José Padilha is convinced robots will soon be replacing law enforcement officials, so why is everyone so robophobic? It’s the perfect time to “make the idea current,” according to Padilha.
In his reboot of RoboCop, a man is put inside a machine, and the clash among ethics, morality and politics questions the entire social infrastructure.
Taking the reigns is Padilha, a relatively successful director from Brazil known for the documentary Bus 174 and two Elite Squad films. You might not think Padilha’s resume indicates he could take on this ‘80s cult classic; however, his cast members, including Joel Kinnaman took on the film due to his involvement alone.
“When I heard there was a Robocop remake being made, my initial reaction was ‘Yeah I might see that in theaters.’ I didn’t think it was a good fit for me, at least for where I was at the time,” said Kinnaman.
The talented, new Hollywood star had been keeping busy with AMC’s “The Killing” and Snabba Cash, a Swedish trilogy.
“But then I found out José Padilha was directing it, and I had seen his films…that completely changed my perspective of what the possibilities of what the remake could be. There are a lot of wrong reasons to make a remake, but they’re also good ones, and I was certain this was a good one,” he said.
And this RoboCop does seem like a good remake, as the film has already received positive praises by fans and neophytes alike.
The film is set in 2028. Detroit is consumed by crime and corruption, making it the perfect place for OmniCorp, the world’s leading robotics defense company, to implement the foolproof policeman. However, the idea of a robot pulling the trigger puts people on edge.
When Officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is severely injured, OmniCorp’s CEO, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) jumps at the opportunity to build a part-man, part-robot police officer and turn Murphy into RoboCop.
It isn’t long before RoboCop’s existence raises philosophical dilemmas of free will for his creator, Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman).
“It’s an unusual contrast between the patient and caring Dr. Norton and the monster scientist [in himself]. Norton and Alex are friends, and then they become like father-son, so it’s a very Frankenstein,” said Oldman.
Alex’s wife, Clara Murphy (Abbie Cornish), goes through agony; she is not ready to let her husband go. It was important for Padilha to flesh out Cornish’s character a bit more than in the original film in order for her to be the driving force behind RoboCop’s choice to fight the system.
“The family dynamic became an important element. It was important to ground Alex with a family and not have that journey just be about revenge but because of [the fact] he has a heart and soul,” said Cornish.
The greatest asset to the film's success is the director and cast’s nostalgic ties to Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 RoboCop. Padilha’s version has small, poignant nods to the original, which was discussed with Kinnaman, and is careful not to overstep and verge on imitative.
“There were versions of the script where so many of the catch phrases were in it, but we’re making a reboot of RoboCop, not Verhoeven’s RoboCop,” said Kinnaman.
“He had a specific tone and so does Jose [Padilha], so I think it would’ve been a disservice and disrespectful to the original to try and keep every line. But it felt pretty cool to say some of those lines,” chuckled the star.
With that said, the film uses two different suits: the first suit was “intentionally a tip of the hat to the original film and the original design,” said Eric Newman, one of the film’s producers. There was also, of course, the more “tactical” black suit.
Both suits were equally a challenge for Kinnaman, who struggled to get into the suit for an hour and 45 minutes. Wearing it 14 hours a day, six days a week for five months was a daunting idea for him. But sure enough, the distress of the suit was the very thing that got him into Alex Murphy’s shoes.
“The suit became one of the first seeds that led my imagination into the vulnerability that Alex Murphy felt after he became Robocop,” said Kinnaman.
Although, Kinnaman picks up on Peter Weller’s movements from the original film, he brings a fresh perspective and consciousness to the role, which didn’t go unnoticed among his cast members.
“Joel’s job was particularly difficult because of the suit. He makes these unbelievable transitions from human then robot, to robot and human at the same time, and I was really knocked out by him. It was extraordinary what he did,” said Keaton.
Keaton couldn’t help but bring up the struggles he went through with the Batman suit back in 1992 and teased Kinnaman, saying “he has it easy” under the air-conditioned RoboCop suit.
Padilha delivers a fantastic action movie, (at times trigger happy) with various underlying philosophical dilemmas that we can’t help but wonder about in regards to our own future. When the time comes, will we choose man or machine?
RoboCop releases in theaters Feb. 12, 2014.