“Was that it?” My immediate response after I've seen this RoboCop remake. One must ask the question, why remake a movie that did everything right? Why even dare to improve on a modern classic? See, the whole reason to redo something is to add or improve on something that was missing or badly done. So, how does this movie fare then? Let's take a closer look.
Alex Murphy is a headstrong detective at Detroit P.D. While hot on the trail of arms dealer Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), his partner Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams) gets shot and hospitalized. Meanwhile, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton); CEO of Omni Consumer Products, tries to get an anti-robot bill dropped in congress. If dropped, it would allow his drones and robotic peace keepers to survey and protect the streets and the citizens of America. Seeing how much controversy it sparked up by their use of this in the Middle-East, everyone is against this. Sellars, is looking for a way to make his robots more likable, more “human”.
|ED-209! Hasn't much to do in this movie|
At home, Alex tries to spend some time with his son and wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish) but he's distant and regrets his actions which got his partner Lewis almost killed. Also, he suspects that some men of his department are on the take and involved with the arms dealer. When they feel he gets too close, they deal with Murphy and he gets critically wounded by a car bomb. Now, after an extensive search for his cyborg project, Sellars finds in Murphy a suitable candidate. Brilliant scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) and his team, realize a half-man, half-machine called RoboCop with Murphy at the center of it all.
|OCP fixes all|
After RoboCop has been deployed on the streets of Detroit, he's a resounding success. crime on the streets is being dealt with. Being linked to the city's CCTV Network and Detroit PD Criminal File database, Murphy stumbles onto the case of his own murder and decides to investigate. He quickly finds out different parties don't want him to find the truth and try to thwart him every step of the way. He uncovers a Viper's nest and finds out the venom is going all the way to the top. Murphy will do everything though, to bring his killers to justice.
|A lot of explosions and shaky-cam and still it wasn't all that exciting|
So, does this remake has something new to tell us? I don't think so. Where Verhoeven's 1987 original was not only a terrific action movie it was also wonderfully layered. A satire on American consumerism, media, corporatism and it still holds up very well. So, what does this film has to say then? Well, not a lot really. Sure, it tries to comment on the drones situation going on today but it doesn't seem to be all that interested in doing so. The commercials and news items are now replaced with “The Novak Element”, an actuality show with Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackon) as its anchor and clearly taking its cue from the likes of The O' Reilly Factor and Fox News. These segments are a lot of fun but far and few between. It almost seems that the so called message they are trying to give us is more of an afterthought. So, if they aren't really focusing on satire or social commentary is it full of action scenes then? No.
|Even here Sam Jackson gets to yell and shout! It's hilarious!|
for an action movie, there is almost no action scenes in it. That is what The original is known for, its action and its comical, over the top violence. Here we get a cleaned up PG-13 RoboCop, actually tazing creeps instead of blowing them to bits. At times it even reminded me of that very kid-friendly RoboCop cartoon and even that was more violent! It is quite ridiculous actually. Okay, so they focus on character development then? Yes.
|No substitution for the '87 warehouse scene|
Joel Kinnaman is getting quite some time to flesh out the character of Alex Murphy. He's fine as the hard boiled policeman and brooding husband. His portrayal of RoboCop is something else though and this is where I think the writers missed the mark. The whole theme of the original RoboCop was resurrection and machine becoming “man”. Kinnaman's RoboCop does not go through this transition. He is Murphy the whole time. Even when he's in the suit. There is a variation of him being the emotionless cyborg but it is glossed over, like they had to do it because it was in the original instead of it really serving the story. That is the problem of this movie; it glosses over many things, like it goes over the bucket-list making sure it respects the original. Kinnaman lacks a commanding presence. He doesn't really do anything with the role.
|During better times|
The rest of the cast is good. Michael Keaton is a lot of fun as overzealous business mogul. Abbie Cornish gets to flesh out Clara Murphy a bit but the heart of the film is Gary Oldman. He makes the most of what little he has to work with. It's a very warm performance, comparable to his James Gordon from the Dark Knight trilogy. It's an absolute delight seeing Samuel L. Jackson hamming it up as Novak and provides the film's lighter moments. One of the biggest flaw of this film are the villains. They are barely in it. Patrick Garrow is unremarkable as arms dealer Vallon and Jackie Earle Haly as Mattox is the only one that comes close to being as colorful as the villains of the original. He just gets too little to do.
|Not exactly Clarence Boddicker|
I can't put all blame on director José Padilha though. He's a very, very good director. He knows what he's doing and is no stranger when it comes to social commentary. His Tropa de Elite movies stand testament to that. During the early days of production there were reports of Padilha saying that producers and other studio bigwigs were interfering with his vision for this film. It shows. The script is sloppy. A clear case of too many fingers in the pie. Too many ideas and too little time to execute. I do like the fact they used Basil Poledouris iconic RoboCop theme in the movie. It is used too little in the movie and at the wrong times. There is a scene in the movie where RoboCop trains against drones in a warehouse. It's comparable to the warehouse scene of the original. This would have been the perfect time to use the Robocop theme. Instead they chose to play rock music over the scene. Another lost opportunity. Pedro Bromfman's music score is pretty forgettable. Nothing special there.
|A sequel? Your move creep...|
Is RoboCop a disaster then? Surprisingly enough, no. It's a fine film actually. The only problem is that it's never outstanding. The problem is that it's already been done. Superbly I might add. It was clear they could not add anything, could not do something better than what they did back in the original. Yes, the visual effects have gotten a considerable upgrade and look fantastic but can't cover up the fact that the writers just mixed up the puzzle pieces and made something completely new and yet so familiar. So yes, it's a fine film it could have been much worse but it's also frustratingly mediocre. The movie never comes to life, boring at times and it ends in such a way that will leave you in your seat, watching the end-credits saying to yourself...”Was that it?”