Robocop is a remake of the classic 1980s film about a police officer who gets brutally murdered, but the remains of his body are salvaged and merged with machine creating a cyborg cop that is sent to clean up the streets of Detroit. Joel Kinnaman takes over the title role and he’s joined by Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson and Jackie Earl Haley.
I was wary of this because the early buzz hasn’t been too positive, but I actually liked it quite a bit. It’s not a shot-for-shot remake of the original, which I appreciate because I don’t need a shot-for-shot remake, I have the original on dvd so I can watch that. They approached it from a different angle but there are a few nods to the original, and I think it’s a decent effort.
The focus here was really on Alex Murphy’s struggle to come to terms with what he’s become, and OCP are at the forefront of the film. It also talks about the benefits and risks of allowing technology to have a huge role in our lives. Quite a lot of the film was given to arguments debating the use of robot police officers, and Samuel L. Jackson’s character was used well to satirize the current media climate, and how they bend facts and statistics to further their own agenda. Murphy’s family also played a bigger role in this film than they did in the remake, and I like that angle because I think it’s something that was under-developed in the original films (I think it was supposed to be a focal plot point for Robocop 2 but it got lost in re-writes).
I thought the cast were great, with Gary Oldman being especially brilliant. Joel Kinnamen blended the humanity of Murphy with the robotic, emotionless side of Robocop in an authentic way and I think the casting people did a good job of choosing him. But it was a good effort on casting all around.
As for comparisons with the original, well, there’s a lot less blood. One of the reasons why I was wary going into this was because of the way that Murphy became critically injured. I thought it was pandering to the PG-13 crowd and it wouldn’t have as much of an impact as the visceral and horrible way Murphy got attacked in the original. Well, I have to say that it worked in the context of this film. It actually has a story reason and there’s a point where Murphy sees what is left of his body under the suit and that scene is as harrowing as anything in the original.
The action is quite fast-paced and I liked the visuals the director used. There’s not a lot of blood but there are a lot of bullets, so although it lacks some of the impact of the original it’s still very quite frenetic. The plot is interesting and the film is paced well, however the climax lacks some punch and I didn’t feel the catharsis that I thought I would. It’s a mostly satisfying ending but I thought it lacked an element of tension.
All that being said I think there’s a lot to like about this film. They kept the original theme which was a nice touch and there are things that fans of the original will enjoy, but it also feels fresh and not just a simple re-tread of the original. It touches on concepts of free will vs determinism and what constitutes our identity, and the question of whether we have a soul or not. Obviously it’s still a Hollywood action film so it doesn’t get really deep into the arguments but I appreciate the fact that they’re explored to some degree, it gives the film some depth and nuance. There are some great moments of human drama and the acting is superb. I’m actually hoping this does well enough for a sequel because I think there are more ideas to explore.