The Robocop remake is the latest feature that tries to keep the human in artificial intelligence. Her Spike Jonze’s cyber love story about a geek who falls in love with his female voiced operating system was the cool romantic comedy for our new machine age. The upcoming Johnny Depp starring Transcendence has Mr Depp’s mind loaded onto mainframes and spreading his megalomania to rest of networked cyberspace. This Robocop is a transition piece between the two– not fully committing to finding and loving the soul in the machine and not completely willing to commit coding itself to the dark side.
This Alex Murphy is less machine tooled than the Peter Weller original. Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) ups the angst and the horror of discovering that underneath his silver (later black) surface he is nothing but a brain and lung kept alive by the technology of a humanist scientist (Gary Oldman) resisting the top level corporate desire (Michael Keaton) to fully weaponize rather than humanize its latest product offering. For thirty minutes Brazilian director Jorge Padhilla (Elite Squad, Bus 174) delivers his vision, a Johnny Got His Gun drama that can’t resolve its anti-violence heart with its action/revenge mind. The stylized violence of the Paul Verhoeven original would be very out of place here. The only echo of the original Verhoeven satirical style is found in Samuel L. Jackson Rush Limbaugh like newscasts that praises the Omnicorp miltaristic mind-set.
The movie splits itself into a draw. It is never quite the sci-fi tragedy that Padhilla only hints at, nor the revenge action picture the studio would prefer it to be. The villains, a cliche mixture of the original’s corrupt cops and arms dealers, are an easy solve and an even easier kill– and the Omnicorp baddies don’t get their final exits in any kind of audience pleasing finale. The original was over-the-top and nihilistic to the core. This new Robcop, is all too human, as fitting its PG-13 rating.
Robocop gets a B from me.