop is relevant. You will see robots in wars,” said Jose Padilha, the film’s director. “The first film saw it way back then. Now we have more knowledge and we know it’s coming true. First we are going to use machines abroad, then we are going to use machines at home.”
Despite retaining many of the themes established in the 1987 film, the reboot will depart from the original on many key plot points. IGN shares the details:
In this RoboCop, police officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) isn’t killed by a ruthless outlaw and his henchmen, In fact, he’s not killed at all. He’s gravely injured by a car bomb that leaves him massively burned all over his body. In order to “save ” him — and give OmniCorp their cyborg lawman they’ve been desiring — Omni scientist Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) essentially amputates Alex’s body from the neck down and rebuilds him as, yes, RoboCop. (They keep Alex’s right hand as a humanizing element for when RoboCop shakes hands with people.)
There were several scenes with OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Keaton), a believer in his products and what they can do for the world who makes his decisions not so much out of being a villain as because he’s decided it’s simply the best option available for his business and what he thinks it can provide. Keaton described Sellars as an antagonist rather than as a villain.
Readers may recall that Omni Consumer Products senior president Dick Jones, played with relish by the irrepressible Ronnie Cox, was the ultimate villain in the original. As he and director Paul Verhoeven also did in Total Recall, Cox created one of the greatest caricatures of corporate villainy put to film.
The irony of Verhoeven’s satire was that it missed its intended target. Rather than indict corporations as villainous, the original Robocop actually portrayed a condition of anarchy where thuggery rushed in to fill the void.
Viewers may be misled into regarding the dominance of Omni Consumer Products as a depiction of Benito Mussolini’s fascism, which the Italian dictator alternatively called corporatism. However, fascism manifests as an all-powerful state which becomes the standard of value within a society, surpassing the individual and human life in priority and importance. Under fascism, Omni Consumer Products might exist, but would retain no meaningful control over its own affairs. It, along with everything and everyone else, would be subordinate to the state.
The original Robocop presents something else altogether. It depicts a Detroit run by a corporation. Omni Consumer Products fulfills the function of law enforcement among other tasks not properly delegated to private entities.
Within the world of Robocop anarchy has manifest. No proper government, protecting individual rights through the enforcement of contract and retaliation against any initiation of force, exists in Robocop’s Detroit. Instead, Omni Consumer Products reigns as the dominant gang enforcing its will upon the populace. The film demonstrates this whenever someone dies at the hands of the corporation without any legal repercussion.
In the end, Peter Weller’s Robocop overcomes his programed limitation and succeeds in enforcing the law against Cox’s lawless OCP president. Whether intended by the filmmakers or not, Robocop stands as an ode to objective justice under proper government.