Dead or alive, you’re coming with me. Fans of Robocop will instantly recognize this quote and it’s one that ranks among the most notable. The concept of a robotic cop is pretty cool and that’s what draws a lot of people to it. The original film didn’t do well initially, but it became a cult classic over time. So, other than new technology and updated graphics/animation, what has changed that makes this film worthy of a remake?
In the not-so-distant future, Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) lives by his instinct and when a would be arrest goes wrong, his partner Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams) is injured in the line of duty. Murphy suspects that Detroit policemen are aiding the crime lord Antoine Vallen (Patrick Garrow) and he’s looking a little too hard for their liking. Without OmniCorp’s signature Robots patrolling the city, crime runs amuck and Murphy falls victim to a car bomb. His wife and son (Abbie Cornish & John Paul Ruttan) are devastated at his physical condition and his wife signs papers to let OmniCorp save him by turning him into a part-human, part robot. This all occurs during a time when Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is trying to repeal an anti-robot bill that will allow robots to police U.S. cities. For now, he really only has Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) and Novak’s patriotic show to back him.
Losing in the public opinion categories, Sellars realizes that he needs to get the people on his side by providing something that they can rally behind. Sellars enlists his head scientist, Dr. Dennet Norton (Gary Oldman), to turn Murphy into a Robotic Cop that will sway the publics opinion. As Murphy transforms into his new role, his brain and emotions remain intact, allowing him to appeal to the public. His humanity slows his decision-making down when compared to the robots and a decision is made to make him almost fully robotic. While this works for some time, things begin to change when Murphy tries to solve his own murder. Risks grow and dirty politics arise when OmniCorp tries to stop RoboCop before he unveils darker truths.
RoboCop is an iconic character and cult movie that has only gained praise over the years. What was once one of the most violent and bloody movie of its time, is now an updated and modern retelling that shies away from gruesome imagery. Having seen both versions now, the changes are notable and the direction they took this film is more politically persuaded. Everything is sleek and efficient and quite a bit of fun. It may not be the original, but it’s a valiant effort that will entertain at the very least.
Kinnaman plays a really cool RoboCop. He shines in his badass moments, but also in the moments where he’s concerned for his family’s safety. His initial reactions to his amputations and new suit are fascinating to watch and at times heartbreaking, when he doesn’t want people to see him the way he is now. As he grows into his role, he becomes very robotic in his tone and motions, but he conveys his inner-struggle really well. He has great chemistry with Oldman, who constructs him in the name of science. Oldman cares about Murphey and his family and does everything in their best interest. Williams also plays a great companion to Kinnaman, but he doesn’t get too much screen time.
Something that this film touches on moreso than the original, is the political agenda of OmniCorp and how an anti-robot bill must be repealed. Every now and again, you get a news segment with Jackson spouting off his patriotic news and forcing the robots down the viewers throats. He’s so far off on one side and his points are laughable and also somewhat truthful. Keaton uses the publics opinion in his favor and is totally representative of a dirty businessman using any means necessary to get support. There’s also a lot of greatness in the scenes where Kinnaman learns to use his suit and how his family responds to OmniCorp using him. This film goes in many directions and most of them are pretty good.
I really think that this film could benefit from being around a half-an-hour longer. Yes, that would make the running time two-and-a-half-hours, but the film flew by at two-hours. With additional time, they could have explored RoboCop’s relationship with his family in much greater detail and also could have had more time for the awesome action. You get a base level of the family dynamic, but not much more than that. I liked what I saw, but I wanted to see more of it, as it highlights RoboCop’s human element that he can’t get rid of. As far as action goes, I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. However, I would have liked to see a Rated-R version of this film because it seems like they held a lot back, when they really shouldn’t have.
There were many characters who worked in this film, but there a few that really just did not. Cornish is perhaps the least interesting character in the film and all she does is mope and whine. There’s no real emotion within her and she relies on her son to do the heavy-lifting. Mattox is also a useless character, as he only pops up to make Robot jokes and to be an inconvenience to RoboCop. Garrow plays one of the most forgettable villains of late and you won’t even remember why he’s bad by the end. The film just needed to pin something on a bad guy and he’s the one they got stuck with. Even the undercover police agents have forgettable names and a more forgettable story. Had these characters been rounded out more, the film would have greatly benefited.
RoboCop is cool enough and interesting enough to draw people in to see it and that PG-13 Rating will entice younger audiences too. In a Valentine’s week full of sappy and vulgar romance, this film should succeed. The story is pretty great and what it chooses to focus on is what makes it somewhat unique. It certainly needs to polish some of its characters and expand on some of the character’s arch’s, but it’s not nearly a failure by any means. If you’re looking for fun, action, and robots, you’ve got a solid movie ahead of you.