RoboCop – Movie Review
The new “Robocop” reboot is set in 2028, with tactical military style Drones and terminator like robots at the forefront of heated debates for national security on U.S. soil. Imagine a world where modern-day robotics has evolved to a point where it’s possible to “put a man inside a machine”. It is obvious that this particular aspect of the film is to be expected but the way director Jose Padilha managed to capture Alex Murphy’s transformation is an absolute geek fest. Murphy is played by the “The Killing” star Joel Kinnaman, a morally stand-up guy who takes pride in his job as a Detroit policeman who generally doesn’t take no for an answer. He is teamed up with “The Wire” star Michael K. Williams who uncovers a nest of dirty cops selling illegal guns to a crime ring. Murphy asks too many questions that lead to nearly fatal results for him and his partner.
The Robocop reboot maintains the central ideas which fuelled Paul Verhoeven’s original 1987 movie, but abandons edgy violent scenes and gory details to make way for the PG-13 rating. The story kicks-off with robotics company OmniCorp displaying their billion dollar drones and robots hard at work in terrorist hotspots. OmniCorp owner Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is keen to introduce his brand of android police officers to serve and protect the American people, but his efforts are denied by the government who is concerned with machines making decisions that affect civilian safety. One congressman, in particular, kept hammering the ethical question by asking Sellers “What do they feel?” (when the machines make mistakes). Sellers was backed in a corner after which he replied, “Nothing”.
Putting a political spin on how far society will go for personal safety, OmniCorp supporter Pat Novak played by Samuel L. Jackson is an overzealous TV talk show host, eager to push forward the cause for robot law enforcement. Sellars need to convince the American people that he is able to introducing a product that is capable of making decisions on an emotional and intellectual level. Alex Murphy is chosen as the best candidate for the robotic Frankenstein transformation after he barely survives a horrific car bombing incident. With the permission of Murphy’s traumatised wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish), Sellars’ top scientists, Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) and his team builds the first “Tin-Man” with an almost indestructible alloy finish. Norton and his team “wakes-up” Murphy after four months to reintroduce him to the world as the ultimate law enforcement machine capable of taking down twenty assailants in five minutes.
2014’s “Robocop” explores more controversial topics by tackling the idea of a robot with free will and human emotions. The story is more character-based than its hardcore predecessor with lots of focus on Murphy’s reintroduction as a human being trapped in the body of a billion dollar machine. These moments are beautifully captured, for example when Murphy returned home for the first time to find his son anxiously waiting to see him. The concept of Murphy’s free will or lack thereof is also explored and largely adopted as one of the major plot elements.
Sellars is not satisfied with Murphy’s combat results and insists that he needs to be “fixed” to ensure maximum output for his expensive investment. Norton controls Murphy’s “human” side with sophisticated technology implanted in his brain which includes a “Kill Switch” to ensure OmniCorp’s safety. The operation goes pear-shaped when Murphy becomes more self-aware and decides to solve his own case. Norton and his team are eventually forced to pick a side when Sellars decides to terminate the project when they realize they are unable to control Murphy.
The “Robocop” reboot is thought-provoking to an extent, and refreshingly different compared to Paul Verhoeven’s edgy 1987 version. “Robocop” helmer Jose Padilha spends most of his time reconnecting Murphy with his humanity and deals with the issues of ethics and how the human psyche fits into an increasingly technology solution driven world. This does however create gaping holes in the plot that leaves the reboot feeling short of something. Murphy’s car bombing incident and his investigation to undercover the truth about his case feels largely underdeveloped. The revenge aspect of Murphy’s ordeal is presented as a side plot which plays out in thirty minutes tops. Fans of the original movie expecting cheap thrills and over the top action scenes will be disappointed.
There is a fare share of masterfully choreographed action scenes to keep an audience entertained even though the movie doesn’t cater for adrenaline junkies. The CGI effects are absolutely mind-blowing, some scenes are so captivating that audiences are rendered silent at the sight of Murphy biomechanical body which is taken apart piece-by-peace to reveal what is left of him. The sight of his remains, that includes part of a brain, lungs and one hand is truly jaw dropping. Even though Padilha’s reboot failed to tick all the boxes, it at least explored different avenues in search of its own identity.
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