A Squeaky clean Detroit cop struggles to keep his humanity after an attempt on his life leaves what’s left of him encased in a greedy super-corporation’s experimental, crime-fighting, cybernetic body designed to take out riffraff and win votes.
Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish
RoboCop (1987) meets Total Recall (2012)
During a search and rescue simulation pitting RoboCop against a combat android versus terrorists Omnicorp‘s resident military expert mockingly blares If I Only Had A Brain over the PA. No, really, that’s the most defining scene I could come up with.
The instant I realized that this remake was probably, mostly likely a script intended for Will Smith. “Aw! HELL-NO!”
RoboCop? What a silly title. Comedy?
Actually, it’s a remake of a 1987 cult classic action flick of the same name. I guess you could call the over-the-top satirical elements of the original, “comedy”. The two sequels it spawned certainly were. This one is more grounded in current events and not likely to make anyone laugh. Or cry. Or care.
Another ’80s reboot? That can’t be good.
Depends on your allegiance to the original Paul Verhoeven vision of RoboCop. You really should check it out before or after you see this re-imagining.
I choose…before! Be right back.
Wait! I need to warn you…too late.
I tried to give you a heads up. You know, set the t…
So much violence.
Not use to those crazy 80s, anything goes, shock and awe, pre-CGI, action movies?
I can’t feel my face. Can you see my face? Is my face still here?
Shhh. It’s OK. The bad men are gone now. It’s safe here. No body parts exploding into ketchup puddles or toxic waste melted henchmen. Just your below average TV violence. In fact, it’s less violent than an episode of CSI. Sure there’s a lot of shooting with large caliber weapons, but it’s relatively bloodless. For all we know the characters are shooting each other with high velocity spitballs.
That’s a relief. I don’t think I could have watched something like that again. I’m not into all that blood and gore stuff.
All that blood and gore is what put RoboCop onto the pop culture wall of fame. And since this “lite” version is such a huge deviation from the original schlock-fest I’ve decided to give it a fair review as a stand alone effort.
Sounds good. What’s it about?
In 2028, thanks to militarized Commercialism there will be (the illusion of) peace in the Middle East—and probably anywhere in the world where superior firepower and invasive surveillance can automate crime prevention through drone warfare. Think a dozen robotic Judge Dredds, walking tanks and highly maneuverable airplane-copters designed to either scan you or kill you monitoring marketplaces and back alleys 24/7.
Anyway, American super conglomerate, Omnicorp, makers of said robo-marines, wants to bring their “peacekeeper” terminators to the good ol’ U.S. of A.
That’s crazy! Armed soldiers in the streets of America?
Well not soldiers, police officers. Police officers with the ability to shoot people into jelly for jaywalking with a pocket knife.
Christ! That’s just terrifying to think about.
Luckily, The RoboCop universe’s America shares that same sentiment and passed a law preventing machines from doing any such policing through a bill called the Dreyfus Act. The stance is that machines can’t make judgement calls because they don’t understand the value of human life, or some such pulp sci-fi platitude.
I knew we’d make the right choice. So how does RoboCop fit into all of this?
Because Omnicorp’s CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) doesn’t give a monkey’s banana about public safety, and only concerns himself with unimaginable wealth through any means necessary, he devises to test out adding the human element to his robodrones, called the RC-2000 Project, in hopes of winning over public opinion, getting the Dreyfus Act overturned, and thus allowing mechanical law enforcement to shoot people based on hunches rather than raw data.
Hold on. I’m getting confused. Drones good, or drones bad?
You know what? The movie doesn’t really know either. At some point I gave up thinking about it, because real life. If a movie called RoboCop can alter your moral and ethical trajectory with a few broadly painted capitalism and corporate totalitarianism cliches then I’d advise you to stop watching movies altogether.
Never mind. You were saying?
So at some point we meet Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), an incorruptible Detroit City copper and paint-by-numbers family man. And without giving too much away Murphy is critically injured in an attempt to assassinate him over some crime/corruption mcguffin. Luckily, or unluckily, Murphy is quickly swept into a dust pan and deposited into the lead candidate spot for the RC-2000 Project at the OmniFoundation—Omnicorp’s R&D wing slash humanitarian tax shelter—and into the loving hands of its impossibly skilled chief scientist Dr. Dennett Norton, played by the always loveable Gary Oldman.
I love Gary Oldman!
Yes yes. We all love Gary Oldman. Here’s a treat.
Mmm. Thanks. So Alex Murphy becomes RoboCop to test out cop drones in the streets of Detroit just to gain public support?
Yep. He’s just a big old mechanical marketing ploy ultimately designed to increase the wealth of the 1%.
You said he’s a family man. Where is Alex’s family through all this?
And therein lies the major plot-line. Alex’s wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son, doesn’t-really-matter are used as the driving force behind Alex’s remaining humanity. But despite their importance to the overall story I really couldn’t get over the fact that they were just your generic wife and kid. And really that’s my big beef with the whole movie. You have all these heavy hitters—Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, I’ll even throw in Jackie Earle Haley—all this talent wasted on unnecessarily bland, forgettable characters.
Did you say Samuel L. Jackson?
Yes. He is there. He plays a political pundit and media mogul, Pat Novak, equivalent to your most obnoxious talk radio personality. Here again, Jackson is just a round peg in a round hole. Placed not for his ability to act, but for the way he’s known for acting. Honestly I would have preferred that Jackson and Keaton have each others roles. Not only do I think that Jackson would have made Raymond Sellars a more charismatic character, he would have made him more formidable, and more memorable.
So, what you’re saying is RoboCop is just another generic remake?
To be fair, it isn’t a terrible movie. It just doesn’t have any weight to it despite its attempts to be thought-provoking. It’s not a peering eye into a bleak dystopian future, it’s a loose interpretation of right now. And right now doesn’t look all that bleak. Ultimately it’s a story about a dude trying to hang on to his humanity against all odds. Frankly, I never felt all that concerned about it.
We’ll, What did you learn from watching RoboCop?
- I need to get started on a living will clearly stating that I not be used as an experimental cyborg in the event that I am injured beyond repair.
- Don’t bring a knife to an ED-209 fight.
- All male Afghanis are terrorists. All marketing analysts are douchebags.
- The future looks a lot like right now.
- Shooting is the answer to all of the World’s problems.
Do you have any final thoughts and would you recommend this movie?
I tend to put a lot of value on a flick’s rewatchability and staying power. This has neither. It’s watchable, but like The Total Recall remake, it’s unnecessary and I never really need to see it again. If you like rewatchable generic action flicks of this type I recommend The Expendables (2010) or Dredd (2012). RoboCop has nothing new to show us and even less to keep us coming back.