Film Review: RoboCop

RoboCop

José Padilha’s remake of RoboCop does not reach the dizzy heights of the original. Nevertheless, the film is an entertaining action thriller.

In 2028 Detroit, multinational corporation OmniCorp is looking for a way to introduce drones and automated law enforcement to America, following their contracts abroad. When Detroit cop Alex Murphy is critically injured, OmniCorp may have found a solution…

The director’s cut of Paul Verhoeven’s ultraviolent satire is magnificent. When the production of a remake was announced, what a remake would offer was questionable. Nevertheless, given that 27 years have passed since the original, perhaps a remake would raise fresh concerns.

This new version of Robocop is less of a dystopian parable than its predecessor. Whereas the 1987 film questioned contemporary concerns through a satirical yet horrific futuristic vision, this update is more concerned with modern issues played out in a near-current environment. The film features some of the same subjects; the omnipotence of corporations, the dangers of technological advancement, corruption. Yet these concerns have somewhat come to pass, to a greater or lesser extent. What this RoboCop shows us is what is occurring now, albeit in a hyperbolic fashion.

There is less of a nightmarish future in Padilha’s RoboCop. Without this sense of projection, the void is filled by the ethical question of the treatment of Murphy himself. This is of course dealt with in the original, but it is less wry and more explicit here. There is a focus on Murphy’s family that is absent from the 1987 film. This works to humanise the character, but it is not really  a change for the better. What is missing from this version of RoboCop is the relationship with Lewis. Anne Lewis is replaced by Jack Lewis, who plays a much less significant role. Gone is the strong female character, who fulfils an important non-love interest part in the original.

Given RoboCop‘s rating, it is unsurprising the violence is sanitised. The grimy ugliness of the city is replaced by a more clinical depiction. There is still plenty of shooting, but the film lacks the grotesque humour of the original in these scenes. Even the corporation seems to lack bite; the villainy here is more subdued. The Novak Element television sequences are a welcome addition. Special effects in this new RoboCop are great. The action sequences are executed well, even if the ending feels a bit anti-climactic.

Joe Kinnamen is suitably cast as Alex Murphy. The lack of depth to this character is made up by Gary Oldman’s Dr Dennett Norton. Samuel L. Jackson amuses as Pat Novak, whilst Michael Keaton seems to be having fun as Raymond Sellers.

RoboCop does entertain, and at times amuse. Nonetheless, it fails to provide any real commentary. This is not a insurmountable problem, taking this version of RoboCop as a stand-alone film. It pales, however, in comparison to its predecessor.

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