RoboCop Reboot Looks Cool but Still Isn't Worth Revisiting
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 12 Feb
DVD Release Date: June 3, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: February 12, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material)
Run Time: 108 min.
Director: José Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jay Baruchel, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Ehle, Michael K. Williams, Jackie Earle Haley, John Paul Ruttan
When the original RoboCop released a whopping 27 years ago, the idea of a terminally wounded police officer returning to the force as a crime-fighting cyborg in dystopian Detroit was a pretty novel idea.
In what was a light but entertaining slice of science fiction, the best thing about RoboCop wasn't how cool it looked. More of a guilty pleasure than something you'd take seriously, the joy came in seeing how the writers and actors brought this ridiculous premise to life. They were clearly in on the joke—and the script's humor and sense of imagination reflected that.
Not surprisingly, a lot has changed in nearly three decades. With the recent barrage of Transformers films (and another is slated for a theater near you this summer), last summer's dreadful Pacific Rim, Hollywood’s seemingly never-ending fascination with superheroes and the popularity of Call of Duty gaming, there’s not much need for a RoboCop reboot now. Simply put, audiences have been there, seen that, already.
No doubt, special effects have come a long way and the latest RoboCop has plenty of visual wow factor, but what happened in 1987 still should’ve stayed in 1987. While the warm pangs of nostalgia may be enough to satisfy some filmgoers, one can’t help noticing that RoboCop circa 2014 is as disposable and flimsy as the scrap metal the titular character is constructed from.
Pretty much following the original story beat for beat (minus any of the whimsy), this RoboCop is also set in Detroit. It’s now 2028, and everywhere but in the United States crime is on the downslide, thanks to efficient, dispassionate robots who’ve basically replaced the human police force. But as much as multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is fighting to get U.S. lawmakers to reconsider using robot-driven technology, they keep losing the battle. But since necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Rises) may have discovered something better: a hybrid of man and machine (a.k.a. RoboCop).
Everyone at OmniCorp, especially the top dog Raymond Sellars (welcome back to the big screen, Michael Keaton) believes this technology is the big break they’ve been seeking. But who is the right man to sport the armor, the man the public could really get behind, the mere mortal who would convince Washington that man-bots are the crime-fighting wave of the future?
Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman, TV’s The Killing), a devoted husband, father of one and dedicated police officer who bravely stands up to corruption, no matter the cost. Proving how committed he is, as Alex gets closer to cracking a big case in an increasingly hostile Motor City, a well-placed car bomb leaves him with more injuries than he can count. But according to Dr. Norton, life-saving surgery is a possibility, something Alex’s wife Clara (Abbie Cornish, Seven Psychopaths) immediately agrees to.
Trouble is, Alex isn't quite the same person afterward. With all his flesh - save for the face - replaced with metal, his new, robotic form has given way to emotional changes as well. Programmed to fight crime and not much else, an unexpected glitch in the system causes occasional instability during the testing process in China. In the film’s best sequence, Alex has an epiphany about how his new exterior negatively impacts him on a deeper soul level, and his escape from the lab offers an all-too-brief sense of menace that’s largely missing from the proceedings. It’s a rare moment that deviates from the film’s general blah-ness.
Aside from that, however, there’s a real shortage of ingenuity present in what’s supposed to be a thrilling futuristic story. Even Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers) relies on his usual bombastic shtick as an opportunistic reporter who isn’t afraid to use fear-mongering techniques to make his points. In what’s clearly a parody of today’s 24-hour news cycle, the jokes lack any real zing.
Coincidentally, that pretty much sums up today’s RoboCop. With repetitive action sequences that don’t do much to advance the story and dialogue that feels trapped in mothballs, the overall experience is simply a reminder of how much better the original was.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Occasional social drinking. Different scientific concoctions lessen pain and dull emotions. Some discussion of drug deals, trafficking, etc.
- Language/Profanity: Several variations of God’s name used inappropriately, sh--, as-, as-ho--, da--, he--and a single bleeped-out use of motherfu---- that’s not disguised all that well.
- Sex/Nudity: A married couple engages in a bit of foreplay (we see the side of Clara’s breast pressed up against Alex as they kiss).
- Violence/Gore: While the violence is largely bloodless, gunfire is a near constant. One of the international drones kills a child with a knife in his hand on national television. A particularly aggressive car explosion causes Alex to lose most of his bodily functions. Criminals are shot and killed right in front of the public, which includes children. There’s also a couple of icky surgery scenes where we see the future RoboCop’s brain operated on.
Publication date: February 12, 2014