MOVIE REVIEW – ‘RoboCop’

Written by J.T. Johnson

3-12-stars

DIRECTOR: Jose Padilha
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lula Carvalho
WRITERS: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
MUSIC: Pedro Bromfman

Man, there are times where I’m actually happy when I’m wrong. Thankfully, this is one of those times. From the trailers and initially seeing the design of the suit, I predicted doom for this new version of “RoboCop”. The movie is not perfect, but it’s far from being a horrible, carbon copy remake of the 1987 classic.

In this new version of the story, OmniCorp is the leading manufacturer of drones in the world. The only problem is that they are losing money since they can’t put the machines on U.S. soil due to the Dreyfuss Act, banning the use of drones and other robotics from being used. OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) decides that if the public wants a machine with a conscience, then that is what they’ll get.

Meanwhile, Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is a good cop trying crack down on corruption and organized crime in Detroit. Soon, his actions lead him to being blown up by a car bomb. Due to his perfect candidacy for OmniCorp’s new project, Alex is selected to become RoboCop, the first in a hopeful line of robots with the mind of a human.

There is only one major flaw with this film and it comes with how long it takes for RoboCop to become RoboCop. Granted, it would have been one thing had they actually had more character development between Alex and his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) and his son David (John Paul Ruttan), but this still does not come until later in the film. The original movie did better at establishing RoboCop in a handful of quick scenes than this film did in thirty minutes.

Still, once this cop is deployed, this is where things really get interesting. RoboCop deals with having to confront his family after his transformation and tries to find those responsible for his own attempted murder. These two basic plot points are handled very well by the filmmakers even though it takes a little while to get there.

The movie does not simply rip off the first film and present it as something new, which was my biggest fear going into the theatre. Instead, it borrows elements from the first movie and makes them its own. The movie even has a message like the ’87 film, albeit the message of big corporations taking over the country is abandoned for the most part in order to talk about the ethics of using drones instead of men to fight our wars.

Other elements include clever use of lines such as the famous, “I’ll buy that for a dollar.” Another good example is that when the old RoboCop theme begins, the older audience members definitely know that they are in familiar territory.

The idea of the human element battling to take over the machine programming is also intact. This is another area where the original film wins because Peter Weller did a much better job at showing the transformation of a machine back into the man he once was. Kinnaman also does a good job nonetheless, but he just can’t quite get there.

This is mostly because with Weller, I always felt that I was watching a machine with the way he moved and acted. In Kinnaman’s performance, I only see a man wearing a suit. There is a point in the movie where Kinnaman’s emotions are practically taken away from him, but he still can’t quite reach what Weller accomplished.

The supporting cast is top-notch here though, especially with Keaton as the cold, calculating businessman Raymond and Gary Oldman as RoboCop creator Dr. Denntt Norton. Keaton’s Raymond has blinders on to anything that is going on around him emotionally. He only wants the money, plain and simple. While people are talking to him about the ethics of the science, he can be found checking his phone.

Oldman, on the other hand, builds an instantly sensitive relationship with RoboCop. This is important during the first part of the film while Alex is away from his family. He is a scientist with a heart and because of Oldman’s almost flawless acting chops the audience immediately likes this character. There’s not much more to say because it’s Oldman and he’s just great.

The action sequences are another highlight of the film. Without spoiling too much, they do a good job of bringing in the ED-209 and RoboCop doesn’t act nearly as much like Iron Man as I thought he would. Again, there are elements from the first movie that are brought in here and updated accordingly.

There is not much more ground to cover here. “RoboCop” turns out to be a pretty decent remake with good performances, good action and even though there are some narrative issues, the story is not that bad either. I say go see it!

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