It’s been 25 years since Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop painted a nightmare vision of a near future in which a cyborg policeman became humanity’s salvation — so how will the upcoming reboot, starring Swedish-American actor Joel Kinnaman (AKA Holder of TV’s The Killing), update the tale? Movieline spoke with Kinnaman, who continues his Hollywood cross-over attempt in Friday’s New York drama Lola Versus, about Jose Padilha’s RoboCop — and the real-world technology that suggests we’re already in a much different future than the original envisioned.
Not convinced that the robot future is close at hand? Just take a look at the cyborg advances that have been made in Japan, where Kinnaman joked he’d be going to spend time with lifelike robots in preparation for his RoboCop role. “Have you seen these Japanese hospital droids, or humanoids or whatever they call them? They’ve perfected the skin, the skin looks so real, and they have these motors between the eyes for when they smile,” he marveled. “It’s just mind-blowing. We’re pretty close already. You can find it on YouTube. It’s spooky, but we’re getting really close.”
Kinnaman says shooting on the remake begins for him in September, with Gary Oldman on board to play Norton, a scientist responsible for turning the human Alex Murphy into RoboCop. Today, THR broke the news that Samuel L. Jackson playing “Pat Novak, a charismatic TV mogul and a powerful force in the Robocop world.”
As for writer-director Padilha (Elite Squad, Elite Squad 2), Kinnaman had high praise. “He’s a young master, and a very strong visionary, and he wants to make something with a lot of substance, he said. “If you’ve seen Elite Squad then you know the action sequences are a walk in the park for him, he can portray action very realistically – and that’s how he wants to do this movie.”
“It takes place in the future and it’s RoboCop, but it’s still going to feel like a gritty, down to earth movie,” he added. “With a lot of fireworks around it, but…”
Back in September, Padilha spoke with Movieline describing his take on RoboCop and the deeper questions his version will explore:
“Even looking at the first RoboCop, which is a film that I love, it’s not local in that sense; it has an acid critique of society as a whole and it also deals with different subject matter that is more universal, like what is it like to replace people with automatic systems?
A lot of jobs today are being automated; what happens when you extend that concept to very important areas of society like law enforcement? What happens if you start controlling the behavior of criminals or people in general with software-running machines? Those questions, they look like they’re sci-fi but they’re not. Pretty soon we’ll have robots in our society, you’re going to have a lot of automated processes that used to be done by people – this is happening. Society and technology is changing so fast, and the impact of the change on society and technology is global, not local. RoboCop talks a little bit about this. What does it mean to replace a person or enhance a person by using technology? What does that do to the person themselves? What sort of drama does it create, what sort of philosophical questions lurk behind those things?”
Kinnaman, meanwhile, has said his and Padilha’s approach to the character is more of an “acting piece” than Peter Weller’s original turn; a reported costume update means his eyes will be more visible, for starters. Asked to elaborate, he offered this explanation of how their RoboCop will differ from Verhoeven’s:
“It just comes from the realization that our vision of a robot 30 years from now is very different from the vision of what a robot was in the future in 1987. That is the main thing. Obviously there are some things in the script that lead into that, but that stuff I can’t talk about.”