The original ROBOCOP is one of the few older movies I held dear enough that the idea of a remake truly made me shudder. I’m normally not all that against remakes or reboots because I can usually understand or at least see an angle that updating would be beneficial, but I couldn’t here. Now that I’ve said that, I will now say that I still don’t see it, but color me shocked that I didn’t completely hate it.
This ROBOCOP reboot places the story in a world where robotic police are already the norm overseas in the war torn areas of the world. That’s not to say the locals are 100% thrilled with the idea, but at least there’s a sense of order for a change. The head of the operation, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) wants to bring his robotics stateside but is met with resistance at every turn. So Sellars decides to try something new, to ease the public’s unease about a fully programmed robot policing them. The new idea is to make a robot that’s also part human, that can process human emotion and not execute solely as a robot. That’s where Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) comes in. Murphy is a cop that ends up on the wrong end of a crime boss’ hit list and is reborn as RoboCop.
The things this reboot does right, is introduce some of the moral injustices of the programming of RoboCop. At first he has the ability to use his emotions, but as that proves to be less effective at getting things done quickly, the forces that be decide to change the programming- effectively making the robot act as a robot but appear as though it is still part human and giving Alex the idea that he is carrying out the tasks. It’s only in the final acts that things really don’t fully compute.
The film is extremely messy with its story elements, character motivations and actions. The finale being one of the most egregious offender. It’s not that the acting is bad, though I’m not sold with Kinnaman as Alex Murphy- it’s simply that the script and the ideas do not hold well under duress. When things don’t make sense, they REALLY don’t make sense- to the point the film might be perceived as downright stupid.
Adding insult to injury, the reboot feels utterly neutered by the lack of violence. Granted there I’m not always all that bloodthirsty, but that’s just part of what made the original stick out so much. There were scenes that just didn’t sit right in your stomach because the violence was so escalated. The original may have set some kind of record for blood squibs in one scene let alone the film as a whole. Here there just doesn’t feel like there’s any weight or tension behind the scenes because nothing feels visceral about the action.
So while the filmmaker’s heart might be in the right place, it simply does not carry the same passion from beginning to end. There have been worse remakes in recent years, but that’s not exactly high praise. The new ROBOCOP has all the moving parts of a high octane blockbuster remake, but it falls apart after the first dent in the armor.