When Jose Padilha’s “RoboCop” remake hits theaters Wednesday, audiences might be surprised at how political the PG-13 action movie is compared to its R-rated 1987 predecessor. While the Sony release is still plenty violent, the film also wrestles with timely issues surrounding drone warfare and law enforcement technology.
“The movie’s about drones. If you look at a movie like ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ you see the training of the soldiers so they kill without criticizing what they’re doing. Today, [some want] to get the soldiers out of the way for machines. And I thought that idea, which was fictional in 1987, ain’t fictional anymore. We’ve got drones,” Padilha told TheWrap at the film’s premiere party at Ohm on Monday night.
“Yesterday, there was an article about whether America could kill an American with a drone in Afghanistan. It’s just like in the movie. If it’s a Pakistani guy, then we can kill him, but if it’s an American, it’s a legal issue? The movie’s about that, and it’s going to be true of every country,” predicted Padilha.
Joel Kinnaman (“The Killing”) stars as Detroit police officer Alex Murphy, who is horribly injured in a car bombing and gets a new lease on life when OmniCorp rebuilds his body with robot parts. Gary Oldman plays as Alex’s doctor, while Michael Keaton plays the villainous head of OmniCorp. Samuel L. Jackson co-stars as a conservative talk show host whose program addresses a very real and growing fear of technology.
“I’m not scared of technology per se, but certain technologies are potentially harmful or dangerous,” Padilha said “One is the drones. If you replace soldiers with robots, what happens? Another issue that may be even more dangerous is biotechnology, when you start being able to alter genetic codes to make different kinds of animals, and even people. It could be really great, you know, to cure human diseases, but it may also have its [drawbacks].
“There’s a famous physicist, Richard Feynman, who once said ‘science is the key. It opens the door to heaven and it opens the door to hell.’ Same key,” warned the filmmaker.
“RoboCop” serves as Padilha’s English-language debut following a pair of “Elite Squad” movies that are among the most successful Brazilian movies of all time. Directing a remake of a popular movie comes with its own set of unique challenges, but Padilha didn’t back down. After all, Paul Verhoeven’s cult classic was going to be reinterpreted by someone, so why not him?
“I took a hard one after all the reboots from the ’80s and early ’90s didn’t really work that well, but I had faith in the concept of ‘RoboCop.’ I just believed in it because I think it’s current and I think it’s political. It’s political by default,” explained Padilha.
Padilha, who is currently writing a script for Warner Bros., previously directed the acclaimed documentary “Bus 174” and wants to return to that type of filmmaking. The director is prepping a documentary about the mass disappearances in Rio de Janeiro. “In the last two years, more than 5,000 people have disappeared each year. That’s a huge number! 10,000 people in two years. I think it’s good to take a look at it and see what is happening. But you never know what’s next,” Padilha said with a chuckle.