Paul Verhoeven's 1987 classic RoboCop was praised for the very things that eventually made his career crumble in the United States. The empty sensationalism of the giant robot ED-209 mistakenly murdering someone in a boardroom. The icky toxic sludge that melted the skin off one of RoboCop's victims. These scenes blended extreme violence and satire so brilliantly that 's current remake seems blasphemous by proxy. PG-13 whitewashing is just too much for too many fans. As such, Verhoeven's high-concept, low-budget approach has gotten a companion piece in a high-budget movie that tries to evolve original's goal of being taken seriously and not seriously at all with varying degrees of success.
We're taken to the year 2028, when America polices the majority of the world with giant drones made by a company called OmniCorp. Unfortunately for the company's inherently evil boss, Raymond Sellars (a hammy ), these robotic infantry troopers are considered too inhuman to police the streets of Detroit and other American cities. Being the businessman and terrible person that he is, Sellars decides to bridge the gap between man and machine by placing Alexy Murphy (The Killing's ), a cop ravaged by an explosion, inside the new product he's trying to sell.
The idea of creating a hero out of a man who's essentially made of a spine, a pair of lungs, and a head is A-okay to the Senate, especially when compared to an algorithm that'll shoot first and never ask questions later. It's supposed to raise the moral and ethical implications how we could potentially use prosthetics to police the world. Instead, it makes you long for the frenetic mayhem and unpredictability of the original film when Alex Murphy was torn to bits by bullets and reborn as an uncompromising killing machine.
RoboCop shines when Alex Murphy is allowed to actually be RoboCop, policing the streets of Detroit by binge watching all of the crimes that have been committed in the city like some deranged YouTube journey. While purists will scoff at his sleek black getup, it differentiates itself enough from the likes of Iron Man or Peter Weller's original look, at least enough to feel tactical and badass instead of bulky and brainless. Likewise, Murphy's relationship with Dr. Norton (), the man willing to compromise his own beliefs about the project, is always fun to watch - especially when Norton gives him some shooting to do or when he removes RoboCop's bionic body that reveal his lungs expanding and contracting.
Unfortunately, the biggest misstep in the movie is something that could've been the strongest: Alex Murphy's relationship with his wife, Clara (), and son, David (John Paul Rutton). They seem like an afterthought - a reason to make a compelling case for the humanity of RoboCop. However, there are still too many traces of satire - in 's TV personality monologues - that leave little room for Cornish to truly embody a woman whose husband has turned mostly into a cybernetic living organism. She never has the chance to embrace the seriousness of the situation or its silliness.
Jose Padilha's intentions, along with screenwriters Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, are obviously full of love and admiration for the source material in a way that the remake of Total Recall never had the luxury of finding. But at the same time, it's hard not to leave with the feeling that it isn't nearly as fun as the original.