Relax people, the remake of Robocop is actually a good movie. Now the main question is if it’s as good as the original? No, it isn’t. Still, it’s light years better than those abysmally bad sequels that followed the original Robocop, and it has its own identity.
This Robocop remake follows the basic story of the original. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is an undercover detective for the Detroit police in the near future who is nearly killed in a car bomb explosion that leaves him paralyzed and with major injuries. Enter Omnicorp, the multinational corporate leader in robotic soldiers and cybernetics. The company’s CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is trying to have Omnicorp’s products sold and used for civilian law enforcement purposes in the U.S. Standing in his way is that it’s illegal to use robots in such a manner in the U.S. He decides to skirt around the law by having his scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) transplant Murphy’s head, right hand and some major organs into a robotic body, thus creating a cyborg policeman.
This film differs a bit from the original in that it examines more closely Murphy’s struggle with his lost humanity. As he recovers, he’s horrified that he is more machine than man, and later Norton, under orders, suppresses Murphy’s emotions to make him more efficient. At first, the nearly lobotomized Robocop is hailed as a hero in Detroit and the country for his swift and ultra proficient law enforcement methods. But over time, his emotions slowly re-emerge as he regains feelings for his wife and son (Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan) and begins going against protocol by carrying out his own mission. That is seeking justice for anyone who has wronged him, including Sellars, who sees Murphy as just a commodity.
Robocop has surprising depth with its look at Murphy’s plight and brings up relevant questions about his humanity and the supposed superiority of machines. The film also covers the impact that the Robocop program has on society and politics. It’s an extrapolation of the predicaments we face today regarding security and corporate responsibility. While the original Robocop went over these issues, it was drowned out at times with its dark humor and satire. Here, these questions are front and center.
These issues are the core of Robocop, which helps it stand apart from the original. The film has great effects and action scenes, although it dragged a bit in some parts. The robotic designs are just exemplary and outdo the original. It helps that the suit is pretty awesome in its own right, even though it’s that solid black color that have the fanboys in an uproar. The suit is intimidating and surprisingly less clumsy looking than the original Robocop suit.
The film, however, sorely lacks the sardonic wit and pace that characterized the original classic. Director José Padilha isn’t Paul Verhoeven, but he does a better job than expected with the material and the actors. Oldman, as always stands out with his typical stellar performance and serves as a conscience for what is going on, even though his hands aren’t that clean. Samuel L. Jackson was too over-the-top with his portrayal of Pat Novak, a histrionic talk show host/propaganda tool for Sellars. Here was an instance where the original’s witty commercials and news briefs gave a better picture of that futuristic society. Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), this movie’s version of Clarence J. Boddicker isn’t nearly as memorable, but that’s fine since the villainy is front and center Sellars and most of his employees, including Jackie Earle Haley as Mattox, a savage merc.
Those that prefer the original’s vicious satirical look at our commercialized society may want to avoid this remake. The same goes for gore hounds that reveled in Verhoeven’s macabre humor, this remake is PG-13 mind you. But a film’s rating shouldn’t count for its quality. Just go look at A Good Day To Die Hard, it had its R rating, but stunk compared to its PG-13 predecessor.
Despite its shortcomings regarding humor and gore, Robocop has its merits, including some food for thought.