Twitter Plot Summary: When cop Alex Murphy is murdered, he is rebuilt as Robocop, the friendly face of Omnicorp’s robot line.
Five Point Summary:
1. Alex Murphy: cop, family man.
2. That’s not a particularly big explosion.
3. Black suit… hmm.
4. Some payback is due.
5. The human element will always be present…
Rest assured anybody who was expecting this completely unwarranted remake to be absolutely terrible – it’s actually not that bad. True, it was always going to struggle when compared against the original film . Whilst it’s inevitable that we’re going to be making such comparisons (I’m certainly guilty of it), it helps to consider this a film on its own and judge it on its own merits. A difficult task, perhaps, but I’ll give it a go.
In the near future the US have started using robots and drones to subjugate (sorry, bring peace) to foreign lands. But America is resolutely against having a similar array of bots roaming their home streets. It’s kind of understandable – future Detroit isn’t anywhere near as desolate and crime-ridden as that seen in the original. There’s no sense that crime levels are as bad as suggested, but we’ll let that one slide for now. Slightly maverick cop Alex Murphy targets a gun smuggler and, after a bust sees his partner shot and hospitalised, Murphy is then targeted by the gang and finds himself on the receiving end of a car bomb. Omnicorp, the company responsible for the overseas drone usage, decides that their robots need a human face to gain public acceptance and thus, what was once Alex Murphy is placed inside a robot and a legend is born. Again.
Sadly for Joel Kinnaman he doesn’t really have a huge amount to do once he’s in the suit – the story involving his family and the emotional impact that has is reasonably well executed, but it needed a certain something extra to push it to the next level. There’s a fun action scene where he attempts to solve his own murder, but then the narrative seems to lose focus once that plot strand is resolved. There’s almost nothing for the partner to do and it leaves you with the impression that either the script was modified partway through shooting or scenes were cut for pacing or similar, there’s a distinct feeling that part of the story is missing and, crucially, it’s the part of the story that relates directly to Murphy rediscovering his humanity and reconnecting with the people in his life.
On the positive side of things is Gary Oldman, who is excellent as always. His modern day Dr Frankenstein is perhaps the only character with any depth to him, despite the efforts to give Robocop himself a more emotionally resonant background. Oldman seems to have the most to do from start to finish as the conflicted doctor, which isnt a bad thing – his scenes with Murphy/Robocop hold weight, and ironically they’re much more human than those that Dr Norton has with his boss, Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton). Sellars is only interested in one thing – selling a product to the US public. The most interesting aspect of the script is the notion of free will – at one point they even discuss that Robocop has the illusion of free will, until the human element starts to take hold. This could have been an epic screen moment as Robocop overrides his programming and would have made a serious point about defining this as its own entity. Instead we’re stuck with them giving Robocop a black paint job to make him “more tactical”. No, not necessary. Thankfully early concept ideas of him also being a transformer don’t show up in the finished film.
The satire, whilst amusing, is not as biting as in the original – Samuel L Jackson’s single day of work (as that’s what it feels like) against a green screen is amusing and pokes fun at the current American news cycle, and the whole idea about the imposition of US foreign policy on other countries gets a little bit of airtime, but otherwise it doesn’t have much impact.
Jose Padilha is one of the new breed of directors from less mainstream territories to take on a Hollywood blockbuster – Fede Alvarez did something similar last year with his interpretation of Evil Dead – and that I think is what separates this from the poorer rermakes out there. It’s not perfect, not by a stretch, but it’s entertaining. Just check your love for the original film at the door and enjoy (if you can).