First off, RoboCop is not a sacred cow. I know there is a lot of love for the original (1987), but it’s not some holy grail that everyone makes it out to be. With that in mind, the remake of this classic (I use the term loosely) ’80s movie isn’t that bad. Is this the remake we deserved, or even wanted? No, but it’s entertaining enough for any fan to enjoy.
The premise for the movie is streamlined a bit to make sense. OmniCorp wants a Congressional act repealed to allow robots to work in America. Completely separate from that, Officer Alex Murphy is blown up by a weapons dealer/Detroit bad guy. OmniCorp, looking for an injured human to turn into a machine, transforms Murphy into RoboCop. This is set against a backdrop of exploring humanity, ethics, and political agendas. Points that are raised to give the illusion that the story is deeper than it really is.
The movie creates a more believable world than any previous incarnations. I say that now, looking back at how goofy the 1987 version was, and wonder if I’ll think the same of this in 20 years. Relative newcomer Joel Kinnaman is serviceable as the titular cyborg. His design is interesting. I didn’t mind the tactical black he sported through most of the film, though the odd choice to leave his hand intact was peculiar. Abbie Cornish fell flat as Murphy’s wife, lacking emotion and acting more as a plot device than anything else. Their son, David (John Paul Ruttan), wasn’t half bad when he was allowed to talk instead of staring blankly.
The rest of the performances were spot on. Gary Oldman killed it as Dr. Dennett Norton, doing questionable things to serve his overlords. I don’t think Oldman is capable of turning in a bad performance. Though his character made some odd choices, it was more of a script problem than anything else. Michael Keaton was fine as CEO Raymond Sellars (get it, Sellars?). Again, the writers held back, not truly vilifying him, which hurt the overall movie. Antagonist Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley) was a lot of fun, but then again I’m a fan of Haley’s work. I just wish he was given more to do. Sam Jackson was his typical self as biased reporter Pat Novak. Since he had only four scenes in the movie, I wonder why they spent the money on Jackson. His part couldn’t have taken more than two days to film.
Surprisingly, the PG-13 rating didn’t hurt the movie, at least not for me. Sure, RoboCop has been just as much a gore fest as it has been an action movie, but I typically find such things distracting and cheesy. There was plenty of action and gunfights in this iteration, but they were more realistic and less comical. Fear not, Jackson was able to drop his infinitely quotable “mother f*****” line creatively. Other well-known RoboCop lines can be heard as well, but “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me,” was given the worst delivery imaginable. Easily the best scene was Murphy seeing what remained of his body. My skin crawled during this reveal, and I felt his heartache.
What stuck out to me the most was the subtext and agendas. Government and Big Business were painted in a good light here, with only a few shown to be villains. I use the villains loosely. The Congressional act barring robots couldn’t be repealed because the Senators wouldn’t vote against the will of their constituents? Please. Given the current political climate and general displeasure in America, this was the most laughable part of the movie. If there was a buck to be made, this bill wouldn’t have existed, period.
If you’re a die-hard RoboCop fan (please message me, I have questions), this isn’t for you. If you know of or enjoyed RoboCop in the past, this can be a bit of fun. I wouldn’t run out and see it, but definitely not a waste of two hours. Just don’t buy into the biased subtext.
Despise the redesign or unphased by it? Scared of what movie will be remade next? Comment below!
RoboCop 2: Robo Harder.