The 80's was ripe with rated-R action films, such as Escape From New York, Commando, Aliens, Die Hard, and The Terminator, but one stood out as possibly the best of the bunch...RoboCop. Paul Verhoeven's portrayal of a dark, gritty, dystopian society, controlled by corporations, was the perfect display of action, sci-fi, and black humor at that time. But what most fans of the original seem to forget is that we are in a different time. Corporate America has changed from the "stiffs in suits wearing sunglasses" stereotype, to intelligent people with a higher sense of technological know-how.
We've also changed as a movie viewing society. Long gone are the days of action films filled with black humor, gore-for-the-sake-of-gore, and campy effects. Rewatching the original, it actually hurt to watch some of the graphics and overuse of blood. The one that pops to mind is the scene where the ED-209 is revealed and blows away a board member. It was way over-the-top, and a movie like this would never be successful today.
Now, let's move on to the point of this review, the new PG-13 reboot of RoboCop. Set in Detroit in the year 2028, much of the world is policed by robotic peacekeepers, that is, except for America. Then enters Alex Murphy - a loving husband, father, and cop - who is injured in a near fatal explosion, and the only way to save his life is to merge man with machine, creating the first ever part-man, part-robot police officer. Is this the solution America wants? A robotic police officer with the judgement and conscience of a man? Well, OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellers believes so, and together, with the help of a brilliant scientist named Dennett Norton, RoboCop is born.
This remake speaks more about our societies belief that giving up some freedom for ultimate protection is the way to go. And whether you believe this or not, this film definitely opens your eyes to the issue. When is enough really enough? When do we stop, and take back our freedom? Or do we allow it to gradually slip away in favor of security. The character of Alex Murphy was forced to also deal with this issue on an internal level. Does he let the machine take over, or does he fight for the life he once had? This film also touches on topics such as corporate greed, police corruption, and how the media spins the facts to satisfy their own agendas.
This is Brazilian director José Padilha's first Hollywood film. He has mainly done documentaries, and has also written and directed the Brazilian action films Elite Squad and it's sequel, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. This is also the first film written by Joshua Zetumer, who did uncredited rewrites for both Quantum of Solace and The Darkest Hour. Now, some of the weaknesses of this film could be attributed to the lack of experience from these two, but I wouldn't put it all on them.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this was a bad movie, because it wasn't. It just wasn't as good as it could have been. Some of the things I loved about this film where the robots and how they maneuvered seemlessly on screen. They felt realistic, and in a movie like this, that's a key factor for me. Also, the use of some of the famous lines from the original was great to hear, and none of them seemed forced or out of place to me. I also loved Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman's performances. These guys are top notch, and it was cool to see the 80's Batman and the most recent Commissioner Gordon interact on the big screen.
Joel Kinnaman, who played the main character, Alex Murphy/RoboCop, did a fine job, in my opinion. It wasn't spectacular, but I didn't dislike his performance either. I do, however, feel like him and Abbie Cornish (his wife, Clara Murphy) struggled to have believable chemistry. I'm not sure if this is because, from the get-go, you get the sense that their marriage isn't in the best place, or because you don't get much time with them together on screen before he becomes RoboCop, but I never really felt their connection.
Even though I did enjoy this film, there were definitely some flaws to it. The beginning seemed to drag a bit, taking its time setting up the story. I also wasn't a fan of what Murphy looked like when the suit was removed. I think it was a little much, and was their attempt at bringing some of the shock value from the original into the new one while staying within their PG-13 rating. The couple of scenes where they show this kind of took me out of the movie for a second. It was an interesting interpretation, but I just didn't really feel it. And lastly, the scenes with Samuel L. Jackson weren't amazing. I liked how it showed how media is controlled and spun to fit the whims of those in charge of it, but his character didn't really do anything for me, other than getting to see Samuel L. Jackson, who's a great actor.
Overall, I enjoyed this film, and might consider watching it again in theaters. Yes, it'll never be the same as the original, and it never should be. That style should be left in the 80's and we, as an audience, need to come to terms with that. If you're into cool sci-fi action, then give this a go.