Director: José Padilha
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 4/10
When remaking such a popular film or rebooting an iconic character like RoboCop it becomes next to impossible to avoid comparisons to what came before. With the original trilogy the series started taking a downturn with the sequels which were soon followed by a TV series, a family friendly animated series and a three part mini-series. At the peak of his popularity Alex Murphy was pacified. RoboCop had been played out. RoboCop has not seen the silver screen in over twenty years. What more does this character have to offer that hasn’t been seen before? In the case of Jose Padilha’s reboot it’s a new look, new toys but unlike the original trilogy and the title character it has no soul.
In the near future, crime is a disease that Detroit law enforcement appears to have no cure for. Enter Omnicorps, a security firm who is developing a new breed of law enforcement. CEO Raymond Sellars calls upon renowned cybernetics doctor Dennett Norton to put a man in a machine. Meanwhile, Detective Alex Murphy is pursuing a ruthless arms dealer. After getting too close the dealer has Murphy killed. Sellars and Norton jump at the opportunity to turn Murphy into the future of law enforcement, RoboCop.
Padilha and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer clearly set out to make this film their own and shifted the focus and changed the tone of the film. Their film plays it very straight and is more interested in the question of where does the man end and where does the machine begin or is it the other way around where does the machine end and the man begin? As a result, the questions raised are intriguing and it turns out the most interesting character in the film is that of Gary Oldman’s Dr. Norton. He, like the audience, are interested in just what is going on with Alex Murphy both physically and mentally. In Verhoeven’s film we as an audience slowly discover there is still a man in there. Here we already know there’s a man in there hence no soul searching needed. However, when the story shifts back to the action it becomes rather pedestrian. The film is nearly barren in the humor department which is one of the reasons why the original was so much fun.
The film features Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Garrow as some of the villains. One of the film’s greatest faults is that the villains are incredibly lackluster and ineffective. They aren’t menacing enough, they aren’t scary enough. You feared Clarence Boddicker and Dick Jones was intimidating. You loved to hate them and couldn’t wait to see them get theirs. Not here. Keaton has had some solid turns as the bad guy but not this time. Joel Kinnaman does fine as Murphy/RoboCop while lacking that mechanical charm that Peter Weller brought to the role. Gary Oldman steals the show as the troubled Doctor Norton and the film would have been better if they spent more time with him. Samuel L. Jackson appears as a TV show host and the film probably could have done without him. In the original trilogy, Murphy always got the last word. Here the last word belongs to Jackson’s character. Why? Abbie Cornish appears as Alex’s wife and Jay Baruchel is pretty much the comic relief.
Despite a sleeker look and better visuals this remake can stand on its own but is just an below average sci-fi/actioner. If the originals never existed perhaps this would be better received but alas it is following up a series of films that actually prove to be more entertaining, yes even RoboCop 3 was more fun. Without the humor, over the top violence, endless quotables and a soul there really isn’t much in this film that will stick with the viewer long after seeing it. Very few people would buy that for a dollar.