Fiction is interesting not just for what it says to us but what it says about us. There are piles of films and books which have no particular lasting value artistically, the endless cavalcade of mindless entertainment with little to say beyond boom. And that’s fine, because such an impulse gives us giant robots, and I think that is indisputable as a net positive to society. But even after such entertainment loses whatever entertainment value it had, as the strings it plucks in our subconscious no longer resonate, there is still an archaeological value of sorts, in remembering which strings it was that were so effective to pluck at one time or another.
The original Robocop is by no means a good movie, and if you happen to catch it on one of the extended late night cable channels while flipping around bored (or AMC, which has some strange ideas about which movies are classic sometimes), you’ll quickly notice that it just doesn’t hold up at all. It’s not just the cheese or the terrible special effects, so much as the premise and context which no longer hold any resonance. The crack epidemic and its armageddon of urban violence is so far in the rear view mirror, that hinging a story on the logical notion that in a few years all cities would be urban warzones has as much of an emotional logic to us as old Cold War movies that posit that widespread nuclear testing will obviously lead to mutant monsters terrorizing us.
I mean Detroit did basically end up like Robocop predicted, but that doesn’t terrify people so much as ensure that they don’t want to move to Detroit. The emotional trigger pulls with a dry misfire now.
The most interesting part to me of an updated version of an old story is how they will modify the backbone to accommodate new emotional context, especially when it’s a story that seems to have so little resonance. Here’s a video that is a mocked up version of an advertisement for OmniCorp, the wonderful engine of industry in the Robocop universe:
Meh, they’re no Veridian Dynamics, but it does seem like they’re going to aim more for the corporate dystopian power angle, which still has some mileage on it. Though by the time this comes out in 2014, the inevitable clumsy references to the 1% and Occupy Someplace will likely have been just painfully beaten into the ground, if they’re not already.