“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”
To give you an idea of my stance on Robocop franchise, I enjoyed the Robocop 1+2, didn’t see 3, enjoyed the television show and vaguely remember the cartoon series and didn’t see the Robocop mini series tv movies.
Robocop has caught up with reality or reality has caught up with Robocop. Facial Recognition. Drones. Cellphone GPS. Police States. Wounded Warriors with metal prothesis straight out of a sci-fi movie.
The 2014 reboot, directed by José Padilha and staring The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman as the titular character and co-staring Michael K. Williams as Jack Lewis, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as their boss and Abbie Cornish as the soon to be grieving Missus Murphy takes place in a world where robotic police states like Tehran are the normal and the USA is anti-robot.
The stage is set early when Samuel L Jackson playing news personality Pat Novak, a Bill O’Reilly-type gives the audience a look at Tehran, the ED-209 and smaller bots that are spitting images of Cylon toasters. Jackie Earle Haley’s Rick Mattox in a Elysium power suit rip off explains the robots won’t kill them as long as they have these wrist bands. This is a great scene because how far facial recognition and retina scanning can go. And it shows the ED-209s are still walking elephants that even though they have superior firepower they can still be taken out by an IED.
OCP CEO played by Michael Keaton sees the USA as a lucrative ground but a senate bill is blocks him until Detroit cop Alex Murphy and his partner Lewis stick their noses where it doesn’t belong and Murphy is gravely wounded.
If this sounds busy it’s because it is. Alex and Lewis as partners are introduced as a flashback which doesn’t make sense since the shoot out scene they’re in could easily have fit within the movie with going from one war zone to another.
Unfortunately, the drug lord they’re after is no Clarence Boddicker. There is no gimme my fucking phone call or He’s a Cop Killer. Which is fine. The problem is he has no visual presence and a horrible name. It’s okay since he isn’t the head baddie. The problem is the original Robo had a nice tier system with baddies. This tier system has been played up a bunch in movies. Boss, enforcer, underlings. Clarence being the enforcer with his gang while Jones being the overall boss.
Essentially what we have here is a cowboy movie with the hero left for dead coming back for vengeance but with no Gene Hackman and crap ton of cutouts. The villains of this Robocop aren’t really hissable like Clarence or Dick Jones. I wish Jackie Earle Haley’s Rick Mattox or Patrick Garrow’s Antoine Vallon were give more plot to establish themselves.
The wounded warrior aspect is played up a lot in this movie and it’s one of the better plot threads. Gary Oldman’s Dr. Dennett Norton is the prosthesis expert at Omni and is the one that turns Murphy from a man in a machine to a machine with a man’s face only to have Murphy’s free will get control and like the ’87 version go after his killers.
The drugging of Murphy to obey is not a new one, Robocop 2 covered this rather well and is played well in this reboot when Murphy is about to be unveiled to the world and like all Revision A products gets a blue screen of death quite literally.
The SFX are good. They’re no Robocop 2 with battling stop motion models. I like old school, this CGI robots hurting through the air is too much.
The Robocop design which came under fire in ’87 for looking like Judge Dredd is still there. The masking/unmasking isn’t handled well even if the CGI looks good. The helmet is just a shy too far down on his nose. I’m being nitpicky, I know but if it’s don’t broke, don’t fix it. This type of size problem didn’t help the Predators in AVP and it’s not helping Robo now. I’m happy to see his bike is so better then Judge Dredd. That’s not sarcasm, Dredd’s bike was crap compared to Robo’s ride.
The action was handle well. Except for the fact none of the scenes are rememberable. The shoot out in the dark was a great idea but the ’87 drug lab shootout ended with Murphy tossing Boddicker through windows (including some that cracked a bit too soon, ahem) and that was rememberable.
Unlike it’s predecessor, this Robocop doesn’t handle the balls it’s judging. The family plot is played up well, the wounded warrior is there, the drugged officer too and oh by they way he’s trying to solve his own murder. And drones, and and and it’s just wee bit too much.
It being PG-13 didn’t hurt it as much as I thought it would. It’s not trying to be Verhoeven rip-off. It’s trying to be itself and it got fifty percent there and just didn’t nail the landing. It didn’t suck but it wasn’t awesome. I think if hadn’t played it safe and gone with R and refocused the villains we would have had a better movie.
On a side note, the lack of Robocop advertising like fabricating new drunk driving/stay in school ads using Joel Kinnaman with the Robocop one-liners or faux OCP ads as tv trailers was a missed opportunity.
Final Verdict: Track down the newest Robocop Blu-Ray with the free ticket option. Otherwise, Matinee or wait for cable.