Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop was a delirious mix of satire and cheese that refused to take itself seriously. The nonsensical but highly enjoyable story about a critically injured Detroit cop who is turned into a robot super-cop blended Dirty Harry, Westworld and Entertainment Tonight into an ultraviolent slice of Reagan-era satire.
It was bloody and gory at a time when getting an ‘R’ rating wasn’t necessarily box-office poison: made in 1987, Robocop cost $13 million, and took $54 million in the United States alone. It had originally received an ‘X’ rating because of its violence, which was trimmed to get the ‘R’. It’s still a pretty gory film.
The remake cost $100 million (they’ll probably spend as much again advertising it); it will be rated ‘PG-13’ to maximise profits. Judging from the trailer, it looks as if this new take on the story will similarly focus on the hero’s memories of his life before he became part robot, but it also throws in a new concept: he isn’t fully in charge of himself – the evil Omnicorp has removed his free will to prevent him doing … what, exactly? refusing to follow orders?
The remake looks loud and is populated with veteran scenery chewers Gary Oldman and Samuel l. Jackson. It has a couple of nods to the original, including bringing back Miguel Ferrer. Not much has changed since the late 1980s. Detroit is still a pretty dangerous place. It’s also broke, so it couldn’t afford many robot cops. But police forces in America have been increasingly militarised.
In 1987, Robocop was a silly slice of dystopian sci-fi nonsense. In a few years, the remake might resemble a documentary.