Get out your stun guns and robo-cycles, we're reviewing Robocop!
In the near future, robots patrol every country except the USA. But when a car bomb explodes Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), OCP finds its perfect candidate for a new kind of cyborg. But is Robocop more man or machine?
I'm super happy that Holden from The Killing was finally promoted to detective and then got turned into a robot cop. Good for him.
I feel like I should be angrier at this than I am, because it's an inferior remake of Robocop. If you're going to compare it to the original, it’s a losing battle. Just go back and watch the first. I think if this wasn't a remake, and instead was a generic robot action movie like Elysium or Oblivion it would have been better. Then again, probably no one would see it. I'm guessing most of the money this makes is going to be from people wondering if it's as good as the original. (Spoiler: it's not) But all the nods and references to the original are so ham-fisted and forced that they end up a detriment to the overall possibly cool robot cop sci-fi concept. Take, for instance, the original theme song that pops up in the opening credits for ten seconds – and then is never heard again. Why even bother?
Not to say that the movie would be perfect if it had another name. It still has a robo-ton of problems. Namely that Alex Murphy/Robocop is barely in the movie. Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman), the doctor that fixes Murphy, gets more lines and screen time than Murphy does. Murphy is offline while the bad guys talk about politics and philosophy. There is way more robot politics and philosophy talk than there is story illustration or robot shooting. Why are you talking about the consequences of putting a man in a machine instead of showing us? I think Kinnaman could make a good Robocop if he got any kind of screen time.
It is an interesting premise. They start out by putting Murphy in the machine with him in control, but after finding out he's not as optimal as his drone counterparts, they start taking his emotions away until he's as much a machine as a robo-robot. It's a great inversion of the original movie, in which Robocop started out as a base machine and found his humanity over time. But then in this iteration, the execution is terrible, as the situation is told to us explicitly rather than letting us or Murphy realize it. Where is the scene of Murphy wondering why he doesn't care about his family or wondering how he took out these dudes so fast? There should be this great emotional impact when Murphy finally realizes he's not in control of his emotions and suddenly starts to question whether he's in control or if the machine is controlling him. But instead, he's simply told he's being controlled, and then runs off to shoot the bad guy and save the girl.
Oh yeah, his wife and kid are used as damsels in distress. Because that's what the original needed.
On the plus side, it has a really good cast of people talking about a movie happening. Michael Keaton looks like he's having fun being the evil bad guy. Samuel L. Jackson does a great Bill O'Reilly impression. Jackie Earle Haley is here as the obligatory macho asshole and I always love seeing him in anything. And Jay Baruchel does a good impression of a grown-up! Awwww he grew a beard. How cute.
Then there's the action! There are maybe – three? – good action scenes? They're not bad. They are what humans would call 'enjoyable'. Bullets are fired, robots explode, motorcycles run off ramps. The action is entertaining while you're watching it, but nothing is so good that you'd need to see it again. Robocop is disassembled, which reveals how wrecked Murphy is. That is pretty disgusting and cool. And I really dig the new slick robo-cycle. (To be fair, I am a sucker for superfast robot-motorcycles) Then again, for all his robot-iness, Murphy’s body is barely used as a tool. In the original. Robocop had his thigh-gun and that cool hand-spike. In this one, we don't even get to see him take his gun out of his robo-thigh! What a robo-gyp!
This film is very unfocused. It doesn't really have a main story. First it's all about solving Murphy's attempted murder, which happens pretty quickly, and with a twist! But that is abruptly dropped and the storyline derails to OCP being evil and Dr. Norton (and Robocop, I guess) trying to stop them, even though the real theme/story seems to be “Who's in control? Murphy or the machine?” (which is never really answered). There’s also the idea of drones being bad for patrolling humans. It's not a well-defined future Detroit, either. We don't see how bad crime is or why the USA is policing all of the world with giant robots, or how the rest of the world feels about that. There are also a lot of strange music choices, resulting in a pretty mediocre soundtrack.
So, yeah. Robocop. Not a great movie, but not terrible I guess? In either case, go watch the original.
THE GOOD: Semi-cool designs, some okay action scenes, good cast, interesting new story twist.
THE BAD: Murphy/Robocop is barely in his own movie, same cool designs from original, movie is unfocused, new twist is wasted, world is undefined, weird music choices, not enough of cool robot tools, too much talking about politics/philosophy and not enough story/action
THE VERDICT: $$$ It is a hard maybe. I enjoyed myself, but looking back, why would you see this version when you could just as, or more, easily find and watch the original and get a much better experience? If you really need to see how it stands up to the original, I'd suggest waiting until after it goes to DVD/streaming.
MOVIES LIKE IT: Robocop (original), Elysium, I, Robot, RIPD, Oblivion
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: If you've seen the end to the original Robocop, you basically know how this one ends. In fact, it feels like it ends exactly like the original just because this is a remake and that's how it has to be. Murphy says the famous line, "Dead or alive, you're coming with me," and it is in the COMPLETELY wrong context. Like, why would you even do that? Why?