After an intro the film kicks off and we get the classic Basil Poledouris theme stomping its way over the opening credits...sweet. Well not really because the theme has been tampered with and sounds completely off key and fudging awful, strike one Robocop reboot.
The plot is generally along the same lines as classic Robo (that's how I will refer to the original, classic Robo) with Murphy being struck down by some bad guys and coming back from the brink of death as a robotic police officer. All this admist a corrupt police force helped along by the dark OmniCorp company which provides advanced robots for the US military. The original film had a biting satirical edge influenced by a Reagan era of heavy consumer culture, privatisation, capitalism and greed, a truly slimy corporate climate full of greasy suits. So what does this film have you ask? how can this film hope to create such a sharp edge when classic Robo's plot no longer fits the bill.
Well this film firmly goes down the sort of relative notion of our current climate, asking if robots with guns (or robots at all) should be allowed to roam around controlling human beings (replacing the police mainly). Is it right to have a mechanical object with artificial intelligence in charge of pulling the trigger and possibly terminating a human life, plus of course the subject of national security is ever present. The film starts off overseas as robots/drones patrol the streets of Tehran, a display of American power and might over a much poorer simple people. Naturally and predictably we are shown straight away how a powerful robot (ED-209) can cut down an innocent child who was wielding a simple knife. So the modern day debate surrounding drones being used abroad to replace troops is stuffed in your face well and truly. The debate about drones policing us on a regular basis is still very much science fiction and could be shoved in any action film.
Although the use of these themes are well presented it still doesn't really feel overly relevant to today's society. The distinct lack of any real dark humour or dark satire on social commentary through any media is really obvious, this was the fabric of the original film and half the reason it was so good (other half was uber violence). Other smaller issues pop up which again seem to be by-products of films these days. Why is the character of Lewis now a black man? I'm not saying that's wrong but why the need to change that character? is that a PC move? wouldn't a female character create more emotion in a crisis? I realise this film wants to distance itself from the original but changes like this just seem utterly pointless, change for changes sake, there are other important issues to think about. Plus a strong female character works well usually and can be a plus for a film. In fact the whole point of that character seems completely defunct now anyway seeing as he does nothing to aid the new plot, reduced to a background character.
As for Robo himself and the crux of the film, well its a mixed bag really. While the action sequences are very slick and lovely to look at (unsurprisingly) they do come across as any old first person shooter for your Xbox (or Playstation if you're that way inclined). Yes I know it sounds cliche me saying this but I have to because that's what those sequences look like, the infrared shoot out especially with all those colourful cross hairs and readouts popping up everywhere. Robo's HUD in general, while looking very pretty, seemed way too over the top for me. I realise the tech is suppose to be white hot but really? Robo can even tell what emotion a person is going through or about to go through...WARNING: VIOLENCE IMMINENT: THREAT, SUBJECT COOPERATIVE: NON THREAT. Soooo can Robo tell if a piss or sneeze is imminent too? Then you got all that crap going on when he's scanning around as if he can see through everything and project perfect virtual isometric 3D images with measurements and angles etc...come on! all that makes him too powerful, the HUD can do anything!
Its too easy for Robo in this film, he can pinpoint criminals within 10 minutes with his super HUD, no human can make a move in this city without him knowing and sniffing you out sheesh! Anyway this leads me to the suit, the famous suit, is it better than classic Robo? don't be ridiculous. Now I'll admit it looks better in silver trim of course, we all know that, but that doesn't save it. Overall it still looks plastic to me, close up or from a distance...still looks plastic I'm afraid with no real weight to it either. Its like any modern day piece of electronic equipment really, plastic with pointless LED lights on it. Kinnaman's face is too normal looking if you ask me, wouldn't there be any damage burns or scars?? He doesn't move like a robot either, he just walks around and moves as normal with badly added sound effects that don't sync up. Also he doesn't seem to have any speech issues or twitches or anything, surely you'd have some visual signs of mental stress...apart from crying and grimacing. In short this guy takes to being a head in a jar in a robot very easily frankly, no sweat.
Overall it looks like what we all thought with the release of the first images online, a man in a plastic ripped ninja suit. Of course the human hand doesn't help one bit, I appreciate the idea behind it but no. Its not totally dreadful, his helmet and visor are quite cool with the red Cylon thing going on. What I don't get is the need to give his cheesy 'Knight Rider' rip off bike (it does look bloody awful and babyish, Batbike anyone?) those two daft looking red visor-like slits too, thinking of toy merchandise sales there methinks. One thing I thought of during the infrared shootout was the fact that his red helmet visor kinda gave his position away in the dark didn't it, like a target for his head...shoot me here.
The action sequences are impressive effects wise but that's no big deal these days. Sure ED-209 looks OK and sounds OK but really so what? that's only a small cog in a big wheel, this film could of been so much more. The action hints at being really solid had it been for ADULTS! yes I'm sorry but that's the bottom line. There were some nice moments but they fizzled out under a PG-13 rating which wouldn't allow them to be truly kickass. The only one sequence which comes close to a true adult Robocop moment is when we see Murphy taken apart revealing just a head, throat and lungs. There's also another small moment when we see 'Norton' operating on Murphy's brain...but that's it, that's all we get.
Other than that its really weak in places and really tries too hard...just like Kinnaman who does his best tough guy act at the start which is awful. His Robo effort isn't much better really seeing as he still comes across exactly the same as before he was blown up. There aren't any bad guys in the film either really, think about it, there isn't really any actual nasty bad guy you really wanna see killed off. Sellars doesn't really feel or act like a bad guy, like Novak he actually brings good arguments to the table about using robots in the US for security, saving more lives overall.
Mattox is more of an annoying employee than a bad guy, just slap him, stop being so robophobic against that poor robot fella. The main crime boss and his henchmen are so flippin' weak its untrue, they're barely naughty let alone vicious drug dealers, they don't do anything! On the tiny plus side I did quite like how they tweaked Robo's brain so he could perform better because his human side was causing hesitation (no memory wipes in the future?). Just a shame they spoiled that by having him miraculously override further brain programming by...beats me! the power of love?
Oh and how on earth was there CCTV footage of Murphy's murder? it was on his driveway, what there is a CCTV pointing at his driveway from the street? he has his own CCTV? oh he did it seems, handy.
Its been said before and I will say it again, the film admittedly isn't the car crash I thought it would be, it is a well made sci-fi visually...but its no Robocop film. Had this been a stand alone sci-fi I could look on it more favourably despite similarities. End of the day it still remains a toothless sanitsed, factory production line CGI offering that will be forgotten about within months. The least said about the end credits music track choice the better and at least Jackson got to use his favourite curse words at the very end huh guess that will please the masses (facepalm).
I did enjoy the satirical political themes explored with the plot, but just the way everything was handled came off painfully juvenile. People may say this remake was more believable, but that just tells me how completely unreal the original must've been.
The action sequences are also pretty subpar for this day and age. Between all the Marvel films, Bay's Transformers and all that business there's just much more to be desired for a Sci Fi franchise.
That said, I always found the first instalment cute and enjoyable enough to rewatch whenever I thought about it. Which to be fair last happened in about 2002 so there you go.
While I'll admit I did enjoy a handful of the references to the old film, and I was holding out for the inevitable drop of the "Dead or alive" line, by the time it finally came about it certainly felt more like an unpleasant shock than a gleeful old friend come to visit.
Because where Robocop  finds its strengths is in what it doesn't try to copy from its original. Because let's face it the original is pretty universally adored and rightly so. Trying to replicate something that was already done perfectly just won't work out in your favour. It's like if NBC's Hannibal kicked around with Mads doing his best Anthony Hopkins and Anthony Hopkins had been doing his best Brian Cox impression, it'd be shit! But lo and behold Bryan Fuller accepted that'd be a stupid fucking idea and dared to have a bit of originality which is the greatest thing about it.
Firstly I'm aware that this isn't a Hannibal review so I'll get off of that and secondly, I'm aware that the concept of originality in a "reboot" can be written off as completely missing the point, here is exactly what "reboots" need to be doing... Well really what they need to be doing is stop getting made... but who am I to complain? I gobble up the 2006 Hills Have Eyes and Rob Zombie's Halloween like so much discount sushi, so maybe I should get off of ragging on remakes just because they're remakes as well.
If you give the remake a go you'll understand what I mean. The Boddicker (or in this case "Antoine Vallon") central focus still exists in the remake, but it feels uncomfortably forced and sort of falls to the wayside to make room for drone-warfare allegories, the Alex Murphy dichotomy and "What makes a man a man" speeches. The most approachable bit of the film is "The Novak Element" which not only doesn't occur in the original, it out right flies in its face.
Walking out of a film I often ask myself a few questions to help myself establish my feelings on it. In the case of Robocop  these questions went
Is it as good as the 1987 film? Certainly not.
Is it better than I was expecting: Actually, yes.
Was it decent for a modern day sci-fi?: Pretty much
Was it necessary for this film to be made?: Absolutable not.
Remakes don't tend to excite, especially when the original was just fine on its own. A do-over on a terrible film is another story, but I have to admit to being a little excited when I heard Jose Padilha was directing the remake of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 classic. Padilha, a Brazilian filmmaker, impressed me greatly with his ELITE SQUAD movies, filled as they were with visceral, impactful action. Additionally, THE KILLING's Joel Kinnaman would be slipping into the lead role, and I have found him to be a powerful, hugely empathetic presence.
It was obvious to me that the reboot would make the original look clunky when looking at the huge leaps and bounds we've seen in effects work, and that is very much the case here. I can also appreciate that the remake is going for an entirely different tone. Whereas the 1987version was a sly, humorous and satirical look at corporate greed and BIG BROTHER politics, the remake plays it straight as a largely serious explosion of action. As such, it's a flat, boring, painfully repetitive exercise in boom-bang-kapow.
Initially, I thought there was promise as Samuel L. Jackson is a pundit/reporter who frames the film with his SNAKES ON A PLANE/DEEP BLUE SEA speechifying. His reporting leads us to an effective sequence in Tehran in which we're introduced to OmniCorp's experimental robot police state. Reminiscent of DISTRICT 9, I thought we were in for a fresh spin on totalitarianism. The intelligence pretty much ends here.
Cue Kinnaman as Alex Murphy, a cop who is nearly decimated in an attack. Looking to launch their robots in the U.S., OmniCorp identifies Murphy as a prime candidate - happy husband/father, all American, yadda yadda. The aftermath of said attack is brutal and provides for some memorable imagery. For a second there, I really felt for Murphy's plight. What follows, however, for the remainder of the film is our title character cycling around and shooting people...nonstop. THE END. It's a numbing experience. There's nothing left to say about it. See the original and ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN and you'll thank me later.