Review: Robocop

Robocop

The latest is the slew of Hollywood remakes hit the screen recently. This time, Tinsel Town have decided to reboot the Robocop franchise, the question is; is it too soon?

My answer is ‘no’. The original 1987 movie is an absolute classic whose sequels really drove the franchise into the ground, but the special effects are quite dated and the amount of splatter and gore is typical Paul Verhoeven excess; a reflexion of the time it was made.

Also, real-world technology is catching up to what was portrayed in the 80’s version, for example, prosthetic limbs are being produced with mechanical and computerised parts. Add to this the debate about drones being used, not just in armed conflicts around the world but also, by companies like Amazon to deliver goods straight to your door. So now is the perfect time to reanimate the Robocop name.

This time round Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) isn’t blown to pieces by a psychotic criminal overlord (’cause, let’s face it, there was no way 1980’s Murphy was being put back together again, especially if you’ve seen the director’s cut!), he is the victim of a car bomb that doesn’t quite kill him. Admittedly, this is put there by the henchmen of a criminal overlord who Murphy and his partner, Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams), have been bothering.

What happens around the rebuilding of Murphy into Robocop is a lot of politically motivated opinion polls and testing by a company called Omnicorp (never trust a company named Omnicorp!). Omnicorp have contracts with the military, providing them with drones which are being used in countries around the world where the U.S. army would otherwise be risking their lives. They are looking to expand their contracts into the law enforcement agencies in America, but have come across opposition from the government and the people. So, the head of Omnicorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) and his scientific researcher, Dr Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), come up with the idea of putting a man in the machine, therefore winning trust back from the American public so they can get their products on the street as well as those lucrative contracts.

From here on in we see the heartbreak of the Murphy family through Abbie Cornish’s Clara Murphy, whose decision it is to try to save her husband, not knowing that he will be the property of Omnicorp. We also see how badly Sellars wants the Robocop scheme to work and how much Norton’s research means to him, as he battles with his morals and the promise of unlimited funding.

In fact, Dennett Norton’s moral quandary is the focal point of the film with Oldman really portraying a man torn by ambition and integrity. His performance pulls the audience in and he becomes the character you empathise with. More so that Murphy, even, especially as Kinnaman mumbles his lines and broods a lot, even before his accident. After he becomes Robocop, he is being controlled to the point of complete obedience, which makes it difficult for an audience to get behind him, despite the injustices being made against him.

All of these main plot points, including the first and last scenes of the film, are framed by Samuel L. Jackson’s right-wing TV presenter, Pat Novak. Whose bias for Omnicorp is crystal clear and more than a little hypocritical in places. This is clearly a satire on right leaning U.S. news outlets like Fox News and presenters like Rush Limbaugh.

All this talk of politics makes the film sound more like a dramatic thriller than a sci-fi action romp. But there are action scenes aplenty, the special effects look great, as does the Robocop armour, especially the leg holster! but, truly, the meat of the film is the corporate scenes with people arguing about the morals versus the profits. If there are going to be sequels, these won’t have to focus quite so much on this side, freeing up the plot for more in the way of traditional action film set pieces. But, this is yet to be announced.

Robocop is  a different film from its predecessors, it is an update that works well – perhaps better than the original – it focusses more on the corporate side of things but still manages to fit in a decent amount of action. One criticism is that it could have easily been a 15 instead of a 12A without the box office being affected, the original was an 18 and still produced massively popular kids merchandise. But, such is the way with big budget films now; they have to appeal to the largest audience possible, which is a shame. But this version of Robocop shouldn’t be looked down upon for this reason only.

Your move.

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