Robocop (2014) Directed by José Padilha. Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton. IMDB says: “In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer.”
The biggest hurdle to overcome when rebooting a once popular film series is striking an even balance between the new and the old. You want to pay some amount of homage to the original property without simply duplicating the film. You want to offer something new to the franchise but not completely destroy everything it’s known for. Whatever it is a filmmaker chooses to do, it’s bound to piss off someone because it’s impossible to adapt a well known property and not have comparisons drawn somewhere.
With all that out of the way, José Padilha’s 2014 version of Robocop is very much aware of the pitfalls of this adaptation process. He does his damnest to create a new and culturally relevant version Robocop but ultimately can’t fully commit to some of the themes suggested. It’s an admirable effort, full of positive notes, but as a whole the movie severely lacks any real punch or staying power.
The movie is set in the near future and opens with a news show called ‘The Novak Element’ (hosted by Sam Jackson) a satirical version of something like ‘The The O’Reilly Factor.’ Novak shows us a Middle Eastern town that is currently patrolled by large drones and robots made by the multinational company OmniCorp. The news program is supposed to illustrate how the citizens are feeling much safer now that the drones are in control but it’s obscenely obvious that the people live in immense fear of the bots. The current political climate in the U.S. dictates that no drones or robotics are allowed as a form of law enforcement largely because the public opinion is highly against the bots’ lack of emotional discretion (you can see where I’m going with this). In order for OmniCorp to expand into the U.S. market, the company decides to utilize their robotic technology on some worthy candidate that had been detrimentally wounded. Enter police officer Alex Murphy.
Before I go off describing the whole damn movie to you, let’s stop right here an look into something for a minute. One thing that this movie does pretty well is introduce a world that actually feel fairly authentic in terms of its societal concerns. I can understand both the advancements in technology and the debate about drone technology. While the 1987 original dealt with the issue of immense control held by corporations during a time in which that was a real concern, this updated film missed a big opportunity to do the same but with safety. It stays with the evil corporation subject and for the most part makes the government look like the good guy. I think it would have been a much bolder and honestly, more believable decision if the filmmakers made OmniCorp a government contractor instead. It would have fit better with our current social surroundings and made a much bigger statement. This is only the beginning of a series of ‘safer’ choices opted for in this reboot.
The rest of the movie has a ‘this or that’ syndrome for me. I liked a little of this, not so much that. The screenplay is well written. It trades in some one liners for a more developed understanding of our main character. The direction works sporadically. The shaky cam is borderline unbearable in some early scenes but later on there are a few very fluid fight scenes. Overall, the FX work is lovely. Everything looks sleek and stylish, including the different variations of robo-suits. The film also boasts an incredible cast featuring Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle & Samuel L. Jackson. Unfortunately, no one ever gets to perform to their full potential leaving the film with one of its biggest faults.
You can give this Robocop a try but it probably won’t make as big of a slash as you were hoping. I would suggest waiting for video but if you are hard up to go to the theater this weekend, then this flick might be your best bet.