5 Signs the New 'RoboCop' Movie Might Be Terrible
RoboCop was the finest movie, where the title was also the entire concept, the script, and all the advertising you'd ever need. Anyone who isn't excited by that concept isn't going to be motivated by posters, trailers, or 10,000 volts through their dead joyless heart. RoboCop is such a classic of science fiction, it proves that Isaac Asimov got the three laws of robotics wrong.
Three lines of code responsible for more ass-kicking than the Halo engine.
RoboCop is the story of a noble hero destroyed by scumbag villains and resurrected with the power of modern technology, where the villains are the people behind RoboCop 3 and the technology is Hollywood remakes. This is the first reboot I've been fully behind, as any attempt to create a universe where RoboCop 3 never happened has my full support. But the recent trailer has given me cause to worry.
And any world where a human has to worry about RoboCop has gone badly wrong.
The Human Hand
When leaked on-set shots showed RoboCop with a human right hand last year, I convinced myself that there was a special effect missing. Putting a human hand on the end of a robot arm is like putting one of the gunners outside a tank: After the first fight, they're going to need to hose that pink smear off the bulletproof armor.
Even random civilians are horrified by the terrible design decision.
A hand on RoboCop is more doomed than a Hand in King's Landing. Unless it came from Chow Yun-Fat, it can't be as accurate as a machine, and it can't come from Chow Yun-Fat because he'll never die in the line of duty. Worse, turning his primary weapon holder into a weak point means that the only action hero who can actually survive concentrated machine gun fire still needs enemies stupid enough to miss at point-blank range.
People made jokes about shooting the original RoboCop in the face, but when he removes his helmet, you can see that they've replaced his entire skull with metal and hardened plastic, pinning his face back over it. (This is also implied in the scene where they screw down the LED display behind his eyes before he wears a helmet.) They're not going to replace only the back of his skull. That would be a titanium ice-cream scoop holding his brains as a weak point.
Baskin Robbins' new "faceful of tortured loss" flavor proved unpopular and expensive.
The symbolism of a human hand pulling the trigger for a robotic drone (after being killed by a terrorist-style car bomb) is painfully obvious, but not as painful as that hand getting shredded by machine gun fire. RoboCop's human hand is even more vulnerable than a regular cop's human hand because most human torsos don't create ricochets. The symbolism is also destroyed when they show him firing from his artificial hand anyway.
I'm all for new themes. It's 20 years later, the movie should be about something else. RoboCop is the perfect vehicle to explore the morality of drone pilots, literally turning the pilot into something less than human in order to make him better at killing on command. It reduces the person to just another expendable, mass-produced link in the chain, distancing those who order the deaths from their actions.
If I thought the new movie were capable of subtlety, I'd think they were deliberately taking the piss out of the original. The right hand is the first thing Alex Murphy loses when he's shotgun-crucified by Clarence Boddicker, and his resulting right robo-hand has a data spike that's essential to every pivotal scene in the movie: recognizing his own murderers, defeating Boddicker, even facing down the final villain in the OCP boardroom.
Popup Visor Shades
The original RoboCop was such a cool design that he acted as a mobile morgue, preserving the criminal bodies he was constantly creating until forensics could get there. With a metal body and human lower face, he was made entirely of pieces that either looked or sounded badass. His helmet was so cool, he could stare down Judge Dredd without flinching about stealing the idea.
The only RoboCop head shot that doesn't reduce the crime rate by one.
It was the most awesomely armor-plated symbol in modern cinema: the faceless mask of machinery and corporate law, cracked by his struggle for justice and betrayal by big business, then removed entirely as he recovered his remaining humanity. It required a near death experience and a power drill to remove the unfeeling bolts that had been driven through his living brain to hide the man who had died.
The original Alex's face was pinned over the machinery, a human face stretched over the corporate machine to make it more acceptable. The new face looks like someone wearing a face-forming helmet, because Iron Man really made a lot of money and Hollywood really is that blatant.
"Did those idiots leave me with a fleshy hand?"
The new RoboCop flicks his visor down over his eyes whenever he wants to look tough. The reason is obvious: Hollywood treats the audience as a 3-month-old infant, unable to recognize emotions unless they can constantly see the entire face. Peter Weller could convey more emotion with his lower jaw than most people could with an entire opera. The new guy shouts and screams, and the result is a generic tough guy with a convertible head, a cover he can flick down to try to look badass. Well done, Strike Entertainment, you've turned the symbol of faceless authority into douchebro shades.
Tough Dude RoBroCop
RoboCop was an electric Frankenstein, a victim butchered by the collision between morality and megacorporations, justice and greed. His memory erased, he worked to do the right thing while struggling to deal with what he was. He wasn't some badass Bourne, in full control of his faculties and a chiseled body, whining about whether the awesome life he was leading had his "real" name on the passports he used to adventure around the world. RoboCop didn't even ask for his own memories: they returned on their own, tormenting him, bringing pain to someone built to be immune to it.
There's the masterful scene where he struggles with static-laden memories in his old house, a ghost of his own life stalking the empty hallways of a happy home being sold by an unfeeling, artificially cheerful machine businessman -- another layer of unexpected analogy in the "tough guy shoots less-tough guys" movie. RoboCop is so awesome that he can turn a house-hunting visit into something I'd want to do, and to this day it's the only estate agency event I can sit through without trying to escape.
The reboot gets rid of all that. The instant he's booted up, he has full memory, personality, and freedom, and the very first thing he does with all three is physically assault his creator. Who's also an unarmed civilian and a doctor.
"Hey, nerd, gimme your lunch money, I'm gonna paint this shit black and buy a sweet bike."
He even flicks down his digitized douchebro shades to menace the pencil-neck nerd (who saved his life). He's not a tortured cyborg, he's RoBroCop, an armored jock with shades and a sweet motorbike, and he will probably have his armored gorget hammered up into a popped titanium-Kevlar collar the first chance he gets.
If a personalized license plate makes you a douche, what does personalizing your entire bike after your face do?
The result is Generic Badass Tough White Guy Number 10,000,000. But the original Alex Murphy's struggle for humanity was essential. Without it, the movie becomes Unkillable White Male Against the Masses Again. It's hard to create tension with that even when the hero's indestructibility isn't built right into the plot and his body. RoBroCop is whining about becoming the baddest ass in existence.
Although he does have one reason to be pissed. After all, as Tough White Guy in a Movie, he was effectively immune to bullets already. Bruce Willis' vest has absorbed more machine gun fire than the Ardennes, which means RoBroCop had his dick cut off for no reason at all. The unspoken truth of RoboCop is that he's the toughest eunuch in existence. The original RoboCop didn't worry about it because he was more machine than man, and suffering was his entire deal. When RoBroCop realizes he got two new guns but lost his happycannon, he's going to go on a rampage that needs the Justice League to stop.
Loss of Subtlety
You don't expect much subtlety from a man made of titanium-layered Kevlar and infinite ammunition, but RoboCop was a surprisingly smart movie. As explained above, it had to be: the anti-capitalist satire, the contrast in fascist styling of liberal messages, all the things that slipped under the radar to create interest in the most one-sided shooting gallery in movie history. RoboCop's single extended gunfight was the most gloriously over the top in history: a bulletproof good guy strolling through an actual Evil Drug Factory, taking trick shots like he was in a target gallery. And they only did it once, because it would be boring if they did it again.
There are archery ranges less one-sided than this.
Most shoot-em-ups don't have a messiah figure, a hero who died and came back, and just in case people missed it, manages to walk on water despite weighing a far fraction of a ton.
If Jesus had looked like this, the Romans would have surrendered.
The new movie also has a message, and that message is delivered with all the subtlety of elephant foreplay. Alex Murphy was killed by a car bomb and is being rebuilt as an armed drone who must take vengeance by killing carefully selected targets among a civilian population. RoBro is also angling for a man-vs.-machine message. You can tell because the trailer spells it out one word at a time. That's not layered under the action, or in satirical interstitials; that's a message shoveled on by writers who think it's impossible to care about someone unless his wife is actively crying at you.
Speaking of which ...
Officer Anne Lewis
Officer Anne Lewis' first action in the original was kicking criminal ass, and her last was responding to multiple gunshot wounds with high-explosive armor-piercing assault cannon fire.
Lean into this, asshole!
She was so tough, she endured all three RoboCops. Even the original RoboCop wasn't tough enough to take that, and he had armor to hide his face and shame. But the new movie hated the idea of a tough woman so much that they turned her into a man and then shot her anyway, all before RoboCop even turns up. That "officer down" at the start of the trailer? Officer Jack Lewis, whose carcass functions only to tell everyone that there would be no non-crying women in this movie.
"At no point will I use a Cobra Assault Cannon."
Clara Murphy comes pre-damseled: Her husband is killed at the start of the movie, but she still gets to cry about it for the rest, and she'll totally need defending. This movie replaces a toughened police officer with a weeping wife, because even when the hero has a non-stick wipe-clean surface instead of genitals, the leading lady needs to have slept with him. After all, a character can't be a woman unless she is specifically pleasing the man. They wanted to bring in Murphy's wife, and they can't have two women in the movie. What is this, lesbian porn?
Clara Murphy looks like the most terrible female stereotype in movies, an estrogen-soaked wet blanket. There is not one scene in that trailer where she's not cooking or crying. She literally runs into the middle of the road just to stop RoBroCop from being rad on his motorbike: "You listen here, Mr. Robo, you stop being cool and go in and have a glacial, emotional scene with your son! I don't care how many cops die fighting armed felons that your indestructible ass could collar in an instant, we're stopping this action right here and won't move another inch until there are emotions!" Any other boy in the world would high-five his dad for becoming the coolest father of all time, and they even left him a stupid fleshy hand so that he could do that.
"Son, I'm really worried about you. A normal kid would think this was awesome."
It's hard for RoBro to suffer the loss of his family when they're still there.
I really want the movie to be awesome, but it feels like an already retro franchise is actively moving back in time. His point of view has been reduced to T-800 redmurder vision instead of the original's full color, there are no female heroes, and they think we can't be intimidated by someone with a gun unless he's black.
RoboCop isn't the only hero who's gone wrong. There are the 5 Most Unwanted Video Game Sequels of All Time, the 8 Shittiest Transformer Disguises, the 8 Worst X-Men Ever, and Iron Man's 6 Dumbest Moments.