The reboot that no one really asked for is finally here, folks. As we all know, nothing lives in a vacuum, so as much as I’d like to ignore Paul Verhoeven’s original and solely focus on José Padilha’s re-imagining, it can be a little hard not comparing the two. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at how good Padilha’s “RoboCop” turned out to be, even if it does leave a bit to be desired. It’s smart, slick, and stylish, but somewhere in the assembly process, someone forgot to sprinkle in a bit of fun.
After failing to convince the American public that robot/drone law enforcement can be beneficial to public safety, OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) concludes that the only way to sway public opinion would be to “put a man inside a machine.” As Sellars and his marketing/research teams search for a proper candidate, officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) gets himself blown to bits after getting a bit too close to catching a big-time criminal. When Murphy wakes up, he’s more machine than man, and well, you know the rest.
I want to commend director José Padilha for not trying to remake the same movie we saw back in 1987. I love the fact that this “RoboCop” has its own identity and style, and a lot of the new plot elements are actually great. The fact that Murphy still has a hand is a nice little touch (for those who remember the original), and I love the fact that his family is involved, although they don’t get much to do. There’s a heightened sense of drama and despair, and it works with a story of this nature.
The action sequences are also mostly pretty cool, but I thought that Murphy’s training sequence in the steel mill looked a bit too much like a video game. There was a big fuss over the fact that the film would be PG13, but it can be pretty violent for a non R-rated flick. One scene in particular that involves Murphy looking at himself in the mirror without his full armor is shocking and honestly disturbing, proving that you don’t necessarily need an R-rating to effectively portray violence.
The movie does drop the ball on a few occasions, though. For one, Detroit really doesn’t look bad enough to warrant having robots walking around for safety. Verhoeven’s original gave us such a grim and crime-ridden city that the idea of a man in a suit of armor kinda made sense. Also, the fact that Murphy simply gets blown up by a car makes his revenge story less interesting. In the original, he got shot to bits by a bunch of thugs with shotguns, so when he finally gets his revenge, you feel a certain level of satisfaction. Here, the revenge story has less substance, and therefore less impact. This is a nitpick, but I really didn’t dig the black suit. The armor he wears in the beginning (basically an update of the 1987 suit) looks fantastic, but as as soon as the black armor shows up, it becomes less interesting, visually...except for his red visor; it’s really dope.
Verhoeven’s “RoboCop” was known for its biting satire, and while Padilha’s film may not be as on-point, it does have something to say about the use of drones around the world and in the United States. Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Pat Novak, is basically the future’s Bill O’Reilly, and his scenes are Padiilha’s chance to get his message across. They’re funny and resonant, and I wish more of the movie had that level of energy. For all the good things that “RoboCop” does, it’s a bit too serious. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an enjoyable sci-fi/action ride, but a bit more levity would have made a big difference. It’s all a bit too serious, which takes away from the fun. Performance-wise, I thought everyone did great. Joel Kinnaman is great as Murphy, and the fact that he doesn’t speak like a robot makes him a bit more relatable and human. Michael Keaton gives an excellent turn as the evil Steve Jobs-esque Raymond Sellars, and Gary Oldman is brilliant (as always) as Doctor Dennett Norton, the man who puts Murphy in his suit. I wish Abbie Cornish had a bit more to do as his wife, but she’s effective anytime she’s on screen.
Infinitely better than it has any right to be, José Padilha’s “RoboCop” is a very worthy reboot. It’s not perfect, and I wish it didn’t take itself so seriously, but I can’t deny its merits. It’s good enough to exist on its own without infringing on the original, and I’d really like to see where it goes next.
Numerical Score: 7.5
Originally Published on A Geek's Blog
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