I have a great fear, dear reader. A great fear that the new RoboCop film will become the next Dredd. I fear that it’s a great action movie that’s coming out in the doldrums of the movie season without a big enough marketing push and with a character that not enough people care about even though they should. A movie that deserves sequels, but won’t get them because it doesn’t make enough at the box office.
I have this fear so I’m putting this here so you don’t even have to read very far to see it: Go see RoboCop. It deserves your money.
Director: José Padilha
Release Date: February 12, 2014
Let’s be clear about this. RoboCop is not as good as Dredd and it definitely has its flaws. However, it is good enough to be enjoyable and it hints at even greater things that a sequel could deliver. Butts needs to get into seats for this film because it will show that creative action, with a bit of social commentary and actual thought can play with modern audiences. While it may not be the satirical send up that the original was the new RoboCop plays its own game and it plays it well.
The story hasn’t varied much. A good cop, Alex Murphy (Joel Kinniman), gets nearly killed sometime in the near future when robotics have advanced a bit. Attempting to infiltrate the American market with its police officer robots, Omnicorp, led by chairman Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), decides to turn Murphy into a cyborg robot cop in order to have a marketable product for the American people. They get robotic engineer Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to piece him together and we find out what happens when man meets machine meets giant corporation hell bent on profit.
Obviously the basic plot hasn’t changed much, but the times have, and this new RoboCop knows that. It also wisely knows that it could never top the classic so it doesn’t try. It veers its satirical side towards modern day issues including drones and, through wonderful Samuel L. Jackson interludes, the world of 24/7 news media, especially Fox News. While the satire is never quite as over-the-top as the original (really, what could be?) it plays itself well, weaving the premise of RoboCop into modern day concerns.
While that’s all well and good this new Robocop isn’t actually looking to be a satire. A far heavier focus is put on the character of Alex Murphy/RoboCop, and this drives the true thrust of the film. Instead of having Murphy’s humanization take a back seat to blood and satire it steers the film. You get a better feel for RoboCop, especially since his family is more involved this time around. It makes for a kickass character that you want to see not just because he looks awesome, but because he is someone. Sometimes the film plays a little too heavy with the theme, bringing its action pace down a bit too much, but overall it was a wise decision that makes the new movie stand on its own.
Then again, you’re probably just going to the movie to see a badass cyborg shoot people. You’ll get plenty of that, and don’t worry about the rating. While there aren’t blood packets exploding everywhere RoboCop is plenty violent, and since the violence is no longer being used for satire the audacity of it isn’t as important. What is important is that José Padilha is a very good action director (check out Elite Squad if you get a chance), and pulls together some great set pieces. It’s clear that this is his first big Hollywood outing as some of the sequences don’t hold together as well as they should, but there’s a cleverness and ingenuity to them that shows good things for the future.
RoboCops biggest problem is probably the fact that it doesn’t walk its serious/satirical line as well as it could. Sometimes the satire feels a bit abrupt up against the more in depth look at RoboCop’s human side. There’s a missing balance that just demands to be worked out in a sequel. For fans of the character you won’t be disappointed (plenty of nods to the original crop up too), but for new comers it might be a bit jarring. Despite these tonal issues, RoboCop is a blast to see and a fantastic return to a new form for a character that always deserved more love.