An Amusing Family Friendly Reboot
Thanks to Sony Pictures Australia, we had the chance to see José Padilha’s Robocop before its Australian release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!
Set in 2028 Detroit, Robocop follows officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) who is targeted by a well-known arms dealer who always seems to get away, thanks to the help of two dirty cops. Murphy, a good cop and loving father and husband, gets too close to making a case against his co-workers and their “boss”, and as a consequence he is critically injured at his house after a explosive device on his car is activated.
At the same time, an ongoing debate about the use of robots to replace humans in the line of duty is going on in the congress. Despite the effectiveness of the machines, the detractors are not ready to sign up on the change as robots have no emotions. This makes Alex Murphy’s near-death a perfect opportunity for Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), CEO of the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp, to prove congress wrong by creating the first part-man, part-robot police officer, thanks to the brilliant mind of his top scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), who agrees to go ahead with the project after initial reluctance because of ethic reasons.
Almost a year ago, when the first unofficial leaked picture of Joel Kinnaman as Robocop in a dark costume hit the net, fans freaked out and gave up straight away on their expectations for this reboot. There didn’t seem to be much point in arguing this as the film seemed unnecessary and at the same time it had a lead actor and a director who both did not have any major experience with big U.S. blockbuster films. To make matters worse, rumors emerged via director Fernando Meirelles that his fellow Brazilian José Padilha was unhappy directing the project. Fanboys were upset that Hugh Laurie was initially cast for a big role, but later on he was replaced by Michael Keaton.
All the above reasons led to a huge division among fans of the popular part-human, part-machine cop, most of them fearing for a major letdown. However, the additions of Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman and Australia’s Abbie Cornish, followed by the release of the first trailer suddenly created huge expectations. We saw a bunch of ED-209’s walking on the streets and Robocop in full armor riding a bike and shooting everywhere. And this is actually what you get from the José Padilha re-imagination of the popular character, as the way of presenting the genesis of Robocop is well-made. It also incorporates a factor that is absent in the 1987 film, which is the family factor that makes Alex Murphy mostly human, (well-at least figuratively speaking), as his wife (Abbie Cornish) and son (John Paul Ruttan) play a small but relevant role during the film.
Joel Kinnaman, on the other hand delivers a correct performance as Alex Murphy/Robocop, bringing a fresher air to the character that was made famous by the great Peter Weller. Gary Oldman, doesn’t need a major analysis as his quality is implicit and he carries a lot of the emotional weight of the film.
The action is obviously a highlight, and Padilha delivers a visual fest that doesn’t need an abundance of digital effects to impress. There are some amazing camera views from Robocop’s point of view showing the menus on his program, as well as some cool graphics while he’s calculating the position of criminals that he’s targeting, or the right trajectory to jump or shoot. Robocop also carries two guns this time instead of one.
The problem with this film, is that it’s PG13, something that really decreases the visual impact that the film should have caused, as it doesn’t feature the extreme violence from its predecessors, where scenes including Murphy’s hand being blown away by a shotgun or a guy covered in acid being smashed by a car became cult classics. Moreover, this also affects the villains on the film, and also presents some flaws on the script, as Michael Keaton‘s character doesn`t really feel like the bad guy until the very end, which is a shame for an actor who proved that he can be a coldblooded villain in 1998’s Desperate Measures. Furthermore, there is one huge key element missing from the film, which is the use of the iconic prime directives (1.”Serve the public trust” 2.”Protect the innocent” 3.”Uphold the law” 4. Classified: “Never Oppose an OCP Officer”) that helped to make Robocop a pop culture icon. The only one barely mentioned is the fourth one, but it seems to come out of nowhere, just to justify a couple of scenes and to try to give the ending a different touch, something that doesn’t work as well as in the original film.
Overall, this new version of Robocop aims to entertain a wider and younger audience by refreshing the character and decreasing the explicit violence, a risky move as removing the latter one makes the film far from being the fantastic many had hoped for. However, the film stills manages to deliver a good final product that will keep viewers fully amused during the almost two hours of the film, making Robocop a film that exceeds the expectations of many, although not those of the most die-hard fans, who still believe a remake of the franchise should never happened…We can only recommend them to give it a try and to expect some trivia pointing to the original films, a funny Samuel L. Jackson complaining in all his scenes (“F” word included), a” non-black Robocop suit” at some stage and obviously a potential sequel, that we will really be looking forward to.
Robocop – Is now showing in Australian cinemas