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ROBOCOP

About The Film
Man and machine unite in RoboCop, a reimagining of the 1980s cult classic, directed by Jose Padilha. In the film, Officer Alex Murphy becomes the star product of OmniCorp, the world's leading robotics defense company. In a Detroit ravaged by crime, OmniCorp sees an opening for the perfect policeman - a robot that can clean up the city, without putting police lives at risk. Trouble is, the idea of a robot pulling the trigger makes people anxious. To get it done, they compromise: after Murphy is mortally wounded, he wakes up in the hospital mostly a robot, barely a man at all - but all cop.

For OmniCorp, Murphy represents a tremendous opportunity. "He's a product they want to sell," Padilha explains. "He's a prototype. He's been developed, just like a soda company might develop a new bottle: they're trying to find the ideal design for a robot to sell to police departments. It's potentially billions of dollars for the company, so they're willing to cut a few ethical corners to get there. But they forgot something - inside the product, there is a man; it's not just a suit, it's a human being. They set up this invention that they think they can control, but they pick the wrong guy. They pick somebody too good, a guy determined to use his new powers for justice."

"OmniCorp's idea is that they need a man inside the machine, a man who makes the decisions so the corporation won't be held liable if something goes wrong," says Joel Kinnaman, star of the television series "The Killing," who plays Murphy. "They leave his emotions intact in social situations, but when facing a threat or when a crime is committed, the computer takes over. When they realize his emotions make the system vulnerable, they completely shut them off. But when Alex comes in contact with his family, his emotions find a way back and override the computer system. He starts making his own decisions again."

Kinnaman says he was attracted to play the role of Alex Murphy after meeting with Jose Padilha. "Jose described his vision - his philosophical and political ideas that could fit inside the concept of RoboCop," says Kinnaman. "You could use that concept to talk about a lot of other interesting things. He wanted to make a fun action movie that discusses philosophical dilemmas that we will face in the very near future. And I wanted to be a part of that."

"Back in the 80s, the idea of a half-man, half-robot could only take place in the far future. But it's actually happening now," says Padilha. "From prosthetics to drones to self-driving cars, this idea is becoming part of everybody's life. It's raising a lot of legal and ethical issues that we're all dealing with. And Alex Murphy embodies all of those questions - what happens when you put the man inside the machine?"

Padilha says that his involvement with the film began by a fortunate twist of fate: "I had a meeting at MGM, and we were talking about movies I might want to make.  They had a poster of the original RoboCop, and I said, well, that's the movie I want to make.  I think it's a brilliant film, an iconic classic.  I gave them my take, and they said, 'Let's do it.'  It was a lucky coincidence - a studio that had the right material, a guy who is a fan, and a poster."

The producers of the film, Marc Abraham and Eric Newman, say that Padilha was the perfect choice to helm this new vision for RoboCop. "The studio took a real chance," says Abraham. "They went to a filmmaker who had made some brilliant documentaries as well as two films, Elite Squad and Elite Squad 2, that became extraordinarily successful, particularly in Brazil - Elite Squad won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.  They were excited about hiring a filmmaker who was out of the box to make a movie that was out of the box."

"There's a frenetic quality to Jose's films," says Newman. "You come away from his movies thinking, 'That's cool.' But at the same time, he invigorates the movie with a point of view." And, Newman adds, RoboCop provides a great framework to do just that. "RoboCop is just as relevant as when it came out," he continues. Jose wanted to make a movie that worked on two levels - it had to be action packed and have that 'wow' factor with things no one has seen before - but also thematically relevant, with something to say about the world."

"I think it's fun to go to a movie, have a great time, and at the same time, come out thinking, 'there's an issue here,'" he explains. Through his admiration for RoboCop, Padilha saw a way to bring the story to the screen in a new and very contemporary way. "The themes of the movie are even more current today," he says.  "We are getting close to a world in which warfare will be automated.  We're going to have robots replacing soldiers and policemen.  Right now, we're beginning an intense discussion about drones, which are not automated - there's a human being, observing from a remote location, deciding when to pull the trigger.  But what happens when software, an algorithm, makes that decision?  Everything in the movie is going to be in the real world very soon, and we're going to have discussions about whether this is OK or not.  It's fascinating for me to have a chance to tackle this project years later, with the insight of all that has happened technologically, and try to recreate it in the current time for our current issues, but still keep the philosophical core of the original character."

The issues aren't just ethical or moral, but also practical. "Let's say you buy a car that drives itself and the car loses control and runs over someone.  Whose fault is that?  Who gets sued?  You, or the company that made the car?" asks Padilha. "Well, what if a cop makes a mistake and kills someone? Today, it's the cop that's to blame, not the police department. But what if the cop is a robot? All of these issues that come with technology can be discussed within RoboCop."

And it's not just political - it's also very personal for Alex Murphy. "In the movie, people have to believe that the machine knows what it feels like to be human, so they keep Alex Murphy's brain intact.  He has all his emotions.  He has all his memories.  He has cognitive capabilities. However, he can't hold his son or have sex with his wife," says Padilha. "It's a nightmare being Robocop. The movie is very much about the drama of this man facing the existential question - how am I going to go forward like this? Is Alex a machine or a human being?"

Even if the film has an existential element, there's still plenty of cool factor. For the filmmakers, dabbling in robot technology was like an open playground. "One of the most exciting things to us - as filmmakers but also fans - was to create all the robots," says producer Eric Newman. "We had a lot of fun with those. We have the ED-209s, the hyper-aggressive killing machines. We have the EM-208s, the humanoid-sized perfect soldiers."

Production designer Martin Whist, who designed the various iterations of RoboCop as well as the ED-209 and EM-208, says that even as they let their imaginations run wild, the truth was right there to back them up. "Every idea we had for something RoboCop could do, it turns out, somebody is researching it now, in real life," he says. "For example, there are people out there right now in the lab, who have sensors on their brains that allow them to move a robotic hand with their thoughts. We had this idea for a high-powered Taser gun - and it turns out that it's being developed. Everything in the movie is based in reality."

"It was imperative that the movie was grounded - it had to feel authentic and believable," says Newman. "One of Jose's great advantages is that he trained as a physicist, so his BS detector is very finely tuned.  He questioned the scientific veracity of everything, and as a result, we have a movie that feels very legitimate."

RoboCop himself has two separate and very different suits in the film. "The first suit was intentionally a tip of the hat to the original film and the original design," Whist explains. "I wanted to stay with the coloration of the original design; the overall impression is silver, but - just like they did on the first film - we used a technique where there were multiple colors in it: there are magentas and deep blues in it. It's a little less sophisticated than the second suit, a little boxier, a little less agile, and that was intentional to show the evolution from one RoboCop to the next."

In the original RoboCop, the filmmakers used stop motion animation for the ED-209. For the new film, the filmmakers naturally chose visual effects. "When you first see the ED-209 in the original film, it's such a memorable moment - but because of the type of animation, they were limited in the way they could move the camera or compose the shots," says Visual Effects Supervisor James E. Price. "Now, we're able to use modern tools, and we have a lot more flexibility. We can really integrate sophisticated motion and composites into those scenes. And that's a perfect fit for Jose's filmmaking style - he's very active with the camera, very in the moment. We didn't have to lock down the camera, and we could let the visual effects play out the way he wanted to shoot it."

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