RoboCop - Review

In 1987, Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi action movie RoboCop was quite a bit ahead of its time.
Featuring a not too far fetched, quite relatable looking but also dystopian, crime infested Detroit, his vision of an unstoppable "justice-machine", RoboCop, was quite something new.
Along with the movie being a showcase of the troubles regarding man-and-machine ethics, strikingly obvious social commentary as well as incredibly graphic violence, there might be quite some inspirations Verhoeven took from the older Judge Dredd comics.
With machines getting more and more integrated into our everday routine and many aspects of life that felt like science-fiction in 1987 now being reality, there are many reasons a RoboCop remake could actually work.
Many themes of Verhoevens original RoboCop therefore are relevant today more than ever.
Question is if director José Padilha is able to make his RoboCop remake's impact equally as relevant as the original's.  

The plot:
In RoboCop, the year is 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. Overseas, their drones have been used by the military for years - and it's meant billions for OmniCorp's bottom line. Now OmniCorp wants to bring their controversial technology to the home front, and they see a golden opportunity to do it. When Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) - a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit - is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine pursuing justice.
(source: IMDb)

RoboCop's story unsurprisingly works fairly closely to the original from 1987 in most cases.
Cop Alex Murphy gets horribly disfigured by a criminal gang and gets a second chance as a half-robot, half-man-cop, while at the same time struggling with his robotic-mind.

Yet, after the premise has been worked through, Padilha's RoboCop takes a new route into more ethical topics and a more conspiracy oriented storyline.

Instead of a good balance between Murphy struggling to find out who he is and him fighting the crime mob to take his personal revenge on them, the RoboCop remake focusses far more on the first of the two.
Murphy trying to assess whether his life as RoboCop is worth living, trying to get into contact with his family, numeous dialogues about the ethics of replacing humans with machines and countless other verbally focussed themes obviously take the center stage here.

"Am I a robot? Or am I a cop?...Why not both?!"

Almost like working through a bullet-point-list of trademark themes of the original, still, the new RoboCop movie very obviously tries to update certain themes to match today's relevant topics.
Especially the bigger focus on Murphy's troubled family life and the increasing use of artificial intelligence and robots in warzones are quite nice touches that distinguish this new RoboCop from the original and try to make it more emotional and globally relevant.
While all those themes are reasonably picked up and handled pretty okay to a certain extent (!), the movie's attention span sadly seems to be quite short, dropping many globally relevant themes pretty quickly, and instead focussing more on Murphy's inner struggles.

Yet, despite all the updated themes trying to compensate or mimic the obvious social commentary of the original through various dialogue heavy scenes, the new RoboCop sadly is one of those movies that don't know how to maintain a good balance between dialogue and action.
With that said, the movie sadly gets "preachy" really fast, drowning all the fairly well handeled themes in a pit of "taking itself too seriously".
It's certainly not a good thing if your sci-fi action movie is making the audience feel more like its watching a philosophy picture rather than a sci-fi action movie.

"Ready to kick ass?" - "Nope, let's talk about robots n' stuff."

Actingwise, RoboCop has quite a surprisingly good cast for a blockbuster remake of its calibre.
Whereas good casting choices can be found mostly in the supporting cast like Gary Oldman as the charismatic Dr. Dennett Norton, Michael Keaton as the capitalistc boss of robot company OmniCorp Raymond Sellars or even Jackie Earle Haley as the unlikable assh**e gunsmith Mattox (who should've gotten way more screentime), the main actors though could've been picked much more wisely.
The most prominent showcase of this is the our main hero, Alex Murphy/RoboCop, this time played by Joel Kinnaman.

Kinnaman certainly has the looks it takes to play the part, sadly, he himself comes of as more of a wooden robot (and side character in his own movie) himself.
With that said, Kinnaman makes it incredibly hard for the audience to build up any relatable sympathy for him. Mostly this is caused due to Kinnaman's stiff acting and shoe-horned in "badass" persona, which is only given real emotion when he already finds himself as a disfigured man inside a robot suit, but never before it.
On the other hand, one would think that such a wooden actor would be just great for playing a "robot", - but no. Whereas Peter Weller from the original did a fantastic job playing a vivid human cop turned into a monotone looking machine, Kinnaman obviously has a hard time to decide when to play his human or robot persona. His inner struggle between the robot mind and his human mind often feel astoundingly foced for that matter, making Kinnaman change between robot-acting and human-acting just as it is plot-convenient and as he sees fit.
This results in this new RoboCop most of the time feeling more like just a man in a robot suit (Iron Man?) rather than a true robot-man-hybrid as in the original.

Worsening the emotional impact the movie tries to deliver is only Abbie Cornish playing Murphy's wife Clara Murphy.
Although she is getting several supposedly emotional scenes with her robot husband trying to talk sense into him, she even "out-woodens" Kinnaman when it comes to acting.
Heartbreaking scenes from the original between Murphy and his wife trying to cope with the fact that she lost her husband despite him somehow being locked inside the robot-suit become a farce here.
When it comes to Abbie Cornish, you never believe any word that she is saying. Especially the scene in which it is in her hands to decide whether to put her husband in the robo-suit or not, she acts like her dog just died.

Those wooden actors would be great for a Pinocchio movie.

Regarding the action, RoboCop is a movie that has disappointingly little to offer despite its nice visuals.
Being a PG-13 movie, the action of the entire movie feels incredibly tame.
Often this is made very clear through the movie's obvious cut-aways when anybody is about to get seriously hurt. Aside from this lack in graphic violence making it very hard to get a feel for a "dystopian", crime ridden Detroit (this time around, Detroit actually does look like a fairly nice city), it hardly gets clear when RoboCop is actually killing, maming or stunning an enemy.
Additionally, the action unfortunately is very badly choreographed and shot.
On top of several been-there-done-that shootouts which feel like watching somebody play a dull videogame, the audience will find itself constantly annoyed by the movie's use of shakey cam that immediately kicks in when one of the very few action scenes starts.
This is all topped up by very weird music choices in some action scenes, and a phenomenally anti-climactic showdown between RoboCop and the main antagonist.

Pouring salt into the wound is the aforementioned fact that the movie honestly looks really really good.
José Padilha's crew of concept artists did a tremendously good job when it came to reimagining RoboCop and his world.
While Detroit, as already mentioned, looks much more clean and less futuristic than the original, they clearly made up for it by giving everything a much sleaker and more sexy look.
Most notably this can be seen on RoboCop's new suit. Whereas the movie also gives the audience a short look at the updated original silver suit, the new main black RoboCop suit might alienate fans of the original, but is exactly what a 21st century version of RoboCop would look like.
Along with the new suit, CGI effects in the movie look pretty good, giving not only RoboCop but each individual robot much more flexibility than the stop-motion robots from the original.
Now, RoboCop can move faster, shoot multiple weapons simultaneously and he even has his own sleak police bike,, if only he would be given more and cooler scenes to use those in.
What a pity...

Sad to see such great designs and visuals get underutilized.

Summed up, José Padilha's RoboCop remake is certainly a movie that has the right spirit and visuals to pull off a successfull and meaningful action blockbuster with smarts, but sadly seems to be lacking the needed expertise and tools to do it.
RoboCop updates both visuals and its orientation in tackled themes and topics quite well for today's age in which robots and high-technology surround us ever more, yet, RoboCop sadly crumbles under its own thematic weight.
Being obviously preoccupied with its several themes it wants to cover through various dialogues, the movie forgets to keep the right balance between meaningful themes and entertaining action that made the 1987's original so successfull.
With that said, RoboCop quickly dissolves into a movie whose constant messaging makes it feel like it's taking itself way too seriously and whose few, tame action scenes end up being far away from making up for this, due to their incredibly lacking quality.
Not even the good performances by the impressive cast of side characters (played by Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, etc.) can help RoboCop overcome its weak main actors and let alone its overall disappointingly low entertainment value, despite obvious good intentions.  

Final Verdict: 3 out of 10 

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