Our first look at Brazilian director José Padilha’s 2014 RoboCop remake is here, and it’s unexpectedly promising. While hewing fairly closely to the original’s premise—after he’s severely wounded, good cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is transformed into a part-man, part-robot cop by a corporation with possibly shady motivations—Padilha seems to have made enough new stylistic and story choices to make his version its own thing.
The campier elements of the original have been stripped away; I doubt we’ll see any Bixby Snyder in the remake. And though I’ve long been bored with the “gritty reboot” method—RoboCop’s armor has gone from a DeLorean-style brushed-aluminum finish to Dark Knight Black—it’s probably a wise approach here: Aping the over-the-top style that Verhoeven mastered would surely have led to a faint carbon copy. Meanwhile, the cast is full of just the sort of fun performers—Samuel L. Jackson! Michael Keaton! Michael K. Williams! Hey, even Jay Bruchel!—who can chew scenery and deliver ridiculous sci-fi villainy with conviction. So Padilha may give us a grittier RoboCop that nonetheless maintains a real sense of fun.
It’s also worth noting that in this remake Murphy apparently retains his personality and memories after his RoboCop-ification. So rather than being the story of a robot learning to recall his humanity, we have a story of a man learning to deal with his new (and possibly sinister) robot brain. This also seems like a good move, since the film won’t be able to rely on Peter Weller’s amazing physical chops, which perfectly (and perhaps ironically) conveyed the cold, neutered humanity of his RoboCop.
Speaking of physicality, let’s be real: It’s going to be awesome to see RoboCop actually do the amazing action stunts you’d hope to see from a RoboCop. While the awkwardness of the original had its charms, I am fully ready to watch RoboCop make 50-foot running leaps and sprint at 40 mph to chase down bad dudes. After all, realism is an appropriate style for this movie now, given how eerily the world of RoboCop now resembles our own.