I really did a complete 180 on Robocop. Of all the recent movie remakes, I thought for sure Robocop was going to be the one they’d mess up the worst. It turned out to be one remake that did a good job telling a different story about the same premise. It’s a Robocop movie I’d actually like to see continue in sequels. Let’s face it, if Robocop had been managed well in the ‘80s we’d be on Robocop 10 by now, but it wasn’t and here we are.
Robocop is still the story of Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a policeman with a wife and son who is killed by some criminals he’s investigating. OmniCorp, a military technology firm, convinces his wife (Abbie Cornish) to sign his body over to them so they can turn him into a cyborg police officer. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Robocop, but the real question is will he remember he’s still Alex Murphy? OmniCorp may own the billion-dollar Robocop technology but they can’t own Alex Murphy.
I was worried the human family story would get lost in a modern day visual effects extravaganza, but the Murphy family is actually more integral in this version. My favorite scene in the 1987 Robocop is when he visits his own open house and remembers his wife and son. That’s really all you get until the sequel, but it was the entire movie to me. He remembers he’s Alex Murphy, so the humanity wins over the technology.
It’s not so easy for this Alex Murphy. His family is still in the picture but Omnicorp can program him to shut down his memories when he’s on the job. So can Clara Murphy and their son remind Alex Murphy who he is?
I was worried they would just action up the movie and have Robocop fight a bunch of bad guys and other robots. Now I’m impressed that screenwriter Joshua Zetumer and director Jose Padilha got away with so little action in a movie called Robocop. They really emphasized the politics and drama. When Robocop does spring into action, it’s fast and efficient. He gets the job done and the movie is left to deal with the consequences.
I was worried about a fast running Robocop, but they didn’t overdo that. It actually creates an interesting new dynamic for Robocop versus the bad guys. The issue is no longer whether or not Robocop can find a way to apprehend criminals despite his mobile limitations and vulnerabilities. He’s going to get the criminals, and quick. The question is, can law be enforced by a super-efficient computer, and can Alex Murphy the man survive as such a creation? The really interesting thing is when Alex solves his own murder, the culprits would make bad PR. That’s why OmniCorp has a moral problem, less so than the famous Directive 4 of the original.
Of course, the new Robocop is about our use of drone warfare. The whole premise is that in this world, the drones work. The ED-209s are effective, not a cautionary tale of malfunctioning technology. The U.S. won’t allow them to be used domestically, so OmniCorp builds the cyborg Robocop to put a human face on the drones. I do wish the drone scenes hadn’t been filmed in the usual shakycam style. What they are doing is interesting, you just can’t see them through the smoke and jittery camera. Fortunately, as I said, the action isn’t the important part of this Robocop so with a story this provocative, it works out in the end.
The Blu-ray looks great. The film is as sleek and shiny as Robocop himself. There is only a modest assortment of bonus features, including a limited four minutes of deleted scenes that explicitly explain things that I believe were summarized in ADR in the final cut. The OmniCorp ads look like things that were probably online to promote the movie but now I can’t find them anywhere. The behind the scenes feature covers the basics of the theme and creation of the suit. It’s cool how they combined soft, flexible material with rigid pieces tactically placed.
The new Robocop may never get a special edition like the original Robocop Criterion Collection laserdisc, but I think it’s worth owning as part of the Robocop legacy. Of course, I’m such a Robocop fan I also endorse the Canadian “Prime Directives” miniseries, but the latest Hollywood Robocop production is even better than the Canadian television show!