RoboCop (Remake) – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

RoboCopRoboCop (Remake) – 3/5 – Remakes; they are becoming just as frequent as any regular films that are made nowadays.  Remakes of previous films can make certain part of the movie going audience cringe.  This causes a reaction because a lot of remakes are made from beloved films.   There are times though, where there will be people who have never seen the original, and can re-live a moment like others have with a new vision.  No matter which side you are on, remakes are always left with the stigma that they will never compare to the original.  Frankly, most of them are.   For some rarities (The Departed), they can be Oscar worthy.  RoboCop is a remake of a great 80’s classic, a film that is memorable in its original form.  This new version gives us an intriguing new looks at the original, but does it in a way that is modernized and entertaining, for the most part.  Even for its cliché quips and some predictable elements and pacing issues, RoboCop is a film is a new take on a great original.

Premise:  It is 2028 Detroit, and the world is changing.  The use of robots are in full force around the world, but not back at home.  This all changes when Alex Murphy is critically injured in the line of duty.  From here, we get the birth of a new entity, the man in the machine.  From here, the world will change, but will Murphy ever be the same again.

In the lead role of Alex Murphy/RoboCop is actor Joel Kinnaman.  In this iconic role, Kinnaman does a decent job in providing a new take on RoboCop.  What he does is bring a humanistic persona; one that forms the bases with the whole ‘man in a machine’ model.  He does a good enough job to make you believe he is both a man of heart, but a person that has been advanced beyond our wildest dreams by technology.  The conflict of the themes of man vs. machine are very much in the limelight (because of some story elements) but Kinnaman does enough on his own to mold this conflict to where he stands out as an individual.  Even with the good points from this new re-envisioning of the character, a lot of the elements of acting are overshadowed by the technicalities of RoboCop.  Everything that is built on the surface gets repetitive because of his quick one-liners and physical interactions in the film.  For a standard action flick, these obvious points don’t disturb viewing experience, but it does glare a hole in complete entertainment.  It’s enough to carry the film from scene to scene.  When it comes to the rest of the cast, you have some stand-outs.  They are:

Gary Oldman as Dr. Dennett Norton

Michael Keaton as Raymond Sellars

Abbie Cornish as Ciara Murphy

Jackie Earle Haley as Rick Mattox

These individuals are the main supporting cast that helps flesh out the story of the film.  You have the people behind the robotic projects at Omnicorp (Sellars, Norton and Mattox) and the wife/love interest (Murphy).  The people behind the project are the typical ladder of significance you would find in any kind of ‘tyrannical’ business model in a film of this genre.  Keaton plays Sellars, who is the head of Omincorp.  He gives a lukewarm performance as this supposed ‘villains’ business man.  You can tell he has cynical motives, but the potrayal he brings on screen never feels like a real antagonist to Robocop.  His ‘confrontations’ with him are very shallow, bringing a low point in the film.  Oldman plays the typical scientist/creator of the robots (including RoboCop), and Haley plays the common ‘trainer’ as Mattox.  Both of these guys give generic performances, doing enough to add background to the creation of RoboCop.   Abbie Cornish is very rarely on screen, but being the wife/love interest, she still has slight importance.  As the object of love to the main character, her acting and interactions feel very forced.  There is never real chemistry between her and Alex Murphy.  This wouldn’t matter for most Sci-FI styled films, but the film purposely makes her to be the ’emotional trigger’.  When she is suppose to add an ’emotional’ trigger to her robot husband, it has the reverse lacking presence that it distract you from the rest of the film.  The rest of the cast in the film are basic cliché elements of common cops, criminals, and/or typical aloof citizens.  The one slight cameo of Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak is one that is a different twist, even if very common comically.  He brings a little ‘life’ to the film, but is still clichéd and predictable at the same time.

The direction of this film has two distinctions that separate it from the first and second halves.  The first half is the basic ‘origin’ story of sorts, where as the second half is a display of scenes that become a generic action film.  Even with these generalities, majority of the film is entertaining.  In the beginning, the first 10 to 15 minute are left to a general prologue; showing a world that has ‘robotized’.  The military has taken to the path of using robots and drones to bring ‘peace’ to the world, but hasn’t been able to bring the use to the States, because of political maneuvering.  Here, you get a pseudo back-story for these ideas that lead to the themes and purpose to bring a ‘RoboCop’ to the streets of America.  Here, you see an attempt to bring deep ideology with the ‘man vs. machine’ scenario.  This creates a sense of depth and intelligent dialogue, but it generally just comes across as plot driven points to bring some kind of story to an action oriented film.  Once we get this prologue out of the way, we then get introduced to Alex Murphy; a Detroit Police Officer who is on the trail of a typical ‘bad guy’ as well as ‘corrupted’ officials.  After conveniences are placed in motion to bring Omincorp and Murphy to intersect, we have our trigger that leads us to Murphy becoming RoboCop.  After this happens, the films pacing slows to a crawl, as the film puts Murphy through ‘training’.  Here the film shows another ‘attempt’ at deep composition which is supposed to be bridging purpose to the ‘man vs. machine’ theme, but generally plays out as simple dumb fun.  Once we get pass all this ‘origin’ story material, we lead into the second half of the film.  Murphy is brought back home, and his ‘duties’ are put into full force.  Some more unique twist happens, which turns into (as mentioned above) a generic action film.  You have your shootouts, your typical bad guy situations, and all sorts of ‘heroic’ feats.  After the hectic pacing of this part of the film, it begins to drag again because of two things:

Lack of a real villain

Mixture of dramatic elements with the action

A lot of the times the ‘no villain’ scenario can work, but it really only succeeds if there are great story or character driven elements.  With the film trying to create a ‘shadowy’ entity with ‘Omincorp’, it grazes over the facts and fails in its execution.  This creates a void of a real antagonist, as you can never really believe there is a real threat to RoboCop.  The dramatic elements are also a bore, because there is never a time to develop those ‘emotional’ tones.  These parts feel more like a side effect rather than purposeful.  Once the film get’s to the final act, it’s a very rushed ending.  The climax brings some closure to the whole ‘man vs. machine’ scenario, while also doing enough to prop up a sequel.   By the end, you feel entertained by what you see, but realize there are a lot of flaws to keep it from being memorable.

The visual of the film are a great mixture of moderation in a futuristic world.  This combination helps create a world that is littered with Robotic styles of living, while keeping it ‘grounded’ mentally through the whole film.  From the designs of the robots, drones and technology, you see something that is very surreal, but also ‘realistic’ as you see it on screen.  The RoboCop design is somewhat a mix bag of ‘retro’ and ‘modern’, but it is cool to see this difference look, especially while he is in action.  The score is somewhat mute at best, but there are times when it provides charm to the film.

Overall, RoboCop is a descent remake, but it isn’t a film that will be remembered like the original classic.  You have your general origin story with action elements.  It is something that will provide entertainment on the movie screen, but nothing beyond that.  If you’re a fan of the original, or want to check this out because of the sci-fi elements, then I say go for it.  It is worth seeing at matinee price.

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