RoboCop is back! Director Jose Padilha has updated the beloved classic to suit a modern audience, and tell the story of a man with barely anything left of his existence that gets a second chance to live in a robotic body and become a cyborg crime fighter.
- Director: José Padilha
- Writers: Joshua Zetumer (based on the 1987 screenplay by: Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner)
- Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jay Baruchel
- Music:Pedro Bromfman
- Cinematography: Lula Carvalho
In the future there’s a public concern over the technological forces being put on the streets and on the front lines (call them drones, if you will). OmniCorp looks for an opportunity to tout the robotic advances they have made to sway popular opinion in their favor, and when Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) becomes the ideal candidate to meld mankind with machine after a car explosion, OmniCorp CEO Peter Sellers (Keaton) decides to turn him into RoboCop. With barely anything left of his body, Sellers and Dr. Norton (Oldman) convince Clara Murphy (Cornish) to give Alex a second chance to exist in robotic form for the sake of her family and for the sake of science. However when Murphy awakens, his reaction to becoming more weapon than man adversely reflects on OmniCorp. As he tries to regain his humanity, Norton is pushed by Sellers to put boundaries on Alex’s mental control in order to make him more of an effective product than person. But can technology really override free will? As the fate of robotic militarization looms over a nation, RoboCop obliterates crime in Detroit. However, the man inside the suit slips back into his consciousness to solve his own crime and get revenge against those who set out to kill him.
- The Cast: Joel Kinnaman nails the rough around the edges cop and family man who is put through an unbelievable transformation. He hits all the emotional and detached characteristics of Murphy as he grapples with being both human and robot. Oldman shows why he is one of the best actors by bringing empathy to a man who believes in his work while becoming a Frankenstein-esque creator. Keaton fantastically twists a Steve Jobs riff and mixes in the showmanship of a Richard Branson.
- The Direction: Padilha delivers great raw action cinema, in the same vein as his intense Elite Squad films. For a PG-13 movie the action is well paced and feels like a first person shooter at times. Despite the lack of blood, the violence in the film really captures a future where robots go head to head.
- The Update: The remake abandons the plot of the first film but retains the political bent as the film functions as a commentary on the morals behind human lives being in the hands of technological advancement. The picture brings up so many valid questions about robot armies, drones, and free will vs. automated choices to kill. It’s all relevant.
- Unclear Villain: There isn’t a well defined big bad in the remake. You have the guys who set up Murphy, corrupt figures, the corporation, the borderline bad doctor, the media, the robot guy, the government…but who is Murphy fighting against? The film touches upon all these evils and RoboCop takes care of business in most respects but it was too scattered to build to a rousing conclusion.
- Social Commentary: It’s nice that the film attempts to be political, but it also seems to be throwing ideas at the wall and waiting to find out what sticks. There’s the drone warfare, dehumanized militarization , free will vs. programming, and even commentary on the media with Sam Jackson’s turn as a futuristic Rush Limbaugh type. All could be interesting but there’s just too many threads to follow and too many loose ends.
- Character Development: Because the movie crammed in all of the above, you don’t get enough time to see Alex as a person, the man who was supposed to be our means to care about all of the above. This would have helped the audience care when he loses the ability to be a family man or regular Joe and feel engaged with his fight to get it back. Kinnaman, Cornish, the kid and his partner are all doing good work, but you only get glimpses that are overwhelmed by the commentary.
- Underused Players: The movie is chocked full of awesome supporting players who are great when they’re on screen, but most get lost in the shuffle. People like Jay Baruchel, Michael K. Williams, Jackie Earle Haley and Abbie Cornish are all talented, but only get one note to play.
RoboCop suffers from the bloat of a cluttered narrative, even though it’s not boring. It could have been great if the social commentary was more focused, if the film had more defined villain, less people and more family. The potential is there, but in the end it’s only just good enough.
Will you be watching RoboCop this weekend?