The ‘Robocop’ reboot will test whether tech can terrify the iPhone-wielding masses

RoboCop 2014 oped main

Last week, the long-awaited trailer for the Robocop reboot was released, and we can say for certain that the production value has clearly been elevated. That’s good, but the tone seems awfully serious, which maybe isn’t so good. Call me optimistic, but I’m still holding out hope that at least one of the bad guys gets his skin melted off in an unfortunate collision with a tank of toxic waste, just like in the original. If not, this new newer, sleeker version with be a big disappointment – Gary Oldman or no Gary Oldman.

If you haven’t seen the 1987 original, you really only have one of three excuses: you weren’t yet born, you were too young, or you were too high minded. Regardless… shame on you. Released the same year that gave us The Simpsons, Zac Efron, and Prozac, Robocop was directed by Paul Verhoeven, the same cinematic genius who brought us Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls. But before he made any of those, he struck the perfect balance between camp and violence with a dystopian vision of law enforcement in the not-too-distant future. Or, that’s how 12-year-old me remembers it.

Unlike Iron Man, Robocop wasn’t a celebration of technology – it was a pushback against it.

Robocop takes place in an 80s version of Detroit that’s a crumbling shell of it’s former self, where government services have been outsourced to corporations. Far fetched, right? Omni Consumer Products, which goes by the cuddly acronym OCP, has taken over the Detroit police department and it aims to replace regular officers with the ED-209, which looks like an ATST from Star Wars and for some reason roars like a lion. When the ED-209 malfunctions and pumps an unassuming OCP executive full of a few hundred live rounds during a presentation (someone call IT!!!), the company scraps the big giant robots idea and moves forward with the somehow less ambitious cyborg Robocop program instead. I don’t get it either; just go with it!

Shortly thereafter, our hero, Detective Murphy, dies in the line of duty and his remains are used to create the first part-human, part-machine, and all-badass that begins to clean up the city. What? It could totally happen! I won’t spoil it for you, but needless to say things for Detective Murphy go south pretty quickly and the seemingly well-intentioned multinational corporation winds up not being what it appeared. Shocking, I know.

These days, Hollywood and men with circuitry are totally BFFs, but back in 1987, Robocop was pretty unique – and not just because the hero needed an oil change or because the film’s mix of comedy and graphic violence was the mother load for pre-pubescent boys. I mentioned that a guy’s skin melts off after he crashes into a tank of toxic waste, right? ‘Cause when I first saw that, it messed. Me. Up.

Unlike Iron Man, Robocop wasn’t a celebration of technology – it was a pushback against it, a suggestion that maybe we’d gone a little too far in our embrace of automated everything, including intelligence. I should probably mention that just the year before it’s release, this happened.

It will be interesting to see if the new Robocop reflects that same fear, because it certainly seems like we’ve moved beyond it. These days, we’re perfectly happy letting robots clean our homes and kill our enemies, and entertain our dogs. Tech is woven into the fabric of every facet of our world, and despite the warnings, the machines haven’t come for us. The worst you can say about them is that they’ve given us bad directions. In the 80s version of Jobs, Steve Jobs would have been a Lex Luthor-like criminal hell-bent on world domination. These days, Steve Jobs is a celebrated misanthrope played by the most adorable sit-com star since Small Wonder.

The new Robocop might feature a better cast, a tighter script, and cooler special effects, but I’m pretty confident that it won’t be able to capture the creeping anxiety we once felt about technology’s inexorable march toward ubiquity. If there was ever a Cold War between man and machine, the machines have won. And that’s totally fine, because we’re all ok with it, right? Right

(Images and video © Sony Pictures Digital Productions Inc. All rights reserved.)

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Movies & TV

How much!? Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones hat fetches $520,000 at auction

Described by the auctioneer as "a globally recognized cinematic treasure," the fedora worn by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark has just gone under the hammer for more than half a million bucks.
Home Theater

If you've got questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray, we've got answers

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players are a killer way to beef up your home theater. Here's everything you need to know about one of the most significant advances in home entertainment to arrive in years.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Cars

End your dependence on fossil fuels with one of these amazing electric cars

Electric cars are getting smarter, safer, and more capable with each passing year. Here are our picks for the best electric cars on the market, whether you're looking for a performance ride or a family-friendly crossover.
Gaming

‘Hellboy’ reboot screenwriter could helm animated ‘Diablo’ series on Netflix

Hellboy reboot screenwriter and Boom! Studios founder Andy Cosby has revealed that he's in talks to write and act as showrunner for an animated Diablo series on Netflix. Little else is known about the project.
Home Theater

'My Dinner with Hervé,' more 'Flight of the Concords' arrive on HBO in October

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. Follow us to find out what's new on HBO each month. October 2018 brings My Dinner With Hervé and Camping.
Movies & TV

Joaquin Phoenix puts on his 'Joker' makeup in new video

Todd Phillips is developing a stand-alone Joker origin story, with Joaquin Phoenix set to portray the Clown Prince of Crime. From casting to plot details, here's everything we know about the movie so far.
Podcasts

Loki's TV show, Twilight Zone teaser, Captain Marvel trailer

This week on Between the Streams, we're back from hiatus and ready to catch you up on all the cool things that have happened in the last two weeks, from new Marvel series set to debut on Disney Play to our first Captain Marvel trailer.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in September 2018, from 'Spotlight’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

September brings 'The Dragon Prince,' an animated war series, to Netflix

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Apple

Apple hates sex, drugs, and violence — on Apple TV, anyway

Apple is working hard to produce original TV shows and movies. It's also working to ensure that violence, nudity, and other potentially offensive content can't tarnish the company's image.