In the 1987 sci-fi action film RoboCop, the boss of a mega corporation that controls Detroit's law enforcement declares: "Detroit has a cancer," and "the cancer is crime." Now, 25 years after the cult classic's titular half-man, half-machine vowed to cure that cancer, RoboCop is back. And while a rebooted RoboCop, staring The Killing's Joel Kinnaman, may not hit theaters until August 2013, Sony Pictures is already kicking its marketing campaign into gear with a website for mega corporation OmniCorp and a fake advertisement showing off its new line of crime-fighting robots. In a teaser video (watch it below), fans get a good look at the infamous ED-209 — the defensive droid that RoboCop replaced at the beginning of the 1987 film — and a shadowy glimpse at the new RoboCop (RC 2000). From the glossy new designs to the clever marketing campaign, here are six things that have critics buzzing:
1. The questionable revival of the ED-209
Director Paul Verhoeven used the clunky, two-legged ED-209 in his iconic 1987 original to symbolize all that was wrong with "unfettered, inhuman corporate governance of public services," says Ben Child at Britain's The Guardian. The nightmarishly unstable automaton had such an impact on the late-1980s popular culture that its signature robotic phrase — "You have 20 seconds to comply" — was even sampled in a hip-hop track. How can the new version possibly live up to that? Are you kidding, asks Jordan Hoffman at Movieline. If new director José Padhila didn't include ED in the reboot, "nerds with pitchforks" would be knocking down the studio gates.
2. The robots' glossy new look
In 1987, the robots were brought to life using stop-animation. This time around, they've got a sleek CGI upgrade. Consider the new ED-209, says Hoffman. It looks like "ED senior mated with a Lamborghini." RoboCop, or what little you see of him in the teaser, is no slouch either. Padhila forgoes the original gray/blue/black color scheme for a glossy black finish accentuated with red lights. Eh, I already miss the old robots, says Marcus Doidge at What Culture. The original ED-209 had "real personality." It was "big, aggressive, and downright mean." This new ED-209 could have been an extra in Transformers.
3. The possibility of a Comic-Con debut
The teaser's weekend release was likely no accident. Debuting just days before Comic-Con, San Diego's annual comic book geek-fest, the clip and website are clearly meant to excite cultish fans. Indeed, the video hints that a reveal of the RoboCop redesign is "coming soon," says Doidge, which suggests that this week's convention might be host to a "stomping, half man, half machine, all cop presentation."
4. The big change in the RoboCop/ED-209 dynamic
In the 1987 film, RoboCop and ED-209 are enemies. RoboCop only comes into play after ED-209's spectacular public malfunction and, later in the film, RoboCop is forced to face ED-209 in certain-death combat. In this video, however, the two products are presented as "complementary technology," says Russ Fischer at SlashFilm, "rather than competing interests." That's a major plot overhaul.
5. The genius marketing campaign
With this clever video, the reboot falls right in line with the 1987 film, which was peppered with "wry newscasts and commercials from the future," says Carol Pinchefsky at Forbes. With tag lines like "Order for your city today," Padilha's 2013 version "looks like a commercial that befits Verhoeven's classic."
6. The surprising resilience of 1987's themes
Verhoeven's RoboCop explored what happened when public institutions are privatized and unthinking machines decide who lives and who dies, says Aaron Couch at The Hollywood Reporter. A quarter-century later, those themes resonate as strongly as ever. Today, our real-life battles are fought using intelligent drones while ethicists debate the use of suddenly "commonplace" killing machines. Talk about prescient.
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