On Joel Kinnaman and the Thing About RoboCop's Eyes

I always thought what made the original RoboCop so affecting was the transition of Alex Murphy from family man and upstanding cop to firing-squad target to crime-fighting machine to vulnerable yet indestructible emo-robot hybrid. It made for an ingeniously subtle arc against which to project the rest of Paul Verhoeven's pulpy, gory social satire, and Peter Weller's performance — essentially three performances layered atop and influencing each other — provided the foundation on which the film has held up for a quarter-century. So I don't know what to make of... this, from RoboCop remake star Joel Kinnaman (via MTV):

RoboCop is going to be a lot more human. The first movie is one of my favorite movies. I love it. Of course, Verhoeven has that very special tone, and it’s not going to have that tone. It’s a re-imagination of it. There’s a lot of stuff from the original. There are some details and throwbacks, but this version is a much better acting piece, for Alex Murphy and especially when he is RoboCop. It's much more challenging. [...] It's not going to be jaw action. They’re still working on the suit and how it’s going to look, but the visor is going to be see-through. You’re going to see his eyes.

I mean, OK? If only Weller had had a more "challenging" role in 1987! Think of how much better RoboCop would have turned out. Moreover — giving Kinnaman and director José Padilha the benefit of the doubt, even — what's the upside of giving Murphy's remade face away before the big third-act reveal? Wasn't the point not that we "see his eyes," but that we see through his eyes — everything from domestic flashbacks to Clarence Boddicker spitting on his mask? Which then forces us to reconcile the human with the robot, especially once those eyes are revealed?

I'm pulling for this movie, I swear, but this just seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of character. This is the leading man we're talking about! I'll take "details and throwbacks," sure, but don't leave out the heart and soul.

[MTV via AICN]

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  • I like the first two ROBOCOP movies quite a bit--and I
    can't help but wonder, Why Mess With A Good Thing?
    We've seen an awful lot of really cruddy remakes, and
    this has that aroma.
    As Clarence Boddicker said: "Bitches, leave". If this movie sucks, I'm with you! Absolutely!
    Loved the RoboCop pistol. I'd buy that for a dollar!

    • SD says:

      I agree that it will be hard to top. The first had a lot of great social satire and some pretty funny bits too.

      And yet it still had moments of violence I still find tough to watch.

      • Max Renn says:

        Thirded. The original is in my top ten movies. And it sounds like they didn't understand the character or material at all.

  • Jen Yamato says:

    I hear that, Kris -- and there are two reasons why I'm more onboard with a RoboCop remake than I might be for any other remake. 1) Jose Padilha and 2) Joel Kinnaman, AKA my new obsession thanks to the fact that the entire first season of The Killing is on demand.

  • JensL says:

    I say for now to give Padhila and Kinnaman the benefit of the doubt. Both like to go to the dark side, both do only violent and R rated movies, and both have satirical senses of humor. Given the leap of time from the original, I personally think it would be a mistake to not ackowledge use of bioengineering in a human robot in some way. It could be equally dehumanizing.