Sunday, May 5, 2013

What's two parts robo, one part cop?

       Somebody be as excited as I am for the upcoming Robocop remake, I dare you.
I fucking dare you.
Children of the late 80s have recently been treated (or subjected, depending on personal preference) to a spate of reboots and re-imaginings of the movies from our childhood. Transformers, Batman, and most recently, Judge Dredd, Total Recall, and even Red Dawn have all appeared in theaters with modifications and updates for the modern outlook of their aged fans (my god you guys are SO OLD.) With each preview, some part of me - I’d say inner child, but that implies I matured at some point - has given a small cheer, but the Robocop teaser should have come with a warning to consult a doctor in case of a prolonged erection.
What was it about a robotic police officer that excited me so much in my younger days? I suppose it was the idea that some day in the future, man could be merged with machine, creating something invincible, that someday, no matter what stupid thing I did to harm myself, they could rebuild me. They’d have the technology. Of course, as a child, I couldn’t comprehend the horrific struggle Alex Murphy, the Robocop project’s initial candidate went through in regaining his memories. I had no concept of how jarring it would be to go from emotionless machine to man-trapped-in-robot-body.
I just thought being able to shoot a bad guy while looking in the opposite direction was fucking neat.

I still do, but of course, now I really appreciate director Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop for it’s depth, satire, and that main villain Clarence Boddicker is played by Kurtwood Smith (Red Forman from That 70s Show.)
Not much has been released yet regarding the reboot save for some stills and concept videos, but from what I’ve seen so far, the film is going to have quite an updated look from its 20-plus-year-old predecessor. Let’s take a look at some of these differences.

The Machine:

The year 1985 was a long fucking time ago, and nothing indicates its vintage more than the original Robocop’s aesthetic.
At the time, automation of industrial processes by robots was becoming less of a fantastic idea and more of a solid reality. Repetitive tasks were being delegated to bulky machinery capable of precisely and tirelessly performing a set task, minimizing error while optimizing output. The idea that machines would slowly replace humans in jobs wasn’t new, but had taken on a dark popularity, as evidenced by the switch in outlook from the Jetsons-esque utopias depicted in earlier decades to the dirty, crowded, mechanized futures of films like Blade Runner and Total Recall.
Oddly enough, the creators of these films envisioned a future in which the technology existed to connect circuitry to nervous tissue, but not the capability of making the hardware of manageable size. Instead, my assumption is Edward Neumeier, the artist responsible for Robocop’s design, apparently studied the unwieldy robotics of the assembly line and cobbled a man from it. OG Robocop stood between six and seven feet tall, and was a machine approximation of the human body, finished in polished steel. His legs were decently in keeping with human anatomy (down to pneumatic calcaneal tendons,) but his torso was wide and deep, giving his head a sort of “I’ll just put this here” appearance, and his arms articulated slightly above where a human’s should.
The shiny finish of his armor, in conjunction with the oblong, skinny slot of transparent glass in his helmet give the impression of a sturdy, retro toaster, albeit a toaster that could kick your ass.

New Robocop appears to be the anthropomorphization of an android smartphone (product placement, perhaps?) His body has a much sleeker, more slender frame, and is finished in a matte black, a visual next-door neighbor to the Batman costume of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Robocop’s new, non-reflective body would help give him the element of surprise over OGR’s blatant ‘HEY EVERYBODY, I’MA FUGGIN ROWWWBAAAAHT’ design (which always seemed counter-intuitive, but then, when you’re known for making distinct servo noises just audible over ground-shaking footsteps and shooting criminals in the dick, subtlety is clearly the least of your concerns.)


Human Features:

In Robocop (1985,) Detroit police officer Alex Murphy is brutally torn apart by repeated pistol and shotgun blasts, leaving almost nothing but a shot-up torso and head. We see snippets of Murphy’s transformation into Robocop from Murphy’s perspective as he is powered up for brief moments for diagnostic tests. During one of these periods of consciousness, we see a technician inform Robocop Project director Dick Jones that the team managed to save Murphy’s left arm. Jones tells the technician to ditch it, as they’ve decided on total body prosthesis.
They get what they ask for; the only visible vestige of Murphy’s body is his face, the majority of which is covered by his helmet. When the helmet is removed, Robocop’s face is creepier than his square pecs and missing dick combined. Murphy’s face was stretched over a metal skull, and when I say stretched, I mean Team Robocop put Joan Rivers’ plastic surgeon to shame. Robocop’s forehead is more uncomfortably long than the silence after an unexpectedly audible fart in a crowded elevator. Thankfully for most of the movie we’re treated to no more of his face than his mouth.
Though I’ve yet to see under new and improved Robocop’s helmet, I imagine they’ve dialed back the fo-hed some. His new helmet is an uninterrupted sheet of tinted, curved glass, but still shows no more of his face than mouth and jaw.
New Robocop boasts another unique feature: a single human hand, specifically his right. It’s an odd island of flesh in a sea of black armor, and the only excuse I can come up with for it is that if you’re going to leave the guy a nose, you’d be a bastard not to leave him something to pick it with. OGR’s hands were large, bludgeon-y things with Lincoln Log fingers, unfit for much more than holding his gun and punching through anything and everything. I’d think he’d be hesitant to scratch his cheek for fear of tearing his whole fucking face off, however, perhaps Robocop (2014) director Jose Padilha plans to focus on Murphy’s romantic barriers, and left the single hand so Murphy could, uh… caress a woman’s face.
OGR had his own means of pleasing the ladies.

The hand does a lot in humanizing the new Robocop’s look; when taken in with the sleek, body-shaped chassis, the whole thing appears to be a suit a man is wearing, rather than the body itself. The hand appears to extrude from a sleeve rather than attach to a wrist. The hand leaves a lot of questions: Is it actual bone and hand, or is it just his hand skin stretched over a robot hand? Does it have the same weaknesses as a human hand? What the hell is he going to need a human hand for now that his dick’s MIA? 

     Ultimately there's still little information out about the new film, but it has a tentative release date of 2014. I don't do a lot of movies in the theater, but bet your ass I'm doing this one.

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