The recent 1980s remake trend continues with this new reboot of RoboCop. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), one of the only decent cops remaining on Detroit’s police force, is severely injured after an attempt on his life, via a car explosion. This is the perfect opportunity needed by OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), who wants to create a cyborg police officer to help sway public opinion against an anti-robotics act in congress. With the help of scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), RoboCop is born. As OmniCorp, and right-wing news commentator Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), pushes RoboCop as the ultimate crime-fighting machine, Murphy struggles to maintain his humanity and connection with his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son.
The original RoboCop film from 1987 was the North American directorial debut of Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven and it was known for its biting social satire and extreme violence. While the action of the film went in a PG-13 direction, the satire is still somewhat present in this remake, in the form of The Novak Element television news program, where Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Pat Novak spreads his pro-robotics propaganda to viewers. While these segments only appear periodically throughout the film, they standout as one of the highlights of a remake, which is much better than it has any right to be.
While the film was overall better than expected, RoboCop is not without its issues. While Alex Murphy is injured quite early in the film, in a much less shocking fashion than the original I might add, the remainder of the first half of the film is spent with lengthy sequences of what can best be described as “RoboCop training.” While this section of the film does help to establish Gary Oldman’s Dr. Norton as a sympathetic counterpoint Michael Keaton’s greedy and selfish Raymond Sellars, it did get boring waiting for RoboCop to re-enter society. Once RoboCop actually started fighting crime in the second half of the film, I have to admit that things got much more enjoyable.
Joel Kinnaman, best known for his role on the television series The Killing, was competent enough in the lead role. Unlike the original film, this RoboCop has a retracting visor, which allows Kinnaman’s face to be seen a lot more. This allows the character to consistently have a lot more humanity than he did in the original film. Another nitpick-worthy change is how Murphy was now “badly injured,” instead of outright killed. This, as well as the inclusion of Murphy’s family as major characters, somewhat lessons the impact of the story of a man who’s changed into a robot and learns to become a man again. Of course, like I said, this is a nitpick of someone who has seen the original and I doubt first-time viewers is even going to notice this.
One of the strength’s of RoboCop is its impressive supporting cast, most notably Gary Oldman’s Dr. Norton, who is the main moral centre of the film. Jackie Earle Haley is also somewhat impressive as the secondary antagonist Rick Mattox, who is almost more of a villain than Raymond Sellars. Speaking of which, I have to admit that the role of Sellars was somewhat miscast. While I’m sure Michael Keaton can do a good villain in the right context, he is too likeable an actor to truly take seriously as a slimy CEO. In fact, it can probably be argued that his biggest contribution to the film is insisting that Robocop’s armour be black (the less said about that the better).
Overall, the biggest crime of RoboCop is the very fact that it is a remake of an existing and well-known property. If it wasn’t for the baggage that comes with comparisons to Paul Verhoeven’s original film, which is overall much more enjoyable, I would say that this film stands quite well on its own. While I do not agree with Hollywood’s insistence to mine existing properties, just to make a quick buck, RoboCop was still a somewhat decent watch.7 | FAIR