Summary The year is 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. Overseas, their drones have been used by the military for years – and it’s meant billions for OmniCorp’s bottom line. Now OmniCorp wants to bring their controversial technology to the home front, and they see a golden opportunity to do it. When Alex Murphy is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer.
Genre : SF/Action
Country : USA
Joel Kinnaman : Alex Murphy
Gary Oldman : Dr. Dennett Norton
Samuel L. Jackson : Pat Novak
Michael Keaton : Raymond Sellars
“Make him more tactical. Let’s go with black.”
A remake of “Robocop” and we get this whole debate again. Was this remake really necessary ? Was the audience really waiting for this ? Does it add anything valuable to the original version? Does it equal the original version or is it just a pale shadow ? In my opinion this is again a needless and unnecessary discussion. Meanwhile we are already at the next “The Amazing Spiderman“. “Superman” also has taken his cape out of the closet a number of times. And another “Godzilla” is ready to hit the theaters. Nobody is making a fuss about that. But oops, they are going to make a reboot of “Robocop“. A 27 year old cult movie. A timeless classic that had great impact in all areas. An ultra-hard SF with explicit violent scenes, infused with inky cynical humor and satire, and a socially critical message that was unprecedented at the time. The critical spirit that haunts the 1987 version was probably quite revolutionary in those days. The TV ads that were displayed in between seemed absurd and a bit exaggerated, but are obvious at the present times. It presented a “Big Brother” society, where everything and everyone was screened and monitored. Plus violence and intolerance were a normal thing. A society owned by the private sector and criminals. A materialistic , profligate and uncontrollable society with violent video games, retarded TV games, corruption and deceit .
The critics are very harsh about this remake. Superfluous, humorless, too serious and too little gore scenes (because of the PG-13 rating) are terms that are frequently used. In some cases perhaps true, but despite its shortcomings, it’s still an enjoyable film. The next question, however, one can ask: Is this remake meant to emulate, to surpass or just to restyle Verhoeven‘s film? For me there’s no doubt that you can’t surpass or even emulate the original film. The released film at that time was a revelation and an unexpected commercial success. The combination of sharp wit, clever one-liners and explicit violence was an explosive cocktail. This is practically unfeasible to surpass because the zeitgeist in those days was totally different from the current one. Restyling is the only meaningful answer. And they succeeded brilliantly in doing that.
The beginning of the film sets the tone. Situated in Tehran drones and ED -209 ‘s control the population and any extremist individual who constitutes a threat is singled out. This seemingly peaceful scene soon degenerates into an explosive confrontation between fanatical rebels and the robotic law enforcement. The coverage is broadcasted live in “The Novak Element” with Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) as a commentator with a stolid, biased attitude and truly supportive for this new law enforcement. A role that seemed to be written specially for Samuel L. Jackson. This parody of the current commentators on American TV is brought with a lot of flair and imagination by Jackson. The way he brings it, is grandiose. His enormous expressive statements and the determination with which he defends his ideas is masterful. He interrupts a debate between the designer of the drones and his political opponent just with a nonchalant wave motion. A tiny gesture showing that contradiction is not tolerated. A practically perfect rendition the whole movie except at the end . The elitist and chauvinistic patriotism which then comes up, I found a little to much. The reuse of the ED -209 ‘s like they appeared in the first film (which also provided then some hilarious scenes, such as when an officer of OCP is shot by a prototype during a demonstration and the scene in the stairwell) was a pleasant surprise .
The rest of the story is situated in Detroit again. This time it doesn’t look like a decaying metropolis, but crime rules again with the help of a corrupt police force. Omnicorp, the developer of robots, would be only too happy to put drones on the streets to combat crime in an efficient manner and also to raise their profits. However, they encounter quite some opposition from the political world, because the drones only take initiatives in a rational way and aren’t able to judge with a human feeling of intuition, compassion and sense. When the police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), in his battle against a drug gang, is blown by the latter in shreds, Omnicorp sees his chance to solve this problem by developing a robot/human who still has all those human feelings.
So much about what’s in common with the original film. However, there is a little philosophical difference with the first Robocop. In the first movie, Alex was transformed into a bionic man who gradually regains his human feelings. In the remake it’s the other way around. When Alex wakes up, there remains very little from his human body, but he still has his human feelings and consciousness. As this is an obstacle to its effectiveness as a killing machine, these human emotions are suppressed by lowering his dopamine level so he gradually changes into a numb robot, acting on auto-pilot . A subtle difference. The decision to change his suit in matt black and a red stripe as a visor gives it a more menacing appearance and makes it look more like “Judge Dredd“. Only it’s a softer version. I just didn’t get the feeling of it being a hybrid version of Alex, but rather just a guy in a metal casting. The quizzical expression of “Tin Man” used by Mattox was therefore appropriate .
Clearly there was significantly more budget for the special effects. Compared with the old-fashioned stop-motion technique used at that time, it all looks oiled and devilishly realistic. The structure of the Robocop suit, the high-tech devices in the futuristic-looking labs and the action scenes (To be honest, not enough action for my taste) looked sometimes like excerpts from “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”. It all looks brushed, impressive and convincing. The acting itself varies from excellent (Gary Oldman as Dr. Norton) to fairly lousy (Abbie Cornish as Clare Murphy). Michael Keaton fitted perfectly into the role as the conniving and scheming Sellars.
Oh well , Verhoeven thinks it’s a sign of creative poverty in Hollywood and Padilha complains about the terrible interference from MGM so he couldn’t fully use his creativity. As a good friend of Padilha worded : “I talked to José Padilha for a week by phone. He will begin filming Robocop. He is saying that it is the worst experience. For every 10 ideas he has, 9 are cut. Whatever he wants, he has to fight. ‘This is hell here,’ he told me. ‘The film will be good, but I never suffered so much and do not want to do it again.’ He is bitter, but it’s a fighter”. In my opinion, this film is too much compared with the original, which really shouldn’t be the intention. This is just a remake, with the foundation of Verhoeven’s film and a groovy new shell. The matches are there, but because of subtle reinterpretations it’s not a straightforward remake. The content has stood the test of time well and leans even closer to the current reality than in the original film. It’s actually scary how prescient Verhoeven was at that time. Many will not really appreciate this film and this will have more to do with nostalgia than the film per se. For me it was a more than creditable remake and definitely worth watching. “The remake is smarter than you would expect” concludes Variety. You only need to see it …..
My rating 7/10
Links : IMDB