In defence of the RoboCop remake (with vegetables)

Feature Ryan Lambie 18 Sep 2012 - 06:30

With the redesigned suit from the RoboCop remake causing a stir, Ryan mounts a defence of next year's remake...

Editor's note:

Since we originally ran this article, we've received a very strongly worded letter from legal people working on behalf of MGM and CPII. Apparently, at least one of the promotional images that we've used in our generally positive reporting of the RoboCop remake has constituted "copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, Title 17 U.S Code Section 106(3)-(4)". Furthermore, the same letter kindly also alerted us to the fact that "This conduct may also violate the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and The Universal Copyright Convention, as well as bilateral treaties with other countries that allow for protection of CPII 's copyrighted works even beyond U.S borders".

We have been asked to "immediately cease and desist from using the Website to directly or indirectly cause, contribute to, enable, facilitate, aid, abet, induce, encourage, and/or participate in the infringement of CPII’s copyrighted works".

We are not sure how long we had to comply, but we've removed the offending exhibit from the site, and we are obviously apologetic for the distress this has caused, and the inevitable financial impact this will have had.

Furthermore, to err on the side of caution, and to prevent us inadvertedly causing such trouble again, we have had to update this article with images that we trust will be more acceptable. Our apologies again for any inconvenience caused in our attempts to be nice to the new RoboCop film.

Was the new RoboCop suit ever going to be anything but controversial? Remakes are seldom greeted with much enthusiasm, and when you’re dealing with a movie as admired as Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, it’s unsurprising that the mere idea of a new version of that 1987 action film has been treated with a mixture of apathy, distrust and outright hostility.

Nor is it surprising that, when the first glimpses of Joel Kinnaman in what we’re assuming is the final RoboCop outfit showed up on the web, the overall reaction wasn’t favourable; any redesign of the character’s suit will always be compared to the one Rob Bottin created back in the 80s.

In fairness, my first reaction to the set pictures from José Padilha’s movie wasn’t of dislike or annoyance, but bemusement. I spent several minutes wondering what it reminded me of, and after a while, I worked it out: it looks like lots of things mashed together - a dash of the Nolan Batman outfit, a touch of Japanese manga and anime hero The Guyver, a smidgeon of Power Rangers, and a dusting of Alienware PC hardware for good measure.

[Obviously, we can't now show you any pictures of Joel Kinnaman in his Robo outfit, so here's a recreation - made with tin foil and parsnips.]

As a devoted fan of the original film, it’s difficult not to feel at least a little ambivalent about the new version of RoboCop. With a relatively lean budget, the makers of the 1987 film created a truly unforgettable character, and playing around with the look of Robo is akin to redesigning the costume of an iconic superhero like Batman or Superman – you can do it, but you’d best be prepared for some stinging reactions in the process. 

It’s worth bearing in mind, of course, that there’s much we don’t yet know about the RoboCop remake. The images we’ve seen so far aren’t official stills, so it’s likely that, with some CG augmentation, the outfit will look very different in the finished film. 

Whether you like the new design or not, it’s arguable that the filmmakers behind the remake couldn’t have simply brought back the RoboCop suit from the 1987 movie and its sequels. Not only would this have led to accusations of its filmmakers unimaginatively recycling ideas (or copping out, if you’ll excuse the pun), but it would also have been wrong for a new generation of filmgoers.

Before you fling your rotten tomatoes, allow me to explain. Paul Verhoeven’s concept of RoboCop was based on classic American icons – cowboys embodied by actors such as John Wayne, or invincible, maverick cops like Dirty Harry. His RoboCop is an ordinary Irish police officer transformed by technology into a modern equivalent of an Old West gunslinger; his walk is slow and deliberate, each step highlighted by a metallic stomp, like the spurs of a small-town sheriff. He’s fearless, implacable. He shoots and never misses.

When designing RoboCop’s suit, Rob Bottin had originally imagined a much stealthier character, and thought up a costume with lots of dynamic lines which suggested forward motion. In the end, the concept he came up with based on Verhoeven’s suggestions was much heavier. He took inspiration and styling cues from Japanese animation heroes (just as the designers of the new suit appear to have done), the robot Maria from Metropolis, Star Wars’ C3PO, as well as the comic book character Judge Dredd. 

Twenty-five years later, and our cultural touchstones have shifted. A hero based on John Wayne and Dirty Harry wouldn’t mean much to a teenage audience (and lest we forget, this is primarily who the new RoboCop movie will be aimed at). The past decade or so has seen action cinema dominated not by slow-moving, stern men of purpose, but by stealthy characters who leap from rooftop to rooftop, or engage in rapid, close-quarters fights involving pens and rolled-up magazines.

It’s inevitable, then, that a modern RoboCop would be lighter and more nimble – more Jason Bourne than John Wayne. The influence of videogames shouldn’t be discounted, either; since the arrival of games such as Halo and Crysis, many of us have vicariously enjoyed what it might be like to be a half human, half machine hybrid. 

So while the new RoboCop outfit doesn’t look especially mind-blowing at first glance, we should at least bear in mind that, in the finished film, with all its lighting, sound effects and CG wizardry, it may look much better – especially when it’s in motion. Just how athletic is the new RoboCop? Can he fly around, like Iron Man? Does he still have the gun stored in his thigh, like the old Robo? 

One thing we do know, from other images seen so far, is that RoboCop will drive a car and ride a motorbike.

[Obviously, we can't now show you these pictures, so here's a parsnip driving a Taurus Police Interceptor instead.]

Then we come to director José Padilha. His two Elite Squad movies are, arguably, among the finest police thrillers of the past decade. Not only do they mix politically shrewd drama and action extraordinarily well, but they also drive home a message that isn't dissimilar to one explored by RoboCop or its inspiration, Judge Dredd. The Elite Squad movies are about a private army of heavily-armed law enforcers, who attempt to overwhelm violent drug dealing gang culture with even more violence. The result is an irresistible force hitting an immovable object, and the losses and trauma on both sides are devastating. 

If Padilha doesn't make an intelligent, aggressive and powerful RoboCop picture, it'll be due to outside forces, we suspect, than because of any lack of talent on his part. For Padilha, an independent filmmaker from Brazil, feeding himself into the Hollywood blockbuster woodchipper is a big risk, but if he can mix the realism of Elite Squad with the sci-fi of the RoboCop franchise, the results could be explosive.

And if there are any readers worried that Padilha's RoboCop will step too far away from the comic-book overtones of the 1987 movie, rest assured that the metal law enforcer's arch nemesis ED-209 will be back for the remake.

[Obviously, we can't now show you the first official image of ED-209, so here's our artist's impression, which incorporates only the freshest organic produce.]

There’s another important point to consider, too: the suit is only 25 per cent of the character, at most. Fabulous though Bottin’s work was on the original RoboCop, it was Peter Weller’s stunning performance that brought the character to life. His expert body movements truly made us believe that he was a cyborg and not just an actor in a suit, and with only part of his face exposed for much of the film, he nevertheless succeeded in making the plight of his character truly moving.

Even the best costume design in the world wouldn’t have disguised a mediocre performance, and with a lesser actor cast as Robo, the results could have been shambolic. 

It could be argued, then, that it’s actor Joel Kinnaman, the actor inside the new RoboCop, who faces the greater challenge, and not the suit designer. His previous work, in the US remake of The Killing TV series, or 2010’s Swedish thriller Easy Money (Snabba Cash) hint at an actor with great potential.

If Kinnaman can bring strength and humanity to the role, and truly make us believe that he too is the future of law enforcement, then maybe, just maybe, next summer will see the release of a rare thing: a genuinely brilliant big-screen remake.

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totally agree with the article. There is so much we don't know about the character performance yet and that will bring so much more to it. I imagine Robo will be a lot faster and the suit needs to reflect this. As much as I love love love the original, you always understand that a criminal could outrun him, even with his super accurate shooting, I doubt that would be the case here. Also it's black, this years TDKR was the first time we've seen Batman on film ot in daylight with some of the reason being how hard it is to light the suit in a realistic manner in daylight. I doubt that the new robocop suit was being lit for a phone snapper 100 yards away. I'll give it a chance still as I'm impressed by the cast and well I gave total recall a chance.

The performance point is well made (Weller deserves HUUUUGE kudos for his portrayal of the post-conversion Murphy) but this new look seems misconceived to me in several ways. Having the hand visible is a huge mistake. He doesn't look like a cyborg, he looks like a man in a rubber suit. Also, given that they have publicly said this Robo will be faster and more agile, I'm not holding out much hope.

Probably a bit early to call foul on the new look Robo based soley on a couple of snatched on-set pics with no context.
Also - having praised Peter Weller's performance as Robo as one of the saving graces of the film, it's a tad odd that you chose to use a pic of Robert Burke in the costume from Robocop 3, especially seeing as he was picked for the role primarily because of his similar stature to Weller, who had declined the 3rd film (good choice!) thereby saving the production from having to rebuild the suit.

I think this article has warmed me up a bit to the new suit design. Some excellent points i never really considered. I too am a massive fan of the original so im gonna be real hard to please on this remake. The prospect of a Jason Bourne style cyborg police officer does peak my interest tho. I await this film with excitement but also dread!

Are we sure that that's the robocop then?!? And not just some kind of futuristic SWAT-style police armor he used before turning into robocop?!

There's too little information about the photo yet to judge whether the exposed hand is part of the costume or just a practical move inbetween takes so that he can eat/drink/whatever.

The Man-in-a-Suit point is pretty valid though. I'm sure that at some point it will suffer damage and show off exactly what he looks like underneath but, yeah, he just looks like a slimmer batman.

I do like the helmet though.

It's just not 'robotty' enough. It just looks like a futuristic black suit on a guy - not the remains of someone who has undergone total body prosthesis - puts me in mind of Charlie Sheen's Wraith costume.

It's very slick and streamlined and makes me think that we're gong to see Robocop doing something which the absence of him doing in the original was one of his defining characteristics - running.

No - the suit is awful and they should STOP remaking films that do NOT need remaking!!! Do a sequel by all means but stop with the remakes!

I love the kettle in your picture as inspiration for the new suit! most amusing.

It looks bloody awful. I'm thinking they watched Condorman and copied those bad guys from the black porches (nice obscure ref there)

Interesting point to reference Iron Man there. That, rather than the Batman thing, is what can sway me on the new look. The Iron Man suits are just that, suits - as in a man in a suit. Even though it is sleek, it can be cumbersome sometimes. Robocop though is mostly machine, so with existing tech combined with what is coming down the pipeline, it would make sense he would be more streamlined.

Don't get me wrong, I still don't like the new look (really, black? None to stealthy in daylight) but from a purely tech standpoint I can just about understand it.

I used to own that kettle. This makes me warm up to the new suit a tiny bit.

As much as I love the original movie, it always bugged me that RoboCop could only walk at a slow studded pace - more akin to a tank. This was further emphasized in the Prime Directive mini-series were the full extent of the climatic battle with a rival RoboCop was then s-l-o-w-l-y walking towards each other whilst firing. Ho hum. A more nimble, less clunky RoboCop would be much more formidable.

I agree about your point about Old RoboCop being slow moving but precise at shooting like a cowboy. They should retain that. But then looking at the new suit, I think they're modernizing Robocop in a time where robots are fast moving just like in videogames. It should be illogical to make a slow moving Robo.

P.S.
I laughed hard at your collage about the possible inspirations of the new suit.

Yes, the original suit took inspiration from a lot of places. I don't think the new one does at all. Take Nolan's batsuit. Remove cape. Add a motorcycle helmet. Done.

Hooray for common sense and reasoning. Good article.

Well that's it. This article has ruined the new film for me (not that i am looking forward to seeing a classic film butchered). All I will see now when watching it is a Power Ranger. Thanks DOG!

Looks like one of the designers who worked on Minority Report made a Gimp suit.

That is what made RoboCop such a badass, he was not worried about moving quickly, he didn't have to move quickly, his size and presents gave him his power, I don't think I will like a RoboCop flying around like Iron Man, jumping around like Yoda or those stupid GI Joe morons.

I don't know about this... it just looks like a man in a suit.. like the batsuit... the original robocop _looked_ like a man that had what was left of his body put into a robotic shell...

He he loved the + coffemaker. Faaaantastic :-)

come on guys, i doubt this suit we see here is the finished article anyway. it seems obvious to me that its unfinished. i reckon theres a lot of cg work to be added on top during editing or something along those lines. maybe it still has to be painted or something like that.

personally i dont mind the sleeker quicker take, but i think it would be cool if he retained robotic movements to a degree like the original.

The new film WONT have Voerhoeven catching a gun in a nightclub and that my fellow geeks has to be the funniest scene ever captured on film. REBOOTCOP looks like one of Skeletors stormtroopers from Masters Of The Universe - The Motion Picture.

"We can rebuild his hand we have the technology." Shouldn't we just be worried about the Robocop FILM?

I think we should all calm down and wait to see an official image rather than what is probably a sfx suit which will have digital enhancements..... Then I think we can start drawing more educated conclusions!!

Oh, I just thought they would stick some CGI over the top of it to make it look good.

They should have Robocop rescue Steve Borden (pro wrestler Sting) from a cage.

Should you be worried about the new Robocop suit? no, the film is probably gonna suck regardless of if he looks like a power ranger or not.

I don't like it. Yeah, it looks sleek and futuristic and maybe they will add some bells and whistles in post-production SFX to make it less like a robot ninja, and if this were a stand alone movie about a robot Bourne I would say it looks great, but this is supposed to be RoboCop and they needed to preserve some similarities with the original. I very much doubt the movie will be much good and will probably be a bit like Total Recall (2012) in that its not that bad, just not that good but they would have got a lot more people in to see it if it looked even vaguely like Peter Weller version.

Let's just say that with the bad script reviews, Padilla's bitching, and the PG 13 rumors, there already is the pretty solid taste of another generic bland remake pile of crap.

Looks gay as hell!

He's a ROBOcop. He needs to look like a ROBOT!!!!

A sequel to Robocop 3? Thats like asking for a sequel to Batman and Robin.

Thanks for writing this - I almost went mad reading all those brain dead comments on the internet, like people don't even know they can't actually make Kinnaman into a REAL robot. LOL I felt like crying and laughing simultaneously at times. Anyway, good job.

thanks

oh, what the hell fried chicken.

No. If you want to make a movie about a Mexican wresting Jackie Chan cyborg, call it "Queerbot" or "Fail: the Movie" Robocop's style has already defined, and this generic video game garbage is not even close.

Nice reply. Root crops don't get enough limelight anyway.

Hmmm... CGI vegetables... now there's an idea.

ROFL!!! Great Article!!!

"Immediately cease and desist from using the Website to directly
or indirectly cause, contribute to, enable, facilitate, aid, abet,
induce, encourage, and/or participate in the infringement of CPII’s
copyrighted works. YOU HAVE 20 SECONDS TO COMPLY!"

RoboParsnip! The Veg with superior roasting power!
Copyright violation my arse! MGM should be paying DoG for the free advertising! Schmucks!

Half vegetable. Half machine. Robocrop.

I am excited to see Roboparsnip square off against his archenemy, THE PEELER.

PLEASE CEASE AND DESIST USING ANY IMAGES OF A PARSNIP DRESSED IN TIN FOIL. ANY SUCH IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHTED UNDER THE VEGETABLE AND METALLIC SUBSTANCE ACT 1973 AND ARE A DIRECT VIOLATION OF OUR RIGHTS AS HOLDERS OF THE PATENT AND COPYRIGHTS OF THE AFOREMENTIONED PARSNIPS. SIGNED, THE PARSNIP COMPANY.

I dunno, personally I feel the new suit looks a lot like a parsnip in tinfoil.

Yeah they do, there are only a few robot designs that look human ish and these are mostly in japan and are unable to move from their power source. Most mobile robots still look like robots.

'I'd buy that for a dollar'. Actually, the produce section in my local Lidl could probably get me it for less.

The original Robocop films were rubbish. All of them.

You know what - given they obviously don't want the free publicity... I'd refrain from mentioning this film ever again - just in case...

Ha! Good for you DoG, that'll show em! All because someone at MGM got there knickers in a twist their Robo remake will forever (in my mind) be associated with Parsnips, CLASSIC!

... with vegetables! You guys created a very funny and creative solution to a stupid "copyright" situation (MGM you suck! it's free publicity dagnamit!!)

We should now start a petition to get Robocop remade with a parsnip.

Best response to a takedown notice I've ever seen!

i thought parody wasnt effected by copyright take downs so long as it was clearly a derivative work (at least in the US its OK, idk how it works in europe)

Just imagine...if you will, for one second. Just imagine this. The new Robocop film is better than the original.
Erm.....
er.
um...
ahem.
Ok...I am finished imagining....
Its not very likely is it. Not in the least.
As other posters have pointed out, Pg13. Bad reviews of the script and so on. The one thing everyone seems to forget is this. Yes the new suit looks like Batman, meets a Poweranger and some Anime / Manga Guyver thrown in. But I have said this on here before.....
ANYONE REMEMBER STREETHAWK??????????????
Streethawk...that crap cop show from the 80s , when the cop / p.i. or whatever he was rode a superbike that was just like K.I.T.T. from Knightrider, except it was a motor bike....and it didnt talk.....or do very much......but it had a laser built into it. I think.
Anyhoo...the pictures of the new Robocop on the bike looks EXACTLY like StreetHawk.
So we are not going to get Robocop.....we are going to get Robocrap crossed with StreetHawk. Or in another dimension, it might be a good film, really good...Oscar Winning...with great effects and a great original story.....
And while I am dreaming I would like a Ferrari for Christmas, delivered to me by a naked lady, naked apart from a few bits of tinsel....ahem.
Sigh...its all just so predictable isnt it? Congrats on the Roboparsnip....THAT will be a better film. With better acting, and better effects....In fact, I would pay to see that.

MGM: Because when we wallow in debt, we'd really prefer it if you just let us drown.

And root cops even less...

What I find hilarious is that the same pictures this place was asked to take down, are available all over the internet via google image searches.

The ED-209 should look a lot more like a turnip in tinfoil. The current design is just... awkward.

BEETROOTCOP

So who else spent about 5 minutes laughing at the new pictures? :D

I agree, the really look like vegetables now. I rather how they looked in the old days. Hate the new organic look they are going for!

I hate everything about this movie including the cast, director and financial backers.

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