Robocop returns to the big screen with a reboot that does its own thing, does it well, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
Lauren: As someone who hasn’t seen the original RoboCop, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this “remake” past a lot of muzzle flashes, a transforming mask, and a mechanical sounding voice from a man inside a machine. If you want a solid action film, then this is it. If you want more of a human story, emphasizing the Cop over the Robo, then you will be slightly disappointed as I find myself.
RoboCop opens up on the star of the show, Samuel L. Jackson, who is given more focus than the title character. Jackson is great as an outspoken and biased news commentator expressing his opinions about the need for robotic law enforcement to protect the streets of the United States, and somewhere along the way this becomes his film. Along with Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman, with RoboCop as their tool to sway America’s opinion into a pro robot mentality. There is a story somewhere in there about the man battling to retain his humanity as his family fights for him, but it unfortunately takes a back seat to the politics and corruption. Poor Joel Kinnaman.
**Warning: Some spoilers throughout**
Zac: I, sort of, completely disagree. The movie could have gotten more in depth to the family dynamic, for sure, but one of the major plots of the film is them trying to keep that out of the picture. The drama surrounding Alex Murphy and his struggle with what he has become is compelling and Kinnaman really gets to show off his range from sadness, imprisoned father/husband, to emotionless robot killing machine. I was totally engulfed in his pain and my only complaint was that they didn’t really dig much deeper. At the same time, how could they get into the family stuff more than they did? I agree it feels forced upon and only given lip service for drama in the back third of the film, but the interaction he has with his wife and son when he returns is about the extent of what that relationship is going to entail.
I saw the politics and greed as dressing to that main story, and while it too could have been expanded upon (the Fox News-like show paying suicide bombers would be an interesting idea to explore), the film keeps you engaged with ease from nearly start to finish.
Lauren: I dunno. I just had too much of a problem reading Kinnaman because even as he was “malfunctioning” the first time and his dopamine levels were going back up so that he was acting with emotion, I still didn’t feel like he was a man for the most part. He just felt like a machine that suddenly was being influenced by rage. In the end, the main thing they gave us to go on for him being in control again was that he was able to shoot a red tagged person, and then he was wearing chrome and not black. Ooh, such a resolution…
I just felt like the movie handled him similar to how the other characters did; he was just a pawn to move around and not really have his own story. Take the ending of the film as the biggest example: Kinnaman’s final scene was him putting the chrome suit on, and then his family walks in to greet him behind closed doors, and then we go to Samuel L. Jackson to carry it home. If this story was truly about Kinnaman’s character, then he should have gotten a better send off than this. It just felt like they were thinking that they had to do something for him, but he wasn’t important enough to get one last emotional reunion to bookend the first time he sees his family in his suit to show us that he really is himself again, and everything is going to be ok. At least to the extent that it can be.
Zac: I guess we will have to agree to disagree.
We were both on board with the set pieces (?) and while the film isn’t a balls to the wall action film, when it does pop up it is pretty solid. The finale wasn’t a big action beat, but it was a nice character moment of Murphy taking his agency back and I am mostly OK with that. They cheated quite a bit to get all the players in place, but we got our money’s worth before that.
What I really liked about the film was the sci-fi world building and the technological extrapolation the film has. The way the suit and technology works in the film is believable and smartly realized and I really appreciated that.
The whole movie’s existence is validated by one scene, though, and that is the incredible disassembly scene where we see all that is left of Murphy. Kinnaman is fantastic in that moment and even though it is a flashy effects scene that will be one of the best of the year, it is his work using simply his face that makes the scene resonate. Such cool imagery.
Lauren: Yes, that we can agree on. I was fascinated by his lungs and esophagus… And I want a pet AT-ST to guard my house. I doubt I would ever need it, but I want one!
The world building was definitely a high point in this film as I love futuristic stories like this, and I can’t think of any aspects in this area that threw off my enjoyment of the film. Heck, it’s not even that the lack of humanity ruined the film for me or anything like that, I still enjoyed it far more than you would guess based on what I’ve said just for the effects and straight story that we’ve seen before, it’s just when I have things like episodes of Almost Human to come home to on my DVR, I am reminded that there are definitely similar futuristic sci-fi stories out there that handle the elements that I really care about the most a little bit better. I got what I expected with RoboCop, I was just hoping for more.
Zac: RoboCop is a modest, well executed, start for a potential franchise reboot. Doesn’t take a ton of chances, could have done a few things better, but it’s solid groundwork for the inevitable sequels. (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit did the same this year.)
I had a good time and think RoboCop is an easy recommendation for fans of the action sci-fi genre, even fans of the original might like it.
Zac’s Final Grade: B
Lauren’s Final Grade: B-/B
One thought on “Dissecting RoboCop (2014) – A Worthy Reboot?”
One important part about the original series was how degraded and poor society had become. There was hardly any of that. Detroit looked like a nice place to live, not a post apocalyptic inequality war zone. Homeless everywhere with fancy 6000 SUX’s driving around at high speed by the bourgeoisie, immune from the rule of law. It really showed that it was a city that needed saving. The coldness of OCP wasn’t there. Michael Keaton played a pretty warm person. If one of his executives was accidentally killed by an ED 209 he would be sad at the loss of life, that’s not the OCP I know. OCP just seemed like a run of the mill business with slightly bad morals. I didn’t buy the ending of Keaton holding the gun.
I’ve easily watched each original robocop < a dozen times. I'm not mad I saw this one but I don't want to watch it again.