Movie directors have much to consider when it comes to entertaining increasingly fanatical audiences, who’ve come to demand violence on the screen. So much is expected from the modern blockbuster, and accordingly, so much is paid. The result is a violent culture of film-a constant stream of graphic content has become an accepted part of the consumer’s life. Whether it may be action or adventure, romance or comedy, the genres start converging to give shape to this shared public experience of mainstream media.
In the modern era, the film industry has begun to take prefabricated plots from past films, and reinterpret these former understandings of media, adding the violent inflections of our time.
Director Jose Padilha’s remake of the 1987 film RoboCop reimagines the science fiction plot for the modern audience. The film stars Joel Kinnaman and features some old-timers like Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, and Michael Keaton. In a way, RoboCop is the epitome of the action-packed modern day movie.
But is this remake worth a trip to the multiplex? Put simply, it is not.
Despite thrilling visuals, strong production value, and a somewhat star-studded cast, RoboCop simply fails to entertain. In part, this is due to the remarkably high standards viewers have for modern action films. The film is torn between the precedent set by recent films like the Bourne trilogy and the 1987 original version. RoboCop tries for a lot, but ultimately, has no perception of what it wants to be.
This RoboCop is the sentimental story of Alex Murphy (Kinnaman), a good cop gone rogue, transformed into an impressive, mechanical killing machine with the ultimate goal of achieving peace within the city. The film is set in the city of Detroit in the year 2028.
Jackie Earle Haley plays the supporting part of robot creator/programmer Rick Mattox in RoboCop, and gives one of the stronger performances in the film. The cast is male-dominated-female roles are admittedly scarce in this remake, but they are not altogether dismissed. Abbie Cornish (Limitless) plays Murphy’s grieving and confused wife-she is conflicted since her husband is not technically dead. Other female roles include Karen Dean (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), the no-nonsense Detroit police chief, and Liz Cline (Jennifer Ehle), a stern business associate.
The script of RoboCop doesn’t shy away from its roots, keeping mostly in character with the 1987 film, but modern variations on its central themes help make this remake relatable to a much-changed public. One of the better features in the “new” RoboCop is the centralization of the main character. While the 1987 Paul Verhoeven film told the story of a machine that realized it was, in fact, a man, this revision focuses on the man trapped inside the machine.
It’s not a problem that director Padilha and writer Joshua Zetumer went and remade RoboCop. The biggest problem with this RoboCop, however, is that it is pretty much just a remake and not enough of anything new.
If for nothing else, the film is almost worth seeing for its scenes with Keaton (as the head of Omnicorp) and Oldman (as an ethically conflicted scientist). Oldman does incredible work in his role, with his initial appearance being one of the film’s most dramatic and rewarding moments. The film’s best material, though, comes in the extended sequence when Murphy is forced to terms with his fate. The movie’s climax comes when the not-so-dead policeman discovers what’s actually inside his suit.
RoboCop is flawed as a whole, with a story that is overly contrived. It attempts to give a somewhat informing view of the future-exploring themes involving politics, trans-humanism, the freedom of choice, and unruliness of corporate leaders-but doesn’t emerge as anything particularly special.
It’s easy to imagine a $100 million movie generating some good money-so it seems Jackson can sell any film (i.e. Snakes on a Plane). But for this cop-turned-robot-turned-vigilante, the payout just doesn’t seem to be there.