Movie Review: Robocop
By Matthew Huntley
February 20, 2014
I admit my expectations for the new RoboCop were rather low to begin with, and whether that’s now playing a part in my being pleasantly surprised by it, I can’t say for sure, although it’s likely. In any case, this rebooted version, which comes out nearly 30 years after the same-named original, is surprisingly well-made and entertaining. It’s not a great film, and on the whole probably unnecessary, but what keeps it going is its refusal to merely be an updated version of its predecessor. It actually executes its premise from a different angle than what we’ve seen before, which is what all remakes, if there have to be any, should strive to do.
Besides the fact this is a remake of a popular science fiction movie (and is therefore already part of our collective consciousness), the title alone should tell you everything you need to know about RoboCop. In a futuristic society, one fraught with crime, violence and cynicism, not to mention an ever-widening gap between political parties, a billion-dollar technology company called OmniCorp has engineered highly sophisticated robots, which look uncannily like the clones from the Star Wars prequels, to police the streets. The company has sold these “drones,” if you will, to nearly every country in the world - every country, that is, except the United States.
“Why is America so Robo-phobic,” screams Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), the belligerent and outspoken host of “The Novak Element,” a political talk show that leans toward the left. Those opposed to robots would say it’s because machines simply can’t possess those inimitable human characteristics like instinct, reason and moral judgment. One conservative senator poses the question, what would happen if one of the robots decided to shoot a kid?
The president of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), desperately wants to tap into the American market, not least because the U.S. is one of the most crime-ridden of countries, and every second one of his machines isn’t out patrolling, so his advertising team tells him, OmniCorp is “bleeding money.” But a current bill prevents him from doing so, and in order to sell a machine to the American people, Sellars believes he needs to put a man inside one. He enlists the head of his science division, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), to make it happen. The idea is to put a physically irreparable human inside an exoskeleton, yet giving him a face and personality with whom everyday citizens can identify.
Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a Detroit cop who, along with his partner Lewis (Michael K. Williams), recently stumbled across a stolen arms operation and believes men within his own unit are involved. After tucking in his son David (John Paul Ruttan), and while getting ready to make love to his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish), Alex becomes the target of a car bomb and is nearly blown to smithereens. When it’s clear he’ll never fully recover, Clara allows OmniCorp to fuse Alex’s remains, which consist only of his brain, his lungs and his left hand, with metal and hardware, making him the inaugural “RoboCop.”